The untimely passing of the great Andrew Breitbart has invoked moving tributes from the conservative movement. It seems like everyone has a story or a photo documenting their run-in with Hurricane Andrew. It’s a testament to how friendly and accessible he was to everyone. Like many people, I’m still in shock. When a person is everywhere, it’s hard to imagine we will not see him somewhere again. His death has reminded me that very often our strongest allies and leaders are converts — or “flip-floppers” — from the left.
In May 2010, Andrew inspired me to do an interview feature about pop culture and politics. I would ask a conservative leader a dozen questions about his or her favorite movie, pop culture memory, etc. The purpose of the column was to humanize conservative leaders. Anything that reveals a sense of humor, self-reflection, quirkiness or savage wit will make political and cultural warriors more appealing — and thus more persuasive — to the masses. No one understood the intersection of culture and politics better than Andrew. When I came up with a bank of 20 or so questions, I always imagined how he would answer them.
In February 2011, Andrew (finally) got his answers back to me. The last question for every interviewee was always: “Tell me about the moment you entered the political arena.” For converts like Andrew, this question would always elicit great answers. He replied:
I took a job to help build Arianna Huffington’s website back in 1997 — back when she was a conservative. The first day of my new job she bait-and-switched me. I was now her “researcher.” Oh well, I thought. I’d give it a shot. Within two weeks Arianna got No. 1 Clinton donor Larry Lawrence dug up from Arlington National Cemetery for faking a war hero record. The CNN aerial footage of the event was magnificent, especially watching as the media establishment, Judy Woodruff, Maureen Dowd, et al, naturally defended the fraudster until they could defend him no longer. I decided then and there I wanted to be in the business of disinterring political phonies and shoving it into the mainstream media’s face.
Last month, Andrew gave a speech at a Students for Life event. It was the first time he had spoken publicly about his conversion to the pro-life cause. Here’s what he said:
Certainly, in Hollywood I lived in a pro-abortion culture, but there was a seed planted in me early on, literally. I’m adopted. I had never heard the pro-life point of view. The media portrayed the pro-life point of view as crazy people. So, that’s all I knew. There was a barrier; it was called cultural acceptability in my neighborhood to say that I was pro-choice and I did. But I never thought about the issue at all. At all. But it was something that mattered more than anything in that part of town that I grew up in, liberal Hollywood. The first thing you needed to say is, “I’m pro-choice.” It was a keycard to get you in everywhere and I believe to the core of my being that it’s a keycard to get you success in Hollywood. Go along to get along. I don’t think I would have seen the light if there weren’t brave people like you who stood up to that, especially young people …
As I started to have my political awakening I was able to connect with my conscience, literally, and say, wait one second. My best friend growing up was adopted, too. He lived next door to me. His sister Rachel, adopted. My sister, adopted. On a cul-de-sac of four families, three were adopted. I cannot accept the premise of the post-Roe world in which it’s virtually impossible to adopt because abortion is the option that is handed to people as the cultural default. It’s unfathomable.
It is not to be debated. This is the most important issue. If you’re not pro-life, if you’re like what I was, behind a barrier, you have to, through conversations and the media, break that barrier down and just let people think about it. Because the second you actually think about it, because I never did (it was my default position), is that this is untenable, this doesn’t make sense. You guys are the vessel for that message. Stand strong. You inspire me.
I’ve been thinking about some of the other converts to conservatism that I’ve interviewed over the years. Author David Horowitz comes to mind. In “Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey,” Horowitz chronicled his shift from an editor at the leftist Ramparts magazine and a fundraiser for the Black Panther Party to an activist for academic freedom and against Islamo-fascism. There is now no greater hero to conservatives on college campuses.