The Real Breitbart
I am not the first and won’t be the last to remark on how utterly bizarre aspects of this campaign season are. Let’s start with the fact that there were some serious adults with actual executive experience and plausible capacity for moral leadership in the mix not long ago as potential general-election candidates. But they are long gone and here we are — with bad choices and many people daydreaming about the person of virtue and substance they will write in.
Personally, aside from concerns about the viability of the republic and even civilization itself under either candidate’s presidency, the most unsettling thing about the election is Breitbart. That is, the name of a friend, Andrew Breitbart, who died in 2012, endlessly in the news.
Andrew founded the news and opinion site that bears his last name, the former executive chairman of which is now CEO of the Trump campaign. Andrew was behind the scenes, at the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post, among other places (he was a dear friend and adviser and collaborator to me, my colleague Jonah Goldberg, and many others) before he was making headlines, but he was always looking to do more.
… anywhere you have responsibilities or a call, don’t curse the darkness, but work to make things better. I think that’s what Andrew would be doing today.
I was far from the only one who was shocked and devastated upon hearing the news when Andrew Breitbart died. He left behind a beautiful young family that shares his capacity for joy, friendship and energy. His death was hardest to believe because he had such seemingly endless energy. I used to joke openly that I would introduce him to new people just to take some of the pressure to keep up with him off me. There was an urgency to his questions and a restlessness about him. He knew that he had been given some tremendous gifts. He knew he could not waste them.
And so he would dream and he would experiment and he would collaborate. He was all ideas and implementation. Andrew never lived to know of an Argentinean cardinal who would become pope, but even as he worked against what he believed were dangerous ideologies of the left, he knew there were dangers in ideological isolation on the right. You’re seeing that play out this year. It’s been a long time in coming, as the pride that is only natural to politics often became its driving principle.
Andrew had a deep capacity for friendship and I think that helped him to see people. He would drop everything when he heard of someone’s suffering — I remember a few heartbreaking phone calls at all hours. He worried when people who knew better weren’t seeing clearly. And he was relentless when he saw injustice and lies and people in power perpetuating them or even tolerating them.
I know Andrew made me work harder and be better. Who doesn’t choose to occasionally tolerate injustice for the sake of convenience, and avoid taking hard, honest looks at complex, emotionally charged issues? But that’s a dangerous complacency that often equates with complicity.
I won’t pretend to speak for a friend who cannot speak for himself about the choices before the country today, nor would I presume to know how he would be running his website if he were alive today. But I do feel confident that he would be reminding us to be grateful and to feel responsible. We are heirs to a patrimony and decisions you make today — or indifference or distraction — could be something you will have to answer for.
In his 2011 book, Righteous Indignation, he wrote to his children: “Too many people fought to create this country” for us “to squander it in a generation … I cannot stand on the sidelines as you and your generation are being handed the tab.”
Andrew worked tirelessly to let truth be known where he saw lies. Next time you hear his name, instead of being distracted by the arguing likely happening around it, think about next steps and get to work instead. Whether it be family, community, church or even politics — anywhere you have responsibilities or a call, don’t curse the darkness, but work to make things better. I think that’s what Andrew would be doing today. It’s what we need to be doing, certainly.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at [email protected].