Appreciation of Andrew Breitbart, the Champion of Young Conservatives

Rep. Anthony Weiner Admits To Tweeting Lewd Photo, Lying
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Andrew Breitbart, who runs, walks through a press conference held by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), in which Weiner both admitted to having numerous sexual relationships online while married, and apologized to Breitbart, at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue on June 6, 2011 in New York City. Breitbart, whose publication was one of the first to break the story of Weiner's sexual conduct, was accused of lying. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

COMMENTARY | Defining one's political philosophy can be, and often is, a long journey with periods of tumult. But for those who have come to the end of that road, most of the details of their progression can be recalled with vivid memory, regardless of the amount of time passed. Somewhere at some time, their opinion was shaped, whether rapidly or gradually, and more often than not there is a certain person who heavily influenced the end result.

Andrew Breitbart, the best-selling author and publisher, was one of those people who helped shape and identify my personal political philosophy. And I am not alone: Rather I'm just one small cog in a newly manufactured machine of young people who found a cozy home in the right-wing of American politics.

At 43, Andrew unexpectedly passed away this morning, and everyone I know is having a hard time coming to terms with it -- including myself. For almost a decade, I had bounced around the political world without ever having to commit to, or define, my philosophy openly. It was just easier to stay under the radar. My friends were anarchists and hard-left progressives, and I loved to challenge their beliefs and their logic. But it was with the ascendancy of the Breitbart websites and youthful conservatism that I was forced to come to grips with who I really was.

He had said that young people (under 30) are "default liberals" in his latest book "Righteous Indignation." I interviewed him about it last April here on Yahoo! News. For the most part he was right. What he forgot to take into consideration was the effect he had had on the political climate to date. Or he was being modest by not taking credit for this huge change in the landscape since his arrival.

Up until just recently, the path to the right wing (or conservatism or anything but liberalism and anarchism) was to have some years behind you and a good part of your mortgage paid. It also helped to have kids in college and to be rapidly approaching retirement. At this point, you should own a few sweater vests and your khakis should outnumber your jeans 20 to 1. That was the basic foundation for a right-leaning political philosophy.

Emphasis needs to be added to the "was" in that previous statement. When Andrew made the critical step from just having a news wire service to publishing exclusive investigations and opinion, that foundation was no longer sufficient. Our country had been thrown into a tailspin.

First came the financial crisis of 2008. But what arrived immediately after was cold water in the face of the majority of Americans. Legislation was being pushed through Congress that carried a philosophy entirely foreign to the public: true collectivism the likes that has not been seen since FDR. Not everyone was able to identify what was happening before their eyes. It was with the help and guidance of Andrew and his group of merry commentators and investigators that the emergence of conservatism took place in people who were either supposed to be too young for it to take root or with people who never had any intention of being politically active. The Tea Party had just started to really gain momentum and acted as a good foundation for what was to come.

But for me and countless others, it all started when he launched his website Big Government with the undercover tapes exposing ACORN. Employees at the organization were willing to help a couple (posing as a pimp and prostitute) who were open and honest about getting a home loan so they could run an underage prostitution ring. This was your tax payer dollars at work -- all caught on tape.

The timing was perfect. Many on the right, and even moderates, were extremely critical of the president's "stimulus" spending. After all, if an organization like ACORN was getting federal funding and behaving this way, can you imagine what else is being missed? And the hits kept coming; there was the Pigford investigation and more recently the Anthony Weiner underwear picture that the former congressman accidentally tweeted out publicly. While Andrew was not the one who discovered the picture, once he addressed the story he gave it legs... and off it went!

What Andrew accomplished in his short career would have been hard for him to fully define. While the internet itself changed the way people get news, he tapped into and unlocked the potential that was supposed to be reserved for the well-organized political left. One of the main reasons his opponents were always so frustrated with him was because of the results he achieved in a relatively short time.

They, meanwhile, had put all their time, effort, money, and as many as people as possible, to promote their issues and never garnered half the traction Andrew could get just by mentioning something in a Twitter update.

And that is the other part of the charm behind what Andrew did: We, as fans, followers, and contributors to a cause, were just as entertained by the left's efforts and mostly their failures when it came to promoting their issues. He and his sites had such an impact on the political atmosphere that very few people were mindlessly following the causes the left had easily promoted for decades. All of the sudden they were being challenged; they weren't use to that and it turned out to be a heck of a show.

Without him, there would've been no show to watch, no actors to take up and recite the predictable reactions and defense the left has been using for years. And because it was so predictable, it was entertaining. And it was precisely because their scripts were so old and heavily recited did we have confidence in confronting those we disagreed with.

Andrew loved the battle, whereas most on the right for so many years have only known compromise at any cost. He taught an entirely new and active generation that there is an alternative to being marginalized and eventually pushed aside.

With his passing, some feel that the curtain has dropped on this show. Well, it has in fact closed. The curtain always closes in between acts.

Just like Amos Elon explained Israel to the Israelis, Andrew Breitbart permanently shaped young conservatives way before they made it to the age of nearing retirement and wearing sweater vests.

Douglas Stewart writes about politics for Yahoo! Contributor Network.