I have had six months to plan for this post and as a now professional wordsmith I am struggling here on a plane home from Las Vegas to put words down that can convey and express that which I want.
Around this week nine years ago I was sitting in mud, in the rain, cradling my one year old, crying. My wife was dying. My job was ending. I was at the end of my rope. The only thing keeping me together was the thought of the little girl in my arms rubbing my face as if to tell me it would all be okay. The mud was over my shoes, the cold and wet had penetrated my shirt, soaking my skin, and my brain was shutting down. RedState, as an experiment, was coming to an end coinciding with the end of my life as I knew it. Only a year before I’d left a career as an attorney, on a partnership track, to blog about politics.
My wife had been given six months to live and on the same day RedState had been given two weeks. Doctors had told me cancer had spread into my wife’s lungs from parts unknown, then they had to rush to help an overwhelmed emergency room deal with a car wreck. I was left alone in recovery waiting for my wife to wake up from surgery to tell her she was dying and my career was ending. We were out of money at the site. Everything was turning upside down and spinning out of control and I was muddy, exhausted, and giving up. God has a way of taking you down to a low point so you see him in your life more clearly than before. He was about all I had left and all I could do was pray.
My wife and I sat in a hospital room planning my life with a child who would have no mother. Regardless of what happened, she confided that she saw my role in politics developing as a catapult for causes and candidates. I should use whatever role God gave me to catapult ideas, causes, and candidates into the arena. That is the event that has defined this past decade for me.
As it turned out, my wife had been misdiagnosed. She is still with me trying hard to keep me in line. RedState too was fine. A buyer came in and saved the day. It was a Christmas like no other. This Christmas, God willing, there will be no health scares and no turmoil, but there is something new and different and worrisome and exciting.
After eleven years at RedState and ten as its Editor-in-Chief, it is time for me to say goodbye. My formal date of departure is December 31st, but I wanted to make sure to get the goodbyes out of the way now before you all head off to Christmas vacation.
You guys too are family. The front page contributors have grown so far beyond just friends on the internet. Were it not for this site’s founders: Ben Domenech, Mike Krempasky, and Josh Trevino, along with Clayton Wagar who kept the lights on when we were young and getting traffic regularly overwhelming us, I could not now be doing what I am doing. My career is the result of the generosity and kindness of others.
I have worried about this day. In the past, during some rocky times, I really just wanted to wake up one day, say I am done, and walk away. But RedState has been my second wife and third child for some time. I care for the site, its writers, and its readers. I did not want to depart without working to leave it in good hands, and I am. When I told our parent company in June that I wanted to leave, they asked me to stay till the end of the year and together we have worked to make sure that on January 1st, RedState will be as it was December 31st.
Leon Wolf has come in as Managing Editor and has done wonders in just the few months that he’s been here. He’s a dear friend and brother in this site. I have been so blessed by his friendship and encouragement. His arrival on the payroll has taken from me the stress of the “what if” and allowed me to ponder the “what now.”
Over the last ten years, I have recommended a number of candidates and organizations for you guys to support. I have intentionally avoided organizations that are built up around single people. So often in the last eleven years here I have seen conservatives support causes led by men who, when they die, all that they built collapses too. There are no indispensable people and we should not support organizations whose leaders think otherwise. I am not indispensable here either. While the writings and views and positions may change over time, RedState can and should go on without me.
When I think about the time I have had here and what this site has accomplished, I continue to be amazed.
In 2009, when I organized the first RedState Gathering, we had a former congressman from Pennsylvania named Pat Toomey show up. He is now a Senator. We had a relatively unknown state legislator from South Carolina show up. Nikki Haley is now Governor of South Carolina. We had a former Florida House Speaker show up. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is now running for President. We had a lawyer from Texas show up. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now running for President.
2009 was also the year I realized we really had something going here. Having organized the RedState Gathering, I had no freaking clue what I was doing. Enter Mr. Caleb Howe, professional. Let me say “I organized” is used loosely because really Caleb organized everything. And when I say Caleb “organized” everything, he really just browbeat people into giving him what he wanted. I was amazed. He took an idea I had and turned it into something glorious. His designs and plans and processes are reflected every time we get another Gathering together, including the upcoming one in Denver.
In 2010, Herman Cain spoke at our Gathering and suggested he might consider a Presidential run. in 2011, I took his slot in radio and Rick Perry declared his Presidential campaign at the RedState Gathering. I went from CNN to Fox and all the while this site continued fighting for conservative causes and getting conservatives elected.
I have tried to always be a compass pointing north toward conservatism and that has often put this site at odds with Republicans. In the Bush era, his administration had folks coming to RedState to debate our position on immigration and TARP. We helped scuttle Harriet Miers’s nomination and have proudly helped defeat incumbents who supported TARP.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), and Pat Toomey are just a few of the candidates around the country for whom we helped raise money and awareness. So many of the men and women we have helped have become true friends, not just friends in politics. They are sources of strength and prayer and advice. More than one has been known to text me randomly things like “praying for you” or “turn off your damn phone and go play with the kids.”
Along the way, I have learned that people with whom I have disagreements may not be disagreeable people. Those on the other side are not necessarily enemies, but people of different life experiences and world views and ideas with whom we argue, but with whom we should not be willing to write out of our lives just because of partisan disagreement. I’ve learned a warm, freshly baked piece of bread or pot of gumbo can bring people of profound disagreement together as friends. I’ve learned I still have much to learn and often fall short and sometimes screw up. I’ve learned I should always strive to do better and be better. I have learned I should be willing to make any argument about which I believe, but as best I can do it respectfully and hopefully in ways that might draw a smile. That last one is a real work in progress.
I’ve learned that being kind is not an obligation, but a necessity of life. I’ve learned that there are far too many who show no grace and people on the internet are in a race to always remind you of your sins. I’ve learned that social media can draw out the worst in all of us, myself definitely included, anonymity breeds contemptibility, and comment sections should always be ignored. I’ve learned the Oxford comma is a defining characteristic of a civilized society, that I suck at proofreading, and sometimes there is no reward in doing the right thing, but you should always still do it as a reward in itself because tomorrow you will see yourself in the mirror even if no one else does.
I’ve learned that friends come in unexpected places, at unexpected times, and there are many more people worth getting to know who I thought I’d never want to know and now can’t live without them in my life.
Now it is time for me to move on to other things. William Perkins, the great Puritan theologian in the 16th Century, called theology “the science of living blessedly forever.” As I have become a seminarian I find the struggles of faith and politics more and more clash and sometimes seem incompatible. It is something I want to explore. So too I see conservatism now as less red vs. blue and more and more a merry band of resurgent conservatives against a rising tide of Washington interests in both parties who think government is a solution and friends should be rewarded. I want to go explore that. I want to focus on radio, from which I now draw most of my income, and in which my career and ratings continue to grow. I have a book coming out in February on the clash of secularism and faith in America (PRE-ORDER NOW). And honestly I just have a real desire now to own my own endeavor. I want to control all the pixels.
Though I’m the Editor-in-Chief of RedState, it has not really been my site for years. I want something a little more a reflection of me as I am now — a radio show host and television commentator on politics, with a side of cooking and gospel. I still hope Roger Ailes will give me a cooking show on Fox. It’d be awesome.
I started this year with the Atlantic hailing me as the most powerful conservative in America. I leave the year leaving the site that got me to that point. You guys are friends and family and I love you and will miss you. I’ll stop by occasionally and see you all at next year’s Gathering, but for now I look forward to new adventures. I’ll be filling in for Rush Limbaugh on December 30th and leave here the next day with fond memories and deep appreciation for you all. I’ll be transitioning my present radio site on January 4, 2016, to a permanent home merging both my online and on-air presence.
I am mindful each day of how unique my career has been, going from being a lawyer to a blogger to a television commentator to a radio show host to a Rush Limbaugh guest host and still a husband, father, son, and now a seminary student. I have been blessed beyond measure, my cup overflows, the grace of our Lord sustains me, and He guides me on paths on which I’m unworthy to walk. I go where the good Lord leads. My career is a testament to the plans made about which we never fully see or know. It is a reminder of the unseen and permanent realm to which we journey through the seen and temporary. It is a call to remain a happy warrior and not give into the fear and anger that sometimes is so much easier to fall back on.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12) and “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
God bless you all, have a Merry Christmas, and goodbye.