I don’t know why the Lord took Andrew Breitbart so soon. I can’t even say for sure why He gave us Andrew in the first place. If I was a more confident interpreter of His designs I might speculate He used Andrew to tell us: Have fun in what you do, don’t take things too seriously, but take the very important stuff so seriously that you will fight for them to the grave.
This is not an overstatement: We have never had anyone like Andrew Breitbart before. The hair, the occasional beard, the almost-but-not-exactly good looks, the uniquely LA twang, the frequent and random pop – and sub-culture references. This wasn’t a conservative. This was something else. Something like the opposite of what Dennis Miller (Andrew’s great friend) calls the town fathers in the movie Footloose. He wasn’t your father’s kind of Republican. Not even close. He wasn’t even our children’s kind of Republican. Whatever kind of Republican Andrew Breitbart was hadn’t really been invented yet because Andrew never got the chance to finish. But damn, it would have been fabulous to see.
When I entered politics in 1992 I hated, hated, hated that conservatives and Republicans were the buttoned down ones. How was it that we had all these radical, transformational, even (by then) counter-cultural ideas and yet we were so glued to the standard rules of decorum? I didn’t know then but years later I would meet and become friends with the man who would shatter that mold. And encourage others to keep breaking it.
When I first met Andrew after months of collaborating with him via phone, e-mail and IM, it was like Jim Frigging Morrison walked through the door. He was so different from anything I had ever encountered. He was so brilliant yet slightly touched. Dressed for a business meeting but sans tie and no shave. He looked like he hadn’t had a haircut in years, just blond and grey flames shooting out in all directions. And a look in his eye that seemed to say, “let’s ditch this meeting and go raise some Hell.”
Replace Jim Morrison in the above paragraph with anyone great who died young: James Dean. Marilyn Monroe. John Belushi. Jimmi Hendrix. Chris Farley. Andrew belongs in that catalogue.
Note they are all entertainers. Andrew often shunned the notion that he was a political figure. He considered himself, and wanted others to consider him, a cultural figure. There’s a reason. Andrew knew that politics and campaigns come and go. The real fight for America’s survival and the soul of the conservative movement exists at the cultural level. You saw it in the enemies he chose. He went after institutions, not people, not candidates. ACORN, NAACP, the media, the institutional Left. Andrew Breitbart knew that we might win campaign after campaign after campaign, but we will lose the soul of this great country unless we expose and crush the almost omnipresent left-wing institutions growing like a parasite inside its American host. For this reason I started, yet abandoned, scores of articles about Andrew Breitbart being the most important conservative in the country. I never found the right words to finish. All I know is: Andrew Breitbart knew the real enemy and he spent his public ministry exposing it. Had he lived long enough he would have extracted it, as well.
We weren’t even the same kind of conservative, Andrew and I. I lean more to the religious/traditional side, he more to the libertarian side. But one of Andrew’s most endearing and infectious characteristics was that he knew who his friends were, politically speaking, and he defended his friends and their principles. Unfailingly. For example, he embraced gay conservatives in a way no other conservative leader had done before. And in so doing he never once criticized or attacked those who didn’t share his point-of-view on the matter. He won respect by showing it.
He and I privately hatched schemes again and again to transform conservative and Republican institutions with ideas that would have made being a conservative Republican the coolest, most cutting-edge thing to be in America. Through better speeches. Better media. Better storytelling. He had an army of talented entertainment professionals ready to help. The “town fathers” never cottoned to the idea. But Andrew believed it was inevitable. There’s too much talent, too many smart people, for it not to. Andrew even believed the next great American conservative politician would come out of Hollywood, just like the last one. He even had a specific idea as to who it will be. I hope he was right.
People who knew Andrew Breitbart can tell you that he was fascinated with making connections between people. He constantly introduced people with different areas of expertise in hopes they would collaborate and somehow raise more Hell together than they could as individuals. Many of the people I met through Andrew sent me notes yesterday, and I them. Our initial thoughts were for his family, whom I never got to know, unfortunately. The rest was laughter.
Andrew wasn’t religious, especially. But I suspect he would indulge me a few thoughts on the afterlife. I have no idea how one gets into Heaven. I know it’s not easy. Simple, but not easy. But I know that my prayers will help. So I will pray today and every day for Andrew Breitbart. He was a great friend. He was a great dad and husband, they say. He was a great leader. He and his family need and deserve my prayers. Yours, too.