I've written a weekly column for the Charleston City Paper since 2007. This will be my last one. While I will miss being a part of my hometown paper, I am not sad, not in the least.
When I began my first foray into political commentary at the late, great Charleston rock station 96 Wave as the "Southern Avenger" character, the audience seemed to enjoy my superhero-meets-redneck persona. I enjoyed it too, but I got the most satisfaction out of being able to express my ideas about small-government conservatism.
My friend Jim Voigt, "The Critic," gave a young kid a shot, and for years, it worked. Whatever I have been able to do and whatever I'll be able to do in the future is a direct result of his decision to put me on the air. I will always be grateful to him.
When 96 Wave went away in 2007 — The Critic is now on the Bridge at 105.5 — I migrated to talk radio at 1250 AM WTMA thanks to my friend Richard Todd and program director Mike Edwards. At the same time, the City Paper was gracious enough to hire me as their conservative columnist to replace the outgoing Michael Graham. The platform both WTMA and the City Paper provided helped establish me as a more credible pundit.
The radio business is full of once-popular personalities who simply go away, never to be heard from again. After 96 Wave folded, WTMA and City Paper felt that I had something to say that was valuable, even when they didn't agree with me. It's hard to imagine what I would be doing right now if not for them.
My interest has always been politics, or more precisely a type of conservatism that has usually differed from the more conventional GOP-approved brand. The Bush-Cheney years were so bad that I hesitated to even call myself a conservative. After all, what was "conservative" about a needless war in Iraq, expanding the power of the executive branch, arrogant authoritarianism, a disregard of the Constitution, and doubling the size of government?
During those years, I spent as much time attacking Republicans as I did Democrats. I remember attacking Bush as an "imperial president" over the Patriot Act and many Republicans gave me grief. Now, it is a common occurrence for conservatives to call Obama an "imperial president" over multiple issues — ObamaCare, gun control, drones — and they are absolutely correct. As bad as Bush was, Obama is much worse. The difference is today you will find very few conservatives who are proud of George W. Bush and his record. Mitt Romney barely mentioned Bush throughout the 2012 election, and I don't think Romney mentioned the Iraq war even once.
When Ron Paul ran for president in 2007, I finally saw a Republican who was conservative in the way that Barry Goldwater once defined the term. Dr. Paul's brand of strict constitutionalism seemed so very different from the views that were then being espoused by the Republican Party and to which the party faithful adhered. Back in 2008, every Republican running for office ran on the Bush-Cheney model, except for Paul. Dr. Paul ran on the Founding Fathers model and as far away from the mainstream GOP as he could.
Over time, I found a national audience that was attracted to Paul's message, and in turn, some of them were attracted to mine. I began writing columns for the American Conservative and the Daily Caller, and I later went on to work for Ron Paul during his 2012 presidential campaign; today, I work for his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. I've also worked with activists like Young Americans for Liberty, appeared on several radio and TV shows, written a book, and spoken around the country.
Today, there is an influential and growing part of the GOP that reflects the constitutional conservatism I had championed. Congressmen and senators now promote a more libertarian Republican agenda. The liberty movement to which I belong continues to grow and wield influence, while the Tea Party continues to represent a political force that shuns the partisanship of old. These days, there are many headlines about a more "libertarian" Republican Party, something the old guard doesn't like one bit. And I'm right in the middle of it.
I'd like to thank 96 Wave, WTMA, and the City Paper for everything they've done for me. I'd like to thank City Paper readers, whether you agreed with me or not. To this day, I'm still humbled that anyone gives a damn about what I have to say.
Jack Hunter is the new media director for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.