Mike Flynn was not just an editor at Breitbart. He wasn’t just a journalist on “the hill” or a friend of Andrew Breitbart, either.
Mike Flynn was, in a way, every one of us who ever fought back the establishment. He was every guy who rolled his eyes and complied with a feeble request to put out his cigarette. He was anyone who ever exposed an injustice on their blog or shook their fist at a red light camera.
He made time for anyone who needed his help, and the most uneven battle between an accomplished politician and a political nobody was where he helped the most.
He consumed news about bad public officials the way a fat man ate pork rinds while watching football.
Mike Flynn was the first to tell you that your crazy idea just might work.
And he was the last to give up on something that was ‘the right thing’ to do.
He was a patriot first and a Republican second, and there was a sense about him that political party was just a means to an end.
When I first met Mike Flynn I joked about my great-grandfather being the chairman of the Jefferson County Illinois Democrat party, he responded saying that his was the same for Adams County. “They probably knew each other,” he shot back.
For the past year I got to know Mike Flynn quite well, and I can honestly say that he was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.
When we spoke on the phone about his running for congress in a special election to replace Aaron Schock, he opened telling me how unsure he was about doing it. It reminded me of Army basic training when no one wanted to be selected for platoon leader.
A tip for those going into Army basic training: the older recruits get selected for leadership positions.
And Mike, seven years my senior, made the jump after what appeared to be partially my urging to do so.
The 2-month sprint to fill the vacant seat felt like summer break from high school. My antics on the radio were matched with his encouragement. I remember telling him the day my morning show news reporter was going to be served a civil process restraining order for asking the mayor of Bloomington’s communications director questions about a crooked developer trying to steal taxpayer money. “Videotape it” is all he said.
He didn’t like seeing people pushed around.
I remember him becoming upset for the first time in my presence when word came down that the Republican establishment in a specific county had been intimidating his campaign people. The otherwise very calm and collected fellow started swearing and become more animated than I thought him capable.
His willingness to indulge in an occasional outburst, though, shouldn’t be confused with foolishness any more than his optimism should. He didn’t have his head in the clouds.
I remember sitting at an outside table at a Starbucks in Normal, Ill. when it became apparent to both of us that he probably wouldn’t win his congressional race. We didn’t talk about that specifically. We didn’t need to. It was pouring rain and we were underneath a canopy that was covering us mostly from the water that was coming down almost horizontally but barely missing us. I think he asked to meet and I think he needed a break from people asking him questions or quizzing him. The pressure of the campaign was getting to him and the mostly silent sitting was something that I recognized as something I would do when facing an intense workload.
A few days later Mike sat down in my studio at WRPW. The dim pink lights coming down on him as he attempted to put on a happy face is burned into my memory. He knew he wouldn’t win, but he didn’t want to give up. I had suggested that he use Amazing Grace as a background for his Get-Out-The-Vote phone call and his face lit up brighter than the studio lighting. He loved the idea, to my surprise, and I think we both believed it would be a well-inspired last appeal to voters. All that you can really ask for.
He recited his message with no retakes or do-overs. I don’t remember a single word but the emotion was what I imagined his closer friends would call “typical Mike Flynn”, and it was then that I knew the impact his congressional loss would have on me.
And it did.
But far less than the loss felt by his death.
When I was fired by WRPW last September he seemed as upset as I was. After flipping a local rock-and-roll station to News-Talk, he eagerly picked up the afternoon drive news hour slot, becoming what I’d consider an exception talk show host. No training. All passion. That’s who he was.
Mike Flynn was also a Cruz delegate who supported our #SaveTheParty convention push.
I texted him two days before his death and I’ll read the conversation from the iPhone on my desk:
“The delegate thing is coming down to us. I’m bringing ephedrine and soda pop to Cleveland,” I said.
“Ok. We’ll go out in a blaze of glory,” he responded. Typical Mike Flynn.
And on that I remind each and every political activist and person who considers themselves a patriot to never give up hope, don’t feel sorry for yourself, and no battle is too big or too small.
Don’t be afraid to start trouble. Be afraid not to. And know when to contribute to the chaos.
Mike Flynn, we will miss you. And as we fight to renew our generation’s commitment to freedom we will go out in a blaze of glory before we give up. In your name.