Two years ago, former progressive and Hillary Clinton voter Brandon Straka left the Democratic Party and launched the #WalkAway movement.
Approximately 24 months after his video went live for the first time, the official #WalkAway Facebook page and its affiliated Facebook group have a combined 395,000 members, the YouTube channel has 146,000 subscribers, and the Twitter account has a little over 71,000 followers.
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak with Straka about the progress that’s been made, where he sees the movement going in the near and distant future, ideological freedom, support for President Trump, and much more.
If you would prefer to listen to the interview rather than read it, the audio can be found at the bottom of this piece. Time stamps will be provided in writing after each question.
DW: Two years in, is the #WalkAway Movement doing what you had hoped? (0:02)
STRAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think that the #WalkAway movement is absolutely doing what I had hoped. Our numbers are still going up at a really amazing rate. People are still telling their stories and their testimonials. One thing that’s been interesting, since the beginning almost two years ago, is that these different things that happen in society bring on various waves into the movement. And one of the big things that brought a wave on was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. That was very upsetting to a lot of people and pushed a lot of people out. Of course now we have the shutdown, and the reopening seems to be sort of politicized – not to mention that right now, as you and I are having this conversation, various cities in America are burning due to the rioting after George Floyd’s death.
So it depends on what’s going on in the world and in the news cycle. But yeah, the numbers keep going up and up and people keep making their testimonials.
I was very proud that last year we went beyond being a social media movement, which is where we really started in 2018, and #WalkAway started crossing the country, doing minority focused town halls, and a college campus tour, and creating educational videos. So I feel like we’re doing so much more now than we were before to make an impact. I’m just very proud of where the movement is and where we’re headed.
DW: Speaking of where you’re headed, what does the future of the movement look like? (1:39)
STRAKA: Well, for the immediate present, when I look at where we are today through to election day, we have to be a little bit strategic because on a daily basis the situation changes. Certain states are starting to reopen. Other states, their governors are telling them it could be many more months. And obviously, this isn’t specific just to us, but this has thrown a wrench into our strategic plan for the year, as it has for everybody. We have to sort of rethink how we’re going to approach people, how we’re going to get our message out as much as possible.
So between now and election day, it’s going to be a combination of doing live events where we can go, and then doing virtual events for various communities and on various issues that we feel like are going to grab people the most and catch the most attention, and hopefully wake people up and get them to walk away.
After the election – and I personally feel strongly that Donald Trump will be reelected – but we’re going to have to wait and see what the result of the election is. Then once we know that, we can kind of re-strategize what our plan will be for the next four years. Because how the election comes out – and it’s not just the president, of course; it’s what will happen to the House and the Senate and the government at large – that will tell us a lot about how our culture is going to be shaped over the next four years. Then we’ll kind of re-strategize based off of that.
But I can tell you that I know for certain that we definitely want to expand our presence in college campuses and our college tour. We definitely want to start opening #WalkAway college chapters across the country. We want to have more boots-on-the-ground activism in every state across the country, and kind of create chapters or clubs or whatever you would want to call them of boots-on-the-ground activists who go out and do door-knocking and voter registration, and who even socialize. But a lot of that, the specific way that we do it, will depend on the outcome of the election.
DW: How has your personal experience evolved from the very beginning when you released that video to now, politically? (3:57)
STRAKA: I guess I would say that I continue to learn every single day. I try to continue to educate myself and to know more and to learn more, and as I do, my position has even continued to evolve and change shape on certain issues.
I’ve learned a lot about how behind the scenes in the political movement works. I’ve seen a lot of things that I’m very happy about, and I’ve seen a lot of things that have disturbed me. And I can tell you that my primary focus is to focus on this election and try to shape the outcome of this election in November as much as I possibly can. But once we get past this, I do feel a certain compulsion, I think, or obligation perhaps, to talk about some of these things that I’ve seen because there is kind of a disturbing power structure that takes place behind the scenes that a lot of people, I think a lot of conservatives, don’t know about in which some people are allowed to have a voice and some people are not allowed to have a voice.
I think some people are misusing and abusing the power they have. And it’s not what I think a lot of people think when they go, “Oh, well, we’re all on the same team. We’re all here to lift each other up.” Not really. I mean, there’s a lot of people behind the scenes just motivated by money, power, just like anything else. So that has been very eye-opening to me. I just want to see really good people rise up. I want to see people care about the cause, and care about the movement, and who actually want to make a difference in the world. I’m kind of done with a lot of these people who are just in it to be celebrities and Twitter personalities and who have, I think, really misused the privilege that’s been given to them of being a high-profile voice. I would like to see this power structure change.
DW: Do I sense a book coming? (6:19)
STRAKA: Well, probably. I mean, honestly, probably. I have to put a lot of thought into it because the response I’m going to get if I talk about these things is going to be unpleasant, and I know that. It’s lifting the mask to a certain degree off things that go on behind the scenes. It’s ugly, unfortunately on both sides, and people don’t want to hear that. I mean, people want to think it’s only the other side that has these problems, but it isn’t true. I mean, there are people who are hungry for power, and control, and fame, and wealth everywhere. On all sides. And yeah, I mean, I do think all the time about doing a book. But timing is everything, so I have to sort of put the lid on it, I think, until the time is right.
DW: So you’re obviously very pro-Trump, but there are those who have walked away from the Left who are not. Do you think that you, as the leader of this movement and your unabashed support for the president, could damage the movement for those who might want to leave the Left, but aren’t ready to support someone like Trump? (7:12)
STRAKA: It could – and that is something that I think about. I mean, I try as often as possible to include in our messaging that I, as an individual, after doing my own research and doing my own homework and really putting a lot of thought and consideration into how I think and how I feel, have found myself now in the Republican Party and as a Trump supporter. But it is not compulsory that you believe that, or that you think that to be a part of this movement. A good number of people are not, and also to be honest with you, even people on my core team don’t necessarily agree with me.
I have a very small staff of people who I make decisions with, that we plan events with, that are equal decision-makers with me. Some of them are not Republicans and don’t want to be Republicans. And some of them, they respect the office of president and they would never disrespect Trump just because they believe that it’s not American to be so disrespectful to the person who’s in the office of president, but they themselves are not so sure how they feel about President Trump. And that’s fine.
I respect that. I would rather have the discussion, the dialogue, and have some education back and forth. That’s what we’re trying to encourage here. So whenever possible, I try to include that in my messaging. You know, I am going to vote for Trump. I personally love President Trump, but that is not what #WalkAway is about and #WalkAway will never be about any political party or any political candidate. It’s about waking up, educating yourself, doing research, and leaving a political party that I think has been exploiting, manipulating, lying, and dividing for a very, very long time.
DW: In a similar vein, talking about parties, how can the Republican Party better reach those who might be disenfranchised by the Left in your opinion? (9:23)
STRAKA: Well, I have to let out a long, deep sigh when you ask that question because it’s astounding to me that #WalkAway is now over two years old, and I have had so little outreach from the RNC, communication or any desire really to sort of work with us or to understand us better and what we’re doing.
I personally believe that we are more successfully communicating with minority communities who are typically voting Democrat or pledging their allegiance to the liberal Left than any other organization out there. We are successfully getting them to come to our events. We are successfully having these conversations, and we have successfully changed the voter registrations of Democrats at every single event that we’ve done. Anywhere from maybe four or five in an event to, at our Hispanic [Town] Hall in New York City, we had 15 people change their voter registration just that day at that event.
And yet still, it seems like the lightbulb is not going on for a lot of these people in powerful positions in the RNC to say, “Hey, maybe we should talk with these #WalkAway people and see why they’re having as much success as they’re having and what they’re doing.” But I mean, even if we just remove the personal aspect of it altogether. I spent the majority of last year traveling the country. I was the keynote speaker at 47 different events last year, and much of the time when I speak to these, they’re often Republican groups, I tell them, point blank, this party is lousy, lousy at communicating with minorities and doing outreach, and trying to encourage people to step away. And so often what you’ll hear from a lot of Republicans is, “Well, we just feel like it’s a lost cause because we’re never going to win. They’re never going to listen.”
And I’m sitting there going, “But I’m living proof that that’s not true.” I mean, to a certain degree, it just feels like laziness and lack of organization. And so, okay, fine. Maybe you don’t know how to do it, or maybe you’re not organized to do it. But why don’t you look at a group like #WalkAway who’s doing it really well, and pick up the phone and call us. Again, it almost goes back to what I was saying a second ago about the power structure. It’s as if many of the people who are in positions of power in our government, in the Republican Party, look around at the social media and the culture, and they see a handful of people who have a very large following and they think to themselves, “Oh, well, these are the leaders. These four or five people are the voices. They’re the leaders.” And then they don’t look at anybody else. They don’t listen to anyone else. And so much of it is a house of cards anyway, or it’s a facade to a certain degree.
It’s very easy to give the illusion that you and your organization are much more successful than you actually are. And so I wish there were more people sort of on the ground paying attention and realizing the people, the individuals, and the organizations that are legitimately making a difference and having an impact. I know that my organization is one of those and it would be great if there was more recognition of that, because I think that we could work hand-in-hand in making a real difference [in what] these minority communities are thinking.
DW: What advice would you give to those on the Left who maybe want to leave, but are afraid and don’t necessarily know exactly how to go about doing that? (13:13)
STRAKA: Well, what I would tell anybody on the Left is that if they’re thinking about leaving, it’s probably because they have a nagging feeling in their conscience, or there’s something inside of them that’s telling them this political party or this ideology of liberalism, or perhaps the media on the Left that they’ve trusted, like something doesn’t feel right anymore. Something feels very, very wrong. Something feels off. And I would say first and foremost, listen to that instinct, that voice, that feeling in your gut, because it’s telling you that for a reason. Something is wrong on the liberal Left. Something is catastrophically wrong, and you are being used, and you are being manipulated. Your fears and your feelings are being exploited largely by the media and by the Democrats. And so if you feel like you can no longer be a part of these groups or this party, I understand the fear because for a lot of people, they’re walking away and they feel like they’re walking away from friends, and family, and job opportunities.
It’s not just as easy as changing a voter registration – but that’s why we have this movement now, what we call #WalkAway, which has hundreds of thousands of people at this point, who have made that very decision to come together and leave the Left.
And again, we’re not telling you what to think, what to believe, or where you have to go. You can make whatever decision you want to make about what you believe. But just know that you won’t be alone if you leave the Left because there is a community. It’s called #WalkAway, and it’s here to embrace you, to lift you up, and to support you as you walk away. You probably will lose friends; you might lose family members; you could potentially lose job opportunities, but there is a network of support here. So I highly encourage anyone to make that decision because you won’t be able to live with yourself if you know that you stay and you’re living inauthentically and you’re living in that lie. So walk away.
DW: Do you see a future where the Left doesn’t have the ideological stranglehold that it has on minority communities and other groups? (15:22)
STRAKA: Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn’t take this on if I felt like it was not realistic, or if that was not a possibility. It will not be easy, and it’s not going to happen really, really fast. It’s not going to happen as quickly as I wish it would. But I look at something like the gay rights movement. For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a gay man, and if you had asked me in 2012, 2013, probably even 2014 if I felt like the United States would ever allow or embrace gay marriage, that type of advancement, I would have told you “no” because I truly thought that it was a hurdle that we would never overcome. I just thought one day humanity will get there, but we’ll never see it in my lifetime. That’s what I truly believed.
And then sometimes after years and years of hard work and activism, it’s like the bottleneck just opens up and all of a sudden the light goes on for a mass of people, and people just get it.
What we’re seeing right now in America today is an awakening. It’s undeniable. I’m a part of it. Donald Trump is a part of it. Many people are a part of it – and more and more people are waking up every day. They’re making this choice to walk away from the Left. But this is only the beginning, so we have to continue the hard work, and sometimes it will be frustrating. Sometimes there will be setbacks. I mean, when I go on social media and I see video footage of cities from coast to coast in which people are burning down businesses, smashing windows, stealing, looting, committing acts of violence and vandalism, I think to myself, “My God, have we made any progress at all? Has any of this made a difference?” But then, you have to take a deep breath and just realize there’s always going to be these setbacks, and there’s always going to be these massive demonstrations, particularly propped up by the media in a way almost designed to make you feel like the situation is hopeless, and that we can’t make progress, and that we can’t overcome. But this has been going on with every civil rights struggle since the beginning of time and any quest to make a true, significant social change. So I’m not going to stop working. My organization will not stop working, and I truly believe that one day we will see a massive shift and it will happen very, very quickly once we get to that point.
DW: My last question is sort of an open-ended one. Is there anything that we haven’t touched on in this interview that you would want our readership to know, or just people in general to know about your movement, about you? (18:11)
STRAKA: I would just like people to find out a little bit more about who we are in case they don’t know. I would highly encourage anyone to go to walkawaycampaign.com. Check us out. If they would like to support us financially, they can donate. If they would like to volunteer for our organization, they can do that by going to the website. They can join us on social media through the website there if they click the button, “Join the Movement.” Please give me a follow on social media @BrandonStraka.
Also check out our two year short film anniversary retrospective that we just put out. It’s an 18-minute short film that currently people can watch if they go on YouTube to the official #WalkAway Campaign YouTube channel. It’s really a beautiful, breathtaking 18-minute short film that I think, in a very astounding way, shows people just how much we’ve done in two years and the impact that we’ve had. I think that people will be amazed when they watch this.
[NOTE: Any and all differences between the audio version and written version of this interview were made with the approval of Brandon Straka for purposes of readability and clarity.]
I’d like to thank Straka for taking the time to speak with me about the #WalkAway movement. For more information, you can check out the #WalkAway website here.