What Mona Charen Will Never Know

A few years ago while living at the homeless shelter and working next door at Jimmy John’s, I got an email from this development VP at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College in California. She was swinging through Atlanta raising money and asked if I wanted to meet. I didn’t. Obviously. But she persisted, so I thought, “Why not? At least this will be amusing.” So we met.

At the end of a very unprofitable lunch (she paid for her sandwich, mine was comped by my manager) and after patiently sitting through my long story of struggle and hopeful redemption—“So yeah, at three months, I’m praying this time . . . recovery will stick”—she smiled at me and said, “You’re so Claremont.”

It was probably the kindest thing anyone had said to me in years. It brought me to tears hours later during my shift. That even as I worked a minimum-wage shift . . . at Jimmy John’s . . . at 38 . . . in suburban Atlanta . . . while living in a homeless shelter . . . with just three months distance from a crazy sad, 10-year battle over alcohol and meth . . . she could still see it. In me. The Claremont.

I see it in Jack Posobiec.

See, Claremont isn’t Stanford, and it’s definitely not Harvard or Yale. The school where the Claremont Institute’s founders studied in the 1970s was founded, ad hoc and jerry rigged, to give returning GI’s a solid education after World War II. And it succeeded. Wildly. But differently than the New England Gothic of the Ivy League. The men, then men and women, didn’t go there for pedigree. We came to Claremont because Claremont was the California Dream.

The hustle.

In the best way. A hustle that launched Goldwater and then Reagan. A hustle that built what became the modern Conservative movement. “So what if we smash religious freaks, the Orange County industrialist, and these Jewish intellectuals into one party?”

Harry Jaffa himself was a hustler. He, too, was widely scorned by the elites of his day—which is why he found himself at Claremont. And this is why his students had to start the Claremont Institute. In Claremont. They didn’t bitch and moan about who was being allowed in the building. They built their own and hoped it would be popular. It was a very good hustle. It was very Claremont.

Mona Charen doesn’t know Claremont. She’s not a hustler. She can’t see the value of the hustle. She doesn’t even know the history of the hustle that enabled her own career as a pundit. And what has Mona built? Where has she failed and tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed? A paint-by-the-numbers “conservative,” her career is respectable, well-received in the appropriate circles and utterly useless. Derivative. Of long ago hustles she can’t see. She can’t imagine. She has no idea.

But Jack does. Hustle. A lot. The guy is always in motion. Moving the ball forward in a dozen different ways. He writes, he performs, he talks to a lot of people, he moves around the country meeting even more people. He builds relationships and produces the content that Gen Z and Boomers want. He shifts opinion. He creates. He forges uncomfortable bridges with unconventional allies. He’s a traditionalist but not nostalgic. He does stuff beyond the endless talk-talk of yesterday’s Right. He doesn’t just look at the camera to opine on the way things ought to be.

His hustle doesn’t always pan out. But he doesn’t moan. He does not bitch. He’s excited because conservatism is exciting, not a brittle little tragedy. Which makes him the right here, right now of the Right. He’s the good guy.

And Jack is so Claremont.

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About David Ragsdale

David S. Ragsdale is a 2001 graduate of Claremont McKenna where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in Classics & PPE. He received his MPP in 2010 from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore with work at Sciences Po, where his Public Analysis Exercise compared pricing transparency in Singapore’s rental market (private v. public). More vitally, in 2018 he received his Certificate of Completion from the Extension in Marietta, a year-long residential treatment program for homeless addicts. David has been published in the Los Angeles Times & The Taipei Times.