Andrew Breitbart, Clarence Thomas and the Kavanaugh effect
Anyone who knew the late Andrew Breitbart knew that there was one seminal moment in his youth that altered the course of his life and, by extension, the course of American history: the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 1991.
Fresh from his American history degree at Tulane University, Breitbart was a self-described “default liberal.” As a child growing up on the tony streets of Brentwood in West Los Angeles, he was surrounded by liberals. The only real and legitimate “permissible” political identity was liberal. “It was my factory setting,” he would say. Four years at a liberal arts university did nothing to alter that fact.
So there he was with the rest of America watching the Anita Hill sexual harassment testimony play out on national television. He heard that Judge Thomas was some kind of predatory monster who had to be “taken down” for his horrible behavior. He tuned in expecting, wanting this man to get what he deserved for being so horrible to Ms. Hill.
“I watched Day One, I watched Day Two, I watched the entire thing,” he said years later in an interview on C-SPAN. “I went from wanting him to be taken down to saying, ‘Where’s the beef? What’s going on here?’
“I don’t understand what I’m watching here. I don’t understand the color commentary that’s on the screen, where they’re saying, ‘Oh, this is outrageous.’ And I didn’t understand the bumper stickers that were going by me on the streets that say ‘I believe Anita.’ I believe Anita WHAT? What’s going on here?”
Breitbart not only was unmoved by the laughable allegations made against Judge Thomas, but he was also dumbfounded by the experts, pundits and journalists proclaiming to the world that what we were hearing was so outrageous and “disqualifying” that Judge Thomas should be removed from consideration for the nation’s highest court. He (and most other Americans) could see through the partisan efforts of the media and the political class who didn’t pause for a moment of reflection before trying to destroy a good man’s reputation for the sole purpose of keeping him and his unacceptable political ideology from sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.
He saw through the duplicity masquerading as political analysis and reporting. He also saw through the hypocrisy of those who sat in judgment of Judge Thomas. They were the heroes of his political party. They were all Democrats.
“I didn’t understand how Ted Kennedy ... THE Ted Kennedy from Chappaquiddick fame ... how Howard Metzenbaum and Joe Biden, a series of privileged white men, could sit in judgment of this man who was the son of grandparents who were sharecroppers who raised him. And he went to Yale Law School. He did everything right. I did not understand how it could be that these white men of privilege were attacking this black man who was in this historic position while the mainstream media took him down.”
Sound familiar? Much has been said of the “Kavanaugh effect” and how this tawdry melodrama will translate to votes in November’s midterms. But there may be a longer-lasting Kavanaugh effect that the left and the media are not even considering. Like Breitbart in 1991, millions of Americans have witnessed a handful of Democrats willing to take down and destroy Brett M. Kavanaugh in the same setting for the same reason. Judge Kavanaugh, like Judge Thomas, went to Yale Law School and “did everything right.” With Judge Thomas, they were painting him as a sex-starved pervert; with Judge Kavanaugh, no less than a gang rapist. And it was fair game because, after all, Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance.
And like the Thomas hearings, the media are the full and willing partners in this character assassination. Millions of Americans are watching. How many of them are the next Andrew Breitbart?
You see, Breitbart not only walked away from the Democrats because of this event, but he was also radicalized by it. He didn’t become just a conservative Republican; he became an activist. He dedicated his life to exposing the political left as well as the mainstream media. He called it the Democrat media complex, and expose it he did. He built an empire and, in so doing, he personally inspired multitudes who took up his musket when he tragically fell in 2012.
Ben Shapiro, Dana Loesch, John Nolte, Stephen Crowder, Kurt Schlichter, Derek Hunter, Andrew Klavan and yours truly were all directly influenced, encouraged and discovered by Breitbart. Thousands more were inspired to “walk toward the fire” and engage in the fight through blogs, social media, new media, podcasts and YouTube. His legacy continues to inspire new warriors who read the website that bears his name even six years after his death.
None of it would have happened without the Democrats’ gambit against Judge Thomas in 1991. How many of tomorrow’s Breitbarts are watching today? How many will be inspired by what they see? How many will be radicalized by it? Does the Democrat media complex never learn? Do they have any idea what they have unleashed? “War.”
⦁ Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.