EXCLUSIVE: Breitbart Editor Joel Pollak discusses conservative opposition, deems it ‘moving’ for Republican agenda

We spoke to the controversial Turning Point USA speaker about his beliefs and new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution

Self-described “flaming left-wing activist” turned conservative and senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Joel Pollack, addressed a group of Turning Point USA club members and students last night, speaking on the future of conservatism, climate change, the media and, unsurprisingly, Donald Trump.

Turning Point USA paraphernalia

Breitbart News was one of the few conservative media organizations that supported Trump’s candidacy, often coming under heavy fire for their open loyalty.

“Our critics took a calculated gamble and were upset that we didn’t join them,” Pollack said. The conservative base wanted to have a universal opposition to Trump. Pollack said that wouldn’t be healthy because “it would have split the Republican party as such from the conservative movement in a way that might have been final.”

A recurring theme in his back and forth question and answer session with students was the importance for conservatives to lead the opposition to Trump.

In an interview with The Tab before his speech, he said:

“If conservatives are leading the opposition … then you are negotiating with conservatives, and that means that the people Trump is compromising with are moving the policy agenda in a more conservative agenda.”

At the end of the speaking engagement, Pollack, who spoke at the front of the room for two hours, signed his most recent book, How Trump Won:The Inside Story of a Revolution. He briefly summarized the book in his opening remarks and explained the Trump win throughout his speech.

Trump was in sixth place coming into July 2015 of the Republican primaries. Shortly thereafter, an AP photo circulated of Trump meeting with families who lost their loved ones because of undocumented immigrants. That helped distinguish himself from a race crowded with other candidates. Pollack said that in just over a week Trump surged to first place, and “he almost never looked back.”

Pollack talking to students after his speech

Trump’s platform was as equally as important, Pollack said. His platform on trade, immigration and national security propelled him through the election, even if some of his social values weren’t strictly conservative. The Paris attacks in November 2015, which left 129 dead, and was planned by an Islamic State extremist who travelled to Syria twice in the year before made Trump’s rhetoric on terrorism and national security even more timely.

Pollack argued that Trump’s campaign strategy to infiltrate deep blue states paid off in the end even though the election, he said, “inherently favors Democrats.” That strategy likely won him the most important of the twelve swing states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Students were interested to see Pollack’s take on the mainstream media. He focused particularly on CNN’s proclamation that they are a centrist news outlet. For Pollack, it isn’t as worrisome for MSNBC to say something he thinks is unwarranted as it is for CNN to. He said they feel like they have an obligation to constantly fact check the president, even on exaggerations.

“CNN has it in its mind, editorially, that its job is to fact check the Trump presidency, and it represents an assault on truth itself,” Pollack said. Similarly, he also argued that other news stations feel like they know the audience, when they really don’t. He pointed to evidence of an ESPN and NFL audience loss for covering Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.

Pollack addressed the contentious issue of climate change. He believes that the Earth is getting warmer and that humans are in some part to blame, yet he thinks that nothing should be done, especially limiting industry.

“Some of the arguments to basically shut down our economy or get rid of certain industries is ludicrous,” he said.

Pollack, who has now become a conservative commentator and journalist, graduated from Harvard in 1999 as a Democrat with the intention to change the world. After witnessing the post-Apartheid government in writing abroad, his beliefs changed. Though he still thought he was a Democrat when he returned to the U.S., he said that because his beliefs had shifted and the left had gone further left, he slowly became a conservative.  

“A microagression is exactly that: micro” – Michael Bloomberg, read one of the posters situated behind Pollack

“I feel like bringing people like him to campus and allowing it to be an open event for everyone to speak at allows people to understand that the right is approachable,” said Co-Chair of the USC chapter of Turning Point USA, Xena Amirani.

Students, even if they disagreed with Pollack, were surprised by his moderate disposition, considering he helps run a conservative news website.

“He cut through a lot of the noise and the propaganda that’s perpetrated in the media,” said student Kieran Agarwal, a freshman computer science and business administration major. “I though all of his arguments were very rational.”

For those with completely different political beliefs, some were still interested in how his political ideals changed.

“It was really interesting to learn about a wider picture and how he turned from the left to the right,” said junior economics and finance major Brian Chen, who also says he’s a libertarian.

In part of his address to students, Pollack referenced why he became conservative in the first place.

“‘If you care about helping people, if you think politics should help people and change the world you have to care about results and what’s important is not intention.”

University of Southern California