Andrew Breitbart reminded me of Norman Mailer, a pugilistic populist who mixed politics and fame in explosive combinations. He understood the value of showmanship — the aesthetic, artistic value — and advanced the culture of creativity in the conservative movement. Liberals hated him because he was smart enough to be able to speak in their own language while staying caustically detached from their worldview. He defied their stereotypical characterizations of what a conservative should be. He engaged with the most extreme elements of the American Radical Left with gleeful abandon, armed only with righteous politics, superior wit, and some loyal cameramen. At just the point when Rush Limbaugh –- the comic laureate of the Gingrich Revolution — had become saturated with liberal smears to the point where gaining new followers would be hard if not impossible, Andrew Breitbart made the Angry White Male Movement creative again. As P.J. O’Rourke and Andy Ferguson were begrudgingly granted token mainstream-media credibility after the ’94 midterms, so too did Breitbart stamp his name on the uprising of 2010.
His personal style — his slick black shirts and three-day beards — reflected an understanding of Hollywood that no elite liberal movie star could possibly grasp. Like Drudge, who in a Monica-era National Press Club speech declared that he was from the place “where you twinkle and then wrinkle,” Breitbart was a creature of the Real Hollywood. (His book Hollywood, Interrupted is an authoritative history of Hollywood Republicanism, and should be required reading for any clueless movie star schilling for PETA over the spinning grave of Bob Evans.)
He was gay-friendly (famously sitting on the board of directors of GOProud and condemning the group’s banishment from CPAC) and metrosexual himself, his well-tended hair and unabashed vanity a smirk in the face to liberal stereotypes. This man was no moral scold. Rather, he was an inspiration to young people flirting with the taboo of open conservatism but worried that they’d be labeled as redneck fundamentalists or squares. Breitbart knew he was talented, he knew he was brilliant, and he loved being recognized. Like Limbaugh before him, Breitbart knew that modesty was no virtue when confronting the irrational hordes of dead-eyed thought-policing “progressives.”
At a point in our cultural history when Huffington Post bloggers (and Breitbart was always careful to apologize for helping to design that site for Arianna in the mid-’00s) sanctimoniously ban new words each and every day, Andrew Breitbart stood in the middle of the road, blocking the oncoming tanks.
He will be greatly missed.