|Ben Weingarten, Publius Fellow 2015
Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media
What is your current position?
I am the Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media, a media consulting, production and publication services firm. My firm helps like-minded individuals and organizations create and distribute compelling content in text, audio and video, from book and article ghostwriting and research, to podcast hosting and video production. I also write for outlets such as Conservative Review, City Journal and The Federalist, and am a regular contributor to various radio and television programs.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
Two things: (i) A lifelong passion for engaging in the war of ideas, in particular, advocating for individual liberty, free markets and a dominant but prudently used Kirkpatrickian national defense; (ii) My ideological and political coming-of-age during the Obama years, wherein I saw the denigration of everything I believe in, and the concomitant decline of our Republic. Given the degree of damage done to the nation I love over the last decade, I was compelled to leave a career in finance to advance conservative principles.
What are you currently working on?
Numerous writing, podcasting and video production engagements spanning national security, economics and politics.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
By way of a copy of the Claremont Review of Books that I came across in high school.
What’s your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
Beyond the marathon evening discussions on all manner of topics with the Claremont Institute’s erudite scholars during my Publius Fellowship, I greatly enjoyed participating in a war game led by Professor John Yoo. The challenge of balancing short-term goals and long-term strategic interests, resource constraints and the need to develop some semblance of consensus among parties with competing worldviews and interests made it an intellectually stimulating exercise. Professor Yoo’s exhortations only enhanced the experience.
There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
The Claremont Institute has a distinct philosophy and an exceptional group of academics and practitioners to promulgate it. The intellectual rigor of the program is peerless, and I truly cherished the experience.
If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?
There are too many figures to list here, but since I think George Washington would be the most obvious and least imaginative choice, I will go with James Madison. I would like to ask him what if anything he would incorporate into or amend in the Federalist Papers and Constitution with the benefit of almost 250 years of experience. We would be drinking Budweisers.
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
Different times require different statesmen. During critical periods in American history to date, the right leader has emerged – even when it seemed as if all might be lost. Washington and Lincoln were equally unique and uniquely qualified to deal with the profound challenges they faced during their times. Only a master politician and orator like Lincoln could have prevented the Union from being torn asunder during the Civil War; only a courageous military leader and patriot like Washington could have led us to such a miraculous triumph in the American Revolution, and had the great humility to refuse to be a king in peace. Let us hope that we continue to be blessed with the good fortune of such leaders in our most trying times.
What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
Progressive ideology pervades our culture. It affects all our critical institutions including government, media and the academy – ensuring that future generations will continue to be progressive in a perverse and seemingly never-ending feedback loop. Practically every problem we see can be attributed in one way or another to progressive ideology, from the decline of the family and all its related maladies, to our national security and foreign policy failures borne largely, in my view, of subordinating the national interest to politically correct willful blindness, and the diminishment of liberty in almost every measure. If you believe as I do that America above all else is not a landmass but an idea – a distinctive political philosophy based in Judeo-Christian values and classical liberal principles – then turning these foundations on their head leaves an America in name only. Thus, in my view the greatest challenge America faces is not from without but within: It is our nation’s ideology. And the progressives have about a hundred-year head start on us in the battle for the American mind and soul.
What books are you reading right now?
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
iWar by Bill Gertz
Patriotism is Not Enough by (Claremont’s own) Stephen Hayward
The Book of War (Sun-Tzu’s Art of War and Karl Von Clausewitz’s On War)
You’re a longtime fan of the New York Mets and Minnesota Vikings. Who do you think will be the first to win their division?
Absent another injury epidemic among our starting pitchers, the sky is the limit for the Mets in 2017. But of course, I expect the worst and hope for the best.