Fewer things are more rewarding than devotion to something larger than oneself.
Certain people choose to become parents. Politically incorrect as this might be to admit, parenthood - or at least wanting to have children - is rooted in the desire for immortality. It is easy to see the promise in watching one’s descendants grow as old age approaches.
Others opt for a lifetime of activism. They believe that through their professional efforts, which have deeply personal underpinnings, a better, more satisfying world can be built. This too is anchored in a vague, if not subconscious, yearning for the eternal.
What could more rewarding than, amidst one’s twilight years, reminiscing with the knowledge that a real difference has been made; the sort which will outlive its creator and impact generations to come?
Yet more try to have their cake and eat it too; namely raising a family while building a career. The results usually speak for themselves.
It is at the crossroads of family values and entrepreneurialism that our country’s conservative movement has stood for quite awhile. Social conservatives and fiscal watchdogs have never enjoyed an easy relationship.
Since President Obama arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, though, the Republican coalition has caved drastically. While this feud has been disastrous for both the GOP and America’s political process, it worked out nicely for one man: Andrew Breitbart. He saw a meteoric rise in popularity as dismay over U.S. liberalization grew.
Through Breitbart’s now-venerable alternative media network, stories ignored by mainstream outlets found primetime on the national stage. The spectacular downfall of Anthony Weiner’s congressional career is proof of this bar none.
Breitbart managed to unite social reactionaries and fiscal conservatives in a way that no figure has since Ronald Reagan. He harnessed anger about a changing American society and directed it at a political-journalistic establishment believed to be unfair. He communicated with disaffected voters and movement operatives on an indescribably deep level.
More than three years after succumbing to a fatal heart attack, Breitbart remains highly polarizing. Just after his passing, center-right pundit David Frum, writing for The Daily Beast, noted that Breitbart “may have used the words left and right, but it’s hard to imagine what he ever meant by those words.
“Breitbart waged a culture war minus the culture, as a pure struggle between personalities. Hence his intense focus on President Obama: only by hating a particular political man could Breitbart bring any order to his fundamentally apolitical emotions.”
Veteran GOP operative Fred Karger, who made history in the 2012 elections as America’s first openly gay presidential candidate, has a different view. He told me that “(u)tilizing new media, the late great Andrew Breitbart did for the conservative movement what no one had done before or since and he did it with flair and a certain amount of compassion.
“He was not just a pit bull on the right, but instead was thoughtful and smart while making his points. His message also resonated with a younger conservative audience and they loved him. His premature death at only 43 years old created a huge void.”
Nowadays, Breitbart Media holds immense power over right-leaning America. Beyond that, however, an entirely new crop of conservatives are set on remaking U.S. politics in their own image -- even at the direct expense of the Republican Party.
Breitbart gave them the courage they needed to jump out from the shadows and into the spotlight. This is a spectacular display of career-based immortality. Breitbart is very much alive; at least in spirit. He made a career at the American Right’s most dangerous intersection and profited handsomely.
Without the rightist movement Breitbart facilitated, there likely would have been no federal government shutdown or GOP victories in 2010 and 2014.
Our media circuit and political realm never saw a character like Breitbart until he came along, and hopefully never will again. In such uncertain times, though, an educated prediction seems next to impossible.
In any case, this much is for certain: Breitbart lives.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at email@example.com