On June 29, Brandon Straka released a video titled "Why I Left The Democratic Party."
In the video, Straka explains that for most of his life, he was a progressive. However, as the Democratic Party began exhibiting behavior that was, in Straka’s words, "intolerant, inflexible, illogical, hateful, misguided, ill-informed, un-American, hypocritical, menacing, callous, narrow-minded, and even blatantly fascistic," he realized he couldn’t be a member of such a group any longer.
With his video, Straka started the #WalkAway campaign, encouraging other progressives to educate themselves and leave the Democratic Party as he did. Since then, numerous others have shared their personal #WalkAway stories on YouTube and Facebook.
The Daily Wire had the opportunity to speak with Straka about his philosophical journey, what he hopes to achieve, and what the future holds for the #WalkAway campaign:
DW: Why did you decide to make a video rather than simply change your political philosophies and walk away quietly?
STRAKA: I used to be a Democrat and a liberal, and that ultimately switched for me in 2017. It took months before I decided to walk away from liberalism and the Democratic Party. Over the course of that transition, I was trying to have conversations with friends and others about what I was experiencing and learning because it’s very jarring to feel like everything you believed in is being turned upside down.
When I was trying to have these conversations with people, I was met with a lot of hostility. The more hostile people became, the more I retreated into myself. I would lie in bed at night, and watch videos and read anything I could find about these subjects. The more I researched, the more I wanted to talk – but I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
It was shortly after the new year when I just got fed up with living in a constant state of anxiety thinking about who's going to lash out at me next or turn their back on me if I bring something up. So, I just decided to sit down and write this, sort of, manifesto about everything that's wrong with liberalism and the Democratic Party, shoot a video, and put the video online. That way, people could watch it, and all in one swoop, everyone who wanted to get pissed off at me or turn their back on me could to do it all at once – and then I would know. It’s like coming out of the closet. Anyone who has a problem can walk out of your life, and the people who are your real friends and who love you, they can stay.
I was so tired of not knowing who the next person was going to be who was going to leave. That was the original thought behind the video, but then I realized there was something deeper there because a lot of other people feel the same way I'm feeling. I realized I could turn it into a campaign and open it up to other people.
DW: What has the response been from your progressive friends?
STRAKA: Not great. Honestly, there really weren’t that many left by the time I did the video. So many of my closest friends had already either cut me off or stopped talking to me. It hasn’t been good.
[Brandon then told me about several of the interactions he’s had with former friends that became incredibly malicious]
DW: What was the first time you remember questioning your progressive belief system?
STRAKA: Some of the earliest memories I have of questioning my beliefs go back eight to ten years. I had a group of liberal friends in New York. They’re all Ivy League-educated, very smart people with great careers – very bright people.
I was like the only friend in the group who didn’t have a college degree. Meanwhile, they all went to Harvard and Dartmouth and Yale and Columbia – but we would hang out and have a great time together. Inevitably, we’d end up going back to someone’s apartment and talking politics. I was a liberal too, but there were so many times I would be listening to them talk, and be like, this doesn’t make any sense. But because I didn’t go to college, and they went to these really prestigious schools, I just thought the problem was me. I was like, "Well, they’re the smart ones. I’m the one who’s not getting it."
Of course, as the years went by, we started hearing about privilege and white privilege – which even transitioned into "gay privilege." That's when it really lost me. The identity politics and the PC culture.
It was around 2015, and the Supreme Court had just ruled in favor of marriage equality, and I thought, as a member of the gay community, that this would be a moment of celebration. But what happened was, as soon as we crossed that finish line, our community just started splintering, and it started to become about race, and which race of gay people has it harder. It became about white gay people oppressing black gay people, and gender non-binary, and gender fluid, and genderqueer.
Then it was: if you're a black, non-binary person, you’re oppressed by the white gay male, and I was like, this is f****** nuts. I thought we were a community; I thought we were in this together. Once my own group started turning on me, it was really painful.
It was really the cultural impact of identity politics and PC culture that just chipped away at me until I was driven away.
DW: Do you consider yourself a conservative now?
STRAKA: Yes, so I am now a registered Republican; I’m a conservative; I’m a Trump supporter. I really need to stress that this was not an overnight decision by any stretch of the imagination. I made a decision in March of 2017 to officially walk away from the Democratic Party.
At that point, I knew I was no longer a liberal and I knew I was no longer a Democrat, but I was like an island for most of last year. I was like, "Well, I’m not a liberal, but I’m sure as hell not going to become a Republican because those people are crazy and racist, etc."
It was during that vacuum of time when I was on my own that I started opening up more, and having conversations with people. I was still getting in bed every night and doing research, and I started really listening to the conservative point of view for the first time. Before then, I wasn't open to listening to it or receiving it. If someone posted a clip of Tucker Carlson on Facebook, I wouldn't watch it. But during this time, I was watching. I started watching Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin.
The more I watched and listened to these people, the more it started to make sense. All those nights with my liberal friends also started to make sense. I was like, "I get why this was so confusing because it's not true; it's not real." By the end of the year, I was able to embrace saying that I was a conservative, and then I registered as a Republican the following March.
DW: You’re 41. Why do you think it took as long as it did to form the opinions you have now?
STRAKA: Well, I mean a huge part of the reason is just because I'm gay. The Democratic Party does an amazing job of targeting minority groups. I think what happens a lot is that within the ideology of liberalism, you have a lot of these disenfranchised people who end up coming together under the idea that they have a network of support. Then you end up taking on other people's issues; it’s almost like trading favors. You’re then expected to have a certain stance on abortion, illegal immigration, etc.
I’m a gay man. Why do I have to be pro-choice? But your liberal female friends are going to say that you have to be pro-choice. People are going to say you have to be for undocumented immigrants.
At the time, you don’t really question it. You think, "Well, I’m oppressed, and they say they’re oppressed too, so we’re all oppressed and we’ll have each other’s backs."
DW: Do you see any of the behavior that you witnessed on the Left mirrored in the Republican Party? For example – the identity politics, the pitting of groups against one another, the tribalism, the cruel rhetoric or violence.
STRAKA: No, I’m not seeing or experiencing anything like that, which is why I think I’ve come to embrace the conservative philosophy as much as I have. It’s all about the individual, personal empowerment, encouraging people to try hard, and work hard. You can have the life you want if you’re willing to work for it, be a decent person, and contribute to society.
This is a bit of a tangent, but I got sober over three and a half years ago, and I didn't know it at the time, but it ended up being very influential in my transition. Before I got sober, I was an active alcoholic and cocaine addict. My life was all about self pity and what the world owed me. After I got sober, I really started to learn about accountability, taking responsibility for your actions, and making amends to people when you've made mistakes. I started seeing the rewards of that.
After years and years of beating my head against the wall not really getting anywhere, I finally had direction, which gave me forward motion, and I was building things that gave me a sense of accomplishment, that made me actually feel good about myself and feel good about my life. I didn't know it at the time, but these are all very conservative principles.
What I don’t see on the Right is that sort of selfishness and that sense of entitlement, the collectivism and groupthink. What’s really cool is that we’re seeing a lot of minorities who no longer want to be perceived as the victim or participate in identity politics migrating from liberalism to conservatism.
DW: What do you hope to achieve going forward with the #WalkAway movement?
STRAKA: Well, there’s still a lot of work to be done to wake people up from the stupor that they're in right now, which is believing that the Democratic Party has their best interest at heart and has a plan for America that's good and worthy – which is not true. They are moving further left every day.
This is a brief tangent, but to illustrate a point that concerns me – NBC has this subsection called NBC Out, which is their gay community group. I was looking at all the articles on the site, and what I started to see was all of these pieces about transgender people and genderqueer people who are getting into politics, and they're hardcore socialists.
I see what they're doing now. They’re starting to kind of blur the line between being gay and being socialist. This is what they're pushing on the gay community now, and the reason they’re doing this is so that when any reasonable person objects to socialist ideology, progressives can claim it’s because they’re homophobic or transphobic. They’re going to blur those two things together, which is next level disgusting. Mark my words, we’re going to see this more and more. The Democratic Party is going to start finding black people, gay people, Hispanic people, and run them on this platform so that when people object, they can call it homophonic or racist, and take the spotlight off the socialist ideology.
With #WalkAway, I want to shine a spotlight on things like this. I want people in my community or other minority communities to see what the Democratic Party is really up to. I want them to know the truth about the history of the Democratic Party, and see the lies of the liberal media.
As for the campaign itself, we're going to transition into a nonprofit organization. I want to create really amazing educational resources and video content – sort of like PragerU, but do #WalkAway stories and content debunking liberal myths. I want to assemble an amazing team of speakers, people who have walked away from the Left, and get them out on college campuses, at rallies, and at public speaking events to talk about why people have walked away from the Left and why their lives are better for it.
DW: There are some people who are going to say that you are astroturfing, that you are doing this to boost your career, or that you were paid to do this. What do you say to those people?
STRAKA: I prepared for the worst possible reaction. But as I said, I was so tired of living in this constant state of anxiety and not knowing who was going to react negatively next, I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s why I did it. Also, I knew that there were so many other people who were feeling the exact same way I was.
I haven’t made any money from doing this. I think I will if I keep working as hard as I am right now. I say yes to everything. I’ve been doing Fox News, but I also get requests from radio shows that have, like, a hundred listeners, and I say yes to them as well because I want to get the word out about #WalkAway. I spend about 18 hours a day on my computer pulling my hair out, making phone calls or returning messages, trying to raise money.
Every once in a while I get to do something fun, like go on Huckabee and sing, or go to Los Angeles and be on the red carpet for the premier of Dinesh D'Souza’s new movie – but those are rare opportunities that come along. Mostly, it’s very hard work. I’m not profiting personally from it.
My dream for my whole life was to be a famous movie and TV actor, and before I did the #WalkAway video, I had to ask myself if I was willing to give that up because there was a really good chance that if I did this, I would never have any hope of ever having that career. I made the decision that this was too important. That sounds cheesy, but I reached a point where I thought that even if I were to be cast in a TV show or movie, I would be miserable because Hollywood is so unbearable at this point. I’d have to spend every day with these people talking about the f****** patriarchy or white privilege.
I’ve given up a lot of my own personal dreams to move forward with this, and it’s extremely hard work. That being said, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about any of the fun I may be having along the way, or any of the opportunities I’ve been given.
DW: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
STRAKA: I encourage people to go on the #WalkAway Facebook group and leave a video testimonial or watch the video testimonials. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s really all about – people finding their voice again and walking away.
The Daily Wire would like to thank Brandon Straka for speaking with us about #WalkAway. His original video can be viewed below: