I set about writing down some of the lessons I’ve learned in ten years as Editor of RedState.
Having started as a lawyer turned blogger turned television commentator turned radio show host turned Rush Limbaugh guest host, let me say that the unexpected journey in life can be far more tumultuous, but also far more exciting and rewarding than the planned path. And then there are these lessons:
Memorize every single one of Morton Blackwell’s laws of the public policy process.
Memorize them again.
We all grow up. Our views are allowed to change. We start with burning passion, but temper that passion with life over time. Compare St. Paul writing Galatians to St. Paul writing Ephesians. It is the same man with the same beliefs, but his tone is different, his emphasis is different, and the burning zeal of Galatians is tempered by a pastor who has pastored through more storms. We are all like that. We all have different emphases and passions and life experiences that will shape us, mature us, and grow us. We should not be held down by the past for fear that someone might point out we’ve changed. Life is supposed to change us. That does not mean it will change our core beliefs. It does mean it can change our priorities or how we view our beliefs.
As you grow in stature, surround yourself with people who knew you before you grew in stature. They’ll be most likely to keep you humble.
Everyone needs a private group to which we are accountable and in which we share a common cause.
Put someone on your payroll whose job it is to tell you that you’ve screwed up and make sure they know their job depends on candid advice, not being a yes man.
Conservatives are not always aligned on all issues, but where we are aligned, we should align together as best we can.
Being a Republican means being part of a party. Political parties covet power. Being a conservative means being tied to a set of principles. The goal of the conservative activist is to call to true north of conservatism and the goal of the party is to decide how far away from true north it must bend in order to get a majority. The two are not always incompatible, but are often in tension. If you view yourself as a Republican first, you are willing to give far more latitude to politicians. If you view yourself as a conservative first, you are far more willing to affect the outcome of the public policy process.
There are good people on the other side even if you disagree with them on virtually everything.
Do not be afraid to deviate from conventional wisdom, but remember the burden is on you when you do.
There are real fights worth fighting, but not every hill is one on which you should die. Often times fights are not won or lost, but are measured by how much ground is captured or ceded.
Good personnel really is good politics and a good politician surrounded by crappy personnel will very quickly become a crappy politician.
You can be friends with politicians, but it becomes harder to hold them accountable. Politicians, therefore, are always desperate to befriend those who would hold them accountable.
The Republican politician not seeking re-election is the most dangerous creature in politics because he is most likely to abandon his principles in the name of cutting a legacy defining deal.
There really are two parties: the stupid party and the evil party. They really do get together and do things that are both stupid and evil. The press absolutely will herald it as a bipartisan accomplishment.
Frequently, good deeds do get punished. That does not mean you should not do them.
The desire in government to just do something is something every conservative should fight against. Government does not need to do anything, but does have some things constitutionally it must do. Conservatives should work to make the government do only those things and do them as minimally as possible.
Never do anything “for the children” or “holistically.”
Reporters and bloggers are often creatures of a herd. The creature who turns first can get trampled, but often he can avoid the cliff.
Reporters can also be very lazy and make a comfortable living never challenging conventional wisdom while being spoon-fed stories from reliable sources who have their own agendas about which you the reader will never know. But there are bright lights and shining beacons of getting it right and there is no shame in saying a reporter has done a great job. Reporters are always too quick to praise each others work. Bloggers are often too quick to condemn it.
Social media, particularly Twitter, brings out the inner a**hole in all of us and it is terrible for our sanctification, but has also become indispensable in finding stories and getting the word out on our own work. But we all, myself absolutely included, need to show far more grace on social media than we are inclined.
Follow more preachers and less pundits on Twitter.
Never read the comments.
If you follow and like someone’s work and they say something that pisses you off, it is a reflection on you, not them, when you want to burn them to the ground or write them off for one thing. One piece is not a body work.
Campaign seasons drive people to argument. Just because someone is a zealous advocate of a different candidate does not make them your enemy.
People who are defined by their online existence are the worst people on the planet.
The echo chamber you see on Twitter is not reality. Often some of the least competent people have outsized influence on Twitter in shaping an echo chamber premised on faulty presuppositions.
Not enough people who pontificate on politics know history. History began long before Bush v. Gore and longer still before Obama v. McCain. More often than not the new idea is recycled.
Our opponents often show us no grace and remind the world of every bad thing we have said or done. That does not mean we should do the same. By faith alone are we saved, but by works we shall be judged. Always show more grace than you are shown and when you fail to do so, try not to let it become a habit.
Fewer souls will be saved on the internet than will be lost. But saving souls is still more important than saving a country. Don’t make an idol of the country. The country will one day end. Eternity is … well… eternal.
When faith and politics collide, go with faith. Remember faith and politics do not have to collide on most occasions, but often there are people who want them to collide.
You will be made to care one way or the other. So order my book.
It is truly possible to make meaningful friendships online. Some of my best friends in life were first friends online.
Try not to get tied to a place because of a paycheck and if you are, set a goal to not be.
And lastly, it’s a magical world…let’s go exploring! Happy New Year.