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.
Another convert to the conservative side was UNC-Wilmington Professor Mike S. Adams. Dr. Adams has written two books on his interactions with college administrators and feminists. He also successfully sued UNC-Wilmington for denying him a full professorship because of the views he expressed in his popular Townhall column. In response to the question “Tell me about the moment you entered the political arena,” Adams said:
It was right after 9/11. A communist former student of mine threatened to sue me for libel over a difference of political opinion. I told her the Constitution protected her speech just as it had protected “bigoted,” “unintelligent” and “immature” speech for many years. She cried to her mommy, who was also a commie. And she was also an administrator at my university. Her mommy the commie convinced the administration to read some of my private emails in retaliation because she said her daughter felt “offended” and “berated” by my opinions. I guess they don’t make communists like they used to.
I took the story to the national press and was featured on Rush Limbaugh, The Hannity and the Other Guy Show and Neal Boortz. In response, my university lied to the national press about reading my private emails. They got caught lying about it and, let’s just say, they ticked off the wrong cowboy. I’ve been exposing university administrators for their petty retaliation against conservative speech and their dishonesty for years. I’ve written two books and 650 nationally published columns about it. I have spoken at 65 different universities about it. I use the proceeds from every speech to buy guns and ammunition, which angers my opponents even more.
And I plan to continue to speak out about liberal hypocrisy and censorship until I die. It will take a bullet in the head to stop me. Thankfully, the liberals I write about don’t have guns. They don’t even have stones.
Prior to this incident, Dr. Adams was a self-described Democrat and an atheist. He then became a Christian and a frequent defender of the First Amendment.
Conservative pundits and leaders often argue over who is a “real conservative.” While we should certainly coalesce around a set of core principles, we must make room for converts. As Breitbart said, existing in the liberal world gave them a whole set of default positions. It would be tragic to turn away any future converts like Breitbart, Adams and Horowitz simply because they haven’t yet finished the journey.
Miss De Pasquale is the former director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and currently serves as the interim chairman of GOProud’s Board of Directors, a national organization of gay and straight Americans seeking to promote freedom by supporting free markets, limited government, and a respect for individual rights.