Mini-Feature: Becoming a Radical

Everyone has that breakthrough moment eventually.

What was your moment of radicalization?

At one point in graduate school I began to do some work for a political consultant on local city politics. It started with collating news and ended with—well, the stuff I can tell you about included an anonymous interview with the Los Angeles Times long before Twitter pseuds were cool—or Twitter even existed. I witnessed the political problem of the old media melting away and how easy it was to manipulate local journalism, which had already grown brittle. And amidst it all as I did research on the flow of money in cities across Southern California, the skeletal structure of these regimes became apparent. As I dug deeper on my own, I saw all kinds of things that usually lurk in the shadow. Let’s just say that whatever form of government they were, and whatever form of government California is, I wouldn’t use the word “democracy” to describe it. 

-Matthew Peterson

I find it unbearable and truthfully even undignified to mention online and draw attention to those you really just don’t respect. It was and still is astounding to me how much Trump’s opponents could stomach mentioning and discussing him so much over the past four years. While it was in one sense totally understandable, in another, that style of politics evinced to me something culturally repulsive and contrary to my deepest sensibilities. At that moment, whenever it was, I realized a much deeper gulf had opened between me and so many of Trump’s opponents than at first I had sensed. 

-James Poulos

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The past few months, frankly. Maybe as far back as the past two years. 

It’s not like before I was some Brooks Brothers conservative—I was punk rock, man! But recently, my God… 

Where do I start? The liberal-sanctioned excesses of the rioting …  the lies of the 1619 Project and anti-American dishonesty of our major media outlets … the ruination of small businesses across the country because of insane, contradictory COVID lockdowns … the zest and calculation of cancel culture … the toxicity in higher education … the Netflix championing of “Cuties” …  

So, yeah, I’m radicalized. But this is just a gussied-up way of saying that I care deeply about this country that has done so much for me. Now the trick is to do something positive in its defense. 

-David Bahr

I wish I could say I had just one radicalization moment. But it feels more like every day brings another. It’s not that I am learning things I didn’t know, exactly. It’s that my theories about how rotten things have gotten are suddenly having very tangible consequences. And when I experience those consequences, my shock tells me I hadn’t really grasped, in my gut, that it really was that bad—even if in the abstract I could have told you it was so. I remember vividly watching looters break the storefront of a 7/11 across the street from me during the George Floyd riots—again and again, as cops shooed them hopelessly away each time—while at that very moment on TV an anchor for ABC said “well, you know, one man’s riot is another man’s protest: it’s really about what language you use.” I knew intellectually that post-modernism had scraped the brains from out the skulls of our media elites like a melon baller scraping the flesh out of a melon. But I hadn’t felt in my soul how true that was until that bleak moment. Ultimately, though? You can’t even start fighting the Matrix until you’ve really swallowed the red pill. I’m glad I’ve been forced to wake up—just makes me face every day with greater determination to build a conservative movement that can do real damage to our corrupt press. 

-Spencer Klavan

I have great respect for Ronald Reagan. He was the right man at the right time during his presidency. People, especially college-age conservatives, often forget he was a registered Democrat until 1962. When asked why he switched sides, he responded, “I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” Reagan noticed that the post-WWII-era Democrats were inching further and further to the Left as time went on. He decided the Democrats were moving too far away from centrist policies. That march leftward Reagan saw is still going on today, but it has rapidly accelerated since the 2016 election cycle.

Whether you love or hate Trump, his mere existence in office has stripped the veneer of class from Democrats and revealed them to have conceded their party’s remaining decorum to radical identitarians. The old guard Democrats are just hanging on for dear life at this point. As the gaping maw of the extremists swallow what’s left of the the party, they are yanking the Overton window as far to the left as they can. Because of that, conservatives may outwardly appear more radical than they actually are. We haven’t moved on the political spectrum. The Left has.

If I’ve undergone any sort of radicalization, it’s been a gradual reinforcement of my conservative beliefs by watching leftist hysterics unravel over the course of the last few years. If your ideology is responsible for tearing down statues of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington among others, yours is not an ideology I can take seriously.

-Jake Gannon