Monday, January 4, mid-afternoon: Dana Loesch zooms around the front rooms of her red-brick two-story, sidestepping her sons' Lego people as she stuffs a bag with all manner of digital gadgetry and awaits her husband so she can head to work. Every bit the southern-style hostess, Loesch is self-conscious about the Christmas decorations still hanging. "Don't look!" she admonishes, then peels out the back door.
Loesch is nervous. Executive producer Beowulf Rochlen sent word late last night that his boss, nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Savage, enjoyed her fill-in on The Savage Nation five days prior: Would she like to do it again in less than 24 hours?
"Beowulf said that he asked for me, which I thought was kind of cool, just because of the chick factor," Loesch confides on the drive to the station. "But also because I've only been doing this two years, and I realize it's a big deal, because I know in radio years that's not a lot. The last time I wasn't so much scared about the big difference in audience as far as numbers and national scope, but they said, 'He'll be listening, and he's been known to stop a broadcast before if he wants to.'"
The Savage Nation has been on the national airwaves for a decade. Loesch is the first woman ever to fill in.
"I've got to tell you, I was absolutely stunned," says Jeff Allen, program manager of KFTK (97.1 FM), the Fox-affiliated station that airs The Dana Show six nights a week. "I was kind of like: Really? They wanted Dana? Hmm. They have the right person, right? Because don't get me wrong, I think she's very talented and did a great job and was more than ready. But it's very rare that it happens this quickly."
At age 31, Loesch is a homeschooling mom blogger with a national following, a co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party and a fast-rising star in the conservative commentators' universe. A self-described smart aleck with a saucy delivery in print and on air, she subscribes to the last-word-wins-the-argument theory and commences many a sentence with the disclaimer, "Now I know this is going to make a lot of people mad, but..."
As her close friend Marjorie Dellas puts it: "She refuses to be painted as anything other than opinionated, and she wants her opinion known. She definitely marks her territory."
A quintessential Type A personality, Loesch seizes on an idea and refuses to let it go, be it serious (launching a networking group for local social-media types) or silly (creating a fake girl band complete with MySpace page with her five best friends). Her sense of humor runs the gamut from brute to goofball. "I would challenge anyone to meet her in person — not confront her, but meet her; those are two different things — and not like her," says Allen.
Loesch lives in south St. Louis, shops at Costco and Trader Joe's, loves Stag and French-press coffee, sets off her tattoos with diamond earrings and likes to fiddle with hydrangeas and handguns. She can cite Scripture without having to open the Old Testament and digs the irreverence of Penn & Teller.
She doesn't fit nicely in a box, you might say, and if you did, you'd also say that's exactly the political image she's cultivating. An erstwhile Democrat who votes Republican but prefers "conservatarian," she has packaged herself as "the conservative alternative to old dudes."
It's a composite that has the GOP salivating. "I think she's extremely smart, a natural leader who's extremely tech-savvy," says Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. "She's reaching a younger demographic than an O'Reilly or a Hannity or a Rush Limbaugh. That makes her extremely unique in being able to get a message into a demographic that historically the GOP and conservative movement maybe have not been as good at as we should have."
Andrew Breitbart, who helped Arianna Huffington create The Huffington Post website and has since assembled his own media mini-empire via breitbart.com, biggovernment.com, bigjournalism.com and more, counts Loesch among his contributors.
"Everybody was telling me about this amazing person who just emerged out of nowhere, who had this amazing spirit and had the ability to write — who was almost the embodiment of everything that I want to happen with journalism," says Breitbart, who recently made Tina Brown's Daily Beast list of the 25 most important right-wing journalists. "I want it to spread like wildfire so that you don't have to depend on middlemen anymore who have ideological goals when they interview you. She has the ability to write, she has the ability to report and has every stellar quality a communicator could possibly want for television, radio and Internet-based forms of media. I can't even begin to tell you how many fans she has in the higher media who say she needs to have her own TV show. She's a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids; she's beautiful; she's smart; she's fearless. She's a pure rising star."
To Loesch the transformation from mom blogger to political provocateur has been equal parts thrilling and bewildering. Coming out of the closet politically amid St. Louis' liberal social-media world has cost her both audience share and friendships. "I love what I'm doing, but it's all been a bit bizarre," she sums up.
"It's funny, because I used to have the worst stage fright," she says shortly before taking the mic in Michael Savage's absence. "When I was little, I'd do dance competitions where I'd run right off the stage. It was legendary. Horrible stage fright. Awful. That's why I never in a million years thought I'd be doing radio."
Ten days before Christmas, Loesch (pronounced lash) decides to make an impromptu appearance at a midday rally outside the local office of Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, or "Claire Bear," as Loesch sometimes refers to her. The midweek protest is the first Loesch has attended since summer, primarily because of her children's home-based academic schedule.
"I used to take them with me, but then you think, ugh, if somebody were to not be cool or something were to happen — ugh," she says. "Liam will watch for a while, then start asking people questions, like, 'Why did you just say that?' When we were in Arnold when [President Barack Obama] was here to speak, somebody drove by us, hollered and stuck out their middle finger. Liam yelled back, 'That's not very polite!' That's when I started rethinking it. I mean, it'd be great if everybody minded their p's and q's at these things, but — and I do think kids do learn about the right to assemble — if anything were to happen when I had them out there with me? No way."
It's the beginning of a frigid spell in St. Louis, but Loesch forgoes her coat, instead layering up underneath a new Tea Party sweatshirt. The crimson hoodie bucks her usual black or charcoal monochrome, but seeing as the Senate is nearing a vote on healthcare reform, the splash of color fits the day's battle cry: "CODE RED."
"Is that Dana? Are you Dana?" gushes a middle-aged woman as Loesch steps onto the Delmar Boulevard median. "I'm so glad you got on Greta [Van Susteren]'s program! I'm so thankful she acknowledged you, and we got all that support for our movement!"
The blustery weather calls to mind the day a year ago February 27, when Loesch and a St. Louis software engineer named Bill Hennessy summoned area conservatives to the Gateway Arch to throw teabags into the Mississippi River. "We honestly didn't know if anybody would even show up," Loesch recalls. A rebuke of increased taxation and big government, the demonstration coincided with others around the nation and became the first of many so-called tea parties.
Loesch was tapped by cable news networks to commentate the town-hall meetings concerning healthcare this past summer. She made headlines for helping to organize a "buycott" of Whole Foods in support of its libertarian CEO and drew praise and scorn for speaking out against President Obama's September back-to-school address.
In October Loesch took an interest in a three-way congressional race in northern New York, where the Democratic nominee faced a challenge from a dark-horse conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, and a moderate Republican endorsed by the GOP, Dede Scozzafava. Loesch created and fed a website, www .dumpdede.com, which Hoffman's campaign staffers say was a factor in eventually causing Scozzafava to drop out of the race. (Though Hoffman lost, Tea Partiers across the country claimed victory: Even a Democrat is better than a "RINO," or Republican in Name Only.)
Some liberals reserve special scorn for tea partiers, even employing the sexually suggestive "teabaggers" term to deride their m.o. Yet a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed the Tea Party movement is more popular than either the Democratic or Grand Old party.
Loesch has appropriated some of the name-calling, frequently describing herself and Hennessy as "co-extremists" and "co-conspirators." There's no denying their group has become one of the most active in the United States, according to the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. Meanwhile, conservative activity in historically liberal St. Louis has mushroomed.
At the rally outside McCaskill's office, organized by a local chapter of the religious public-policy group Concerned Women for America, Loesch commends the "creative" pageantry. One woman hands out "Obama barf bags." Another shows off a poster bearing a medicine bottle and the words, "Obamacare: Take one rectally every day." "I want to go up to the door and prescribe it for them," the woman says with impish glee. "And my husband's a minister!"
Activist Michelle Moore is live-streaming the event via laptop and webcam. Adam Sharp is videotaping footage that he'll upload to his blog. Loesch posts a photo to Twitter for her 7,000-plus followers. Later in cyberspace, everyone will link to each other's websites.
"One of the funny things about protests," says Loesch, "is they kind of turn into fellowship. You have all these different groups who get to meet up and talk to each other."
Before long Loesch crosses the street, megaphone in hand, to address the crowd of several dozen. "They can close their shades, but we all know McCaskill's ratings in Missouri have dipped!" she yells to a chorus of yays. "The biggest thing about this legislation isn't the debt that's coming. The biggest thing is that you will be fined and/or jailed for not choosing this legislation!"
As passing cars honk their support, Loesch presses on. "What is Congress going to say next? 'Hey, you didn't choose to exercise your right to carry a firearm, so we're going to fine you and/or put you in jail for it'?" Eventually she turns toward the McCaskill storefront office's shuttered blinds. "A vote for this legislation, Claire McCaskill, is a vote to nationalize! It's a vote against individual liberty!"
Two protesters awaiting entry to the office offer their spot in line to Loesch because, as one woman says, she "can fuss louder than we can, and [she] can get on the radio!"
But Loesch is less activist and more spokeswoman when she breaches the inner sanctum with five others and sits down for a chat with Mattie Moore, deputy director of McCaskill's local headquarters. Only when Loesch's fellow conservatives begin to digress or talk above each other does she interject to refocus the message. She is gracious, diplomatic and complimentary of some of McCaskill's recent actions. "We just ask that the senator listen to the majority of her constituents. We're not against reform. We want reform — just not this way, and we hope the senator listens."
With that Loesch arises, effectively calling an end to the meeting.
Back outside, she considers the day a success. Police were present, but nobody was arrested. Moreover, McCaskill's staffers welcomed discussion. "I think she's a very smart politician," concludes Loesch. "[Democratic Missouri Congressman] Russ Carnahan could take some notes."
Loesch's political coming of age — or, "becoming a traitor," as her left-leaning mother likes to joke — is not to be confused with her political coming-out.
Loesch grew up in a clan of Southern Baptists and Southern Democrats, scattered across Wayne, Iron and Jefferson counties in eastern Missouri. The blue-collar family pooh-poohed public discussions of politics and religion, according to her mother, Gale Eaton, who adds, "Dana is spunky and strong-willed, like my mom. But Mom was very private, even with her thoughts. If you asked a question that was not nice, she would tell you if you were out of line."
Eaton worked two jobs to provide for her only child, having split from Loesch's father when Dana was five. Loesch says volatile family dynamics landed her in therapy as a child and teenager and turned her into a self-described man-hater who never wanted to marry.
At Fox High School in Arnold, Loesch was seduced into political activism by a liberal history teacher. Role-playing Bill Clinton, she won a class debate. "I always told her she needed to be an attorney or a politician," says Eaton, "because she can't stand to be wrong and will research to death to get everything that she needs [for her argument]."
Loesch attended St. Louis Community College at Meramec before transferring to Webster University to study journalism. She dropped out after meeting her husband-to-be, Chris, then a graphic designer who sang in a local punk band, wearing black eyeliner and nail polish. "He was a total Romeo," says Loesch, who sported a pixie haircut and pierced nose back in those days. "I'll sound like a total airhead, but when you meet someone, you just know. I had a lot of ease around him that I'd never felt before."
Chris Loesch was a Republican. Dana didn't care. After a three-month courtship, the couple tattooed their ring fingers with Gaelic letters ("C" for her, "D" for him) and took their vows.
Loesch's mother says Dana, then twenty-two, and Chris, seven years her senior, would debate politics fiercely. Recalls Eaton: "Dana would just be pumping her fist. 'You're wrong, Chris! You're wrong!'"
Soon came the birth of the couple's first son, Liam, an event Loesch gets a kick out of narrating in all its gory, painful detail (and has done so in cyberspace). She did it old-school, sans drugs, with plenty of shrieking and her mother-in-law videotaping the whole thing: chaotic and surreal, she says, "like a Wes Anderson movie." Loesch opted for an epidural when it was time to push out her second son, Ewan. "I've had bowel movements that were harder than that birth," she sums up.
Six months after Liam arrived, the Twin Towers crumbled — and with them Loesch's left-wing leanings. She says she watched her infant playing in front of the television as the second tower went down and thought, What did we bring him into?
Says Chris Loesch: "9/11 was the deal sealer for Dana."
Blogs then were a newfangled medium, mostly the province of self-expression, and Dana Loesch says she used one for a time to flesh out her political views. Anonymously. "I was a big chicken."
In 2004 Loesch created Mamalogues, a blog about the blessings and battles that came with raising two young boys. A pioneer of the now-crowded mommy-blogger web cloud, she rose above the fray thanks to her knack for storytelling. In 2006 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch picked up Mamalogues as an online column. (The newspaper discontinued the column two years later.)
Loesch used the forum to sound off about morality and decorum but resisted her husband's suggestion to get overtly political. "I'd been pushing her to do it from the beginning," Chris says. "I thought it would've grown the audience quicker." Only when Dana debuted on radio did she get comfortable packaging the personal and political for public consumption.
It's a powerful combination, says John Combest, a Republican insider whose eponymous website aggregates state political coverage. "If you're a young conservative woman, you can look at Dana and see that she is not only an outspoken conservative who participates in a male-dominated field, but she is also a wife and a mother who's very hip. These are all the makings of an aspirational brand."
Loesch has strong opinions on social issues, but she's primarily vocal about keeping the government out of her (Coach) purse. She's for lower taxes and open markets. Neither she nor Chris (who co-owns the music-production company Shock City Studios) carries health insurance. Comfortably middle-class homeowners, they hew to a budget.
Loesch says she "held her nose" and voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. (She initially rooted for Fred Thompson.) In her view, GOP strategist Mary Matalin is "a rock star, a real-life Julia Sugarbaker [from the long-lived sitcom Designing Women]," and she hails Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann as a great up-and-comer. While Loesch felt Sarah Palin could have been more "polished," the former vice-presidential nominee gets high marks for being "very hard for the Beltway to control."
Loesch doesn't much prize anyone in the small field of conservative female pundits, but she does look up to her mother. "She ran [my dad] out. It was an Aretha Franklin moment, totally. I saw all of it. She defended herself, and I will never forget that. If she could do that with a young child, not knowing what to expect afterward — she was so close to being a statistic. She could have gone on welfare, but she worked her fingers to the bone. She didn't need the government to help her. I think probably right there you could pinpoint why I don't think we should have a nanny state."
For the debut of The Dana Show in October 2007, Jamie Allman was assigned to join Loesch in the 97.1 studio. "I'm sitting across from her at the mic," Allman recalls, "and she's doing her thing, and finally I have to chime in. I say, 'Are you chewing gum?' And yeah, she was chewing gum. I figured at that point, oh, this is going to be fun, watching this raw talent [develop]."
A former TV news reporter who, following a stint as spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, now hosts Allman in the Morning on 97.1, Allman was an admirer of Loesch's Post-Dispatch column when he contacted her in 2007 about contributing to his program. "Most St. Louis columnists write about toasted ravioli and all that other garbage," the conservative talker explains. "She had an edge to her. She was young and insightful and snarky."
Loesch — who had zero experience in radio — was immediately skeptical. It took time to woo her, says Allman. "It's funny, because it seemed to me that she was a very shy person. Either that or she didn't trust me." Loesch's husband eventually encouraged her to seize the opportunity and sign on as one of Allman's regular contributors.
In the beginning Loesch was serious and reserved. But it wasn't long before she got comfortable piping up with conservative viewpoints. Naturally, the critics followed. Allman recalls one morning when Loesch lost her cool, "screaming" at a male caller whom she dismissed as a "prick." "For a while Dana would take disagreement a little personally," Allman says, adding, "Developing a thicker skin was definitely something she had to do, and she did it."
Allman wanted Loesch for a permanent co-host, but 97.1 program director Jeff Allen preferred to road-test a solo show on Sunday evenings. The idea was to talk about politics and pop culture from a young mother's perspective. Over time, says Allen, the audience led Loesch toward more political punditry; Allman took to calling her "our own Sarah Palin."
When The Dana Show nabbed the number-two spot in its time slot in the Arbitron ratings last fall, Allen felt compelled to put Loesch on weeknight evenings as well. This time she embraced the promotion. "I love my show," she says. "It's just balls to the wall."
Loesch's program typically opens with a soliloquy on a controversial subject of the day, rolls into a guest segment or two and ends with short bits she calls "Cool Points" (which can be doled out to or taken away from public figures), "Today in Stupidity" (usually bolstered with an audio clip) or "Douche of the Week" (awarded for ineptness above and beyond).
Allen had some squeamishness toward that last feature but let Loesch keep it in the mix: "Some people would say, 'And now, let's go to "Douche of the Week!"' and it would sound so offensive. Then there's somebody like Dana, who says it, and it just makes you laugh. She can get away with it because of her delivery."
Stylistically, Loesch says she sought to emulate entertainers like Howard Stern and Jon Stewart. Her daily prep consists of reading widely online, from NPR to biggovernment .com to the New York Times to coverage from ABC's Jake Tapper. C-SPAN? Rarely. "I could sound all academic and say I like watching it because it's good for our democracy," says Loesch. "But honestly I like it best when they diva out and start hollering. I like it the way I like to watch Cops."
Loesch's material generally lives up to her belief in "everybody's right to say whatever the hell they want: Freedom of speech is freedom of speech."
After Dave McArthur, owner of McArthur's Bakery, referred to terrorists as "ragheads" at a rally last November, Loesch defended him, saying, "We have somebody like Dave McArthur who has the brass to call it as it is! And [the liberal critics] are like, 'Oh, that's a slur, that's a slur.' And these are the same people who say 'teabagger'!"
A few days before Christmas, while the Senate was debating healthcare, Loesch opined, "I stayed up till 1 a.m. watching these fat cats go back and forth on the Senate floor. I watched a little leathery man that has the posture of a cocktail shrimp named Harry Reid come out and condemn everybody, use his sob stories and basically screw us over without the benefit of dinner and a movie."
Shortly before the special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, when President Obama and Vicki Kennedy went stumping for Democrat Martha Coakley, Loesch predicted, "You know what's going to happen — I promise you I'm not going to be shocked if by Tuesday we have a Weekend at Bernie's thing happening, and all of a sudden Uncle Teddy's back! And he's wearing shades all the time, though, and he seems a little stiff."
"I pictured her blonde, in her forties, bigger, like an Ann Coulter type," says listener Barb Pierce, an advertising executive who met Loesch at a USO event in December. "In person she's so diminutive. I was surprised, because her voice and her personality on the air are so big!"
Coulter is a frequent comparison, says Loesch, but not a pundit she wants to imitate: "I think she makes a lot of really good points, but she immediately is polarizing. But I also love that we have polarizing people on both sides [of the aisle]. See, I can argue both sides of this one: I love that we have Michael Moore and Ann Coulter. But I think she comes off as harsh. Her good points get lost. If it really is about concern for people, then maybe make it a little more civil. And I know I'm guilty of that, it's one of my flaws: I have a sharp tongue. I can be harsh, too. But you know, if it's really about reaching beyond the choir, why approach it like that?"
For the past three years, Loesch has augmented her boys' homeschooling with weekly classes organized by a group called SHARE (St. Louis Homeschooling Activities, Resources and Encouragement). About 1,000 families are part of the 24-year-old program, whose instructors include both mothers and former public-school teachers.
One morning in January, eight-year-old Liam rushes in for his Spanish and gym classes, spitting out a hello for everyone he passes. Five-year-old Ewan clings to his mother's hip. "Liam will be a lawyer or a politician or do something in public relations," Loesch predicts, "while Ewan is gonna grow up to be a carbon copy of George Carlin."
Loesch first considered homeschooling when she was pregnant with Liam. "People hear 'homeschooler' and they think you have a clown-car uterus," she says.
"As a first-time mom, you check out everything," Loesch elaborates. "I interviewed six pediatricians before I selected one. I interviewed all my o.b.'s before I selected one. I saw that public school is not for everyone. Private school is not for everyone. And homeschooling is not for everyone."
For the Loesches, though, it made sense. "Liam is a very curious child, and I didn't think being in a room with 30 other kids would be challenging or engaging enough. I wanted to make sure he wasn't diminished in any way, and if he had problems, I didn't want him to be left behind."
The state requires a certain number of hours per year, which Loesch logs on her Palm Pre. At home she starts the boys with several hours of seated work in phonics, writing and math. Applied learning counts, too, such as the weekly trip to Costco, when Liam is placed in charge of the budget and finding the most cost-effective items. Says Loesch: "It takes us an hour and a half to get through the store."
Field trips and independent projects round out the curriculum. Last year the boys got to design trebuchets on a week's deadline after Loesch became obsessed with them ("I have a thing with flinging things"). Liam will soon have his own blog.
The boys don't seem to pine for any old-school perks, like riding a bus or carrying a lunch box — "Why would I want one of those?" Liam once asked. "My food will get stale!" — and Loesch lacks patience for critics who say homeschooled kids fail at social skills. "Whoever decided successful socialization comes with only sitting in a room of your own same-age peers, I think they're nuts. When I was in school there was one black student. That's it. In SHARE we have many black families, and we have kids with disabilities. Liam is exposed to much more diversity than I was as a kid."
Confidants describe Loesch as "competitive" and "ambitious" — "When Dana decides to do something, she does it big," notes blogger Melody Meiners — but say her family comes first.
That's not to say motherhood has not borne fruit for Loesch professionally. Her witty and deeply felt "mamalogues" have attracted a national following, and with it advertising revenues and side gigs. Last year the digital-media market research firm Nielsen Online cited Mamalogues in a top sixteen list of "momfluential" bloggers.
Sometimes Loesch gets confessional on her site: "...this medium, the printed word is how I work out all of the jumbled stuff in my head. If you're a new reader you may not remember, but I've discussed before how, while in therapy as a child, writing was the skill I was encouraged to use and it helped get me through my tough times."
At other moments, almost literary: "In addition to tea compresses, vinegar rub-downs, coating them with aloe, I've had to keep [the sunburned kids] indoors for the past couple of days so their skin can heal and I've run out of both inside activities and the motivation to do them. It's like trying to keep water in your hands, this job of trying to keep two boys entertained indoors on bright summer days."
Some might consider certain narratives as oversharing; Loesch says she's increasingly holding back as Liam nears tweendom.
Friends say that protective side tends to kick in during tense social situations. Kathryn Canupp remembers an experience at Blueberry Hill where "a hand went toward Chris, and [Dana] just dove in the middle of the crowd to get to her husband, to protect that man. The next thing I know, I look down, and she's on the floor."
Adds Canupp, a paralegal who met Loesch because their significant others are friends: "She is a mama bear when it comes to her kids and her husband. Do not mess with them."
Last summer Loesch got a letter that disturbed her. "You need to shut up and get out of the way before you get hurt or your family gets hurt," it read in part. "People are under a lot of stress out here it wont [sic] take much to set them off."
She was used to hate mail. She read missives from her more colorful detractors on the air and posted them on her radio blog, even doling out "awards" to her favorites. Still, coming as it did amid the raucous healthcare town halls, just as her profile was rising nationally, this felt different.
"When something unpleasant like that happens, I always have a little moment where I freak out, I let every atom break down, and then I rebuild. I went to Chris' studio — his walls are twenty feet of concrete — and I took my kids. I'm like, 'Mommy just needs to chill for a bit.'"
Then she enrolled in self-defense and conceal-carry classes. "I wanted my kids to be able to look at their mom and be like, 'She can take care of herself.'"
Loesch declines to say whether she went through with obtaining a license. (The permits are not public records.) Nor will she divulge details about the type of guns she and Chris (who hunts) keep in the house. Among friends, says Marjorie Dellas, "she talks about her ability to use them, and don't double-cross her and come in her house when her husband goes out of town. She talks about the guns being by her bed."
Dellas calls Loesch "very strong but extremely sensitive," noting that criticism, especially of the sexist variety, "absolutely gets to her," and adding, "I think she copes by throwing herself back out there. I think it's a cyclical thing. The more response she gets, the more it fuels her fire. So if someone wants to quiet Dana, the best thing to do is not react."
About a week after Loesch talked about a healthcare town hall on Fox News last July, a local blogger, Jaelithe Judy, who writes for the liberal website Momocrats, published a piece that took Fox and Loesch to task for not disclosing that she worked for a Fox-affiliated station — thus giving the impression she was an average Jane who'd managed to bring hundreds of people to a town hall.
A public Twitter spat ensued, with Loesch writing, "Tired of fake friends and people who exploit your friendship until they have an opportunity to blog about you," and, "You're good when you get them free trips but hey, if you're a conservative you are FAIR GAME."
Judy responded, "It's part of my job at #momocrats to report on local politics and you were a main organizer of the protest I was covering," and, "I think you would have been mad at me if I had written about the town hall as if you weren't there, too."
Before long another local blogger chimed in. "If you are so pissed @Jaelithe, debate her argument — that the teabaggers aren't really grassroots," tweeted Kelli Best-Oliver, "instead of spouting thinly-veiled tweets about her being a shitty friend."
To which Loesch shot back, "She's not my friend because friends don't do that. I'm not debating lies and hate written for hate. THE END."
Best-Oliver: "Quit making yourself out to be a victim." "Sounds like a good opportunity for constructive debate."
Loesch: "Calling someone a teabagger while asking for a constructive debate seems a bit ironic."
Best-Oliver: "Pretty sure the group itself has used that term frequently. Until they got mocked for it. So, yeah, not ironic." (Best-Oliver contributes to the RFT's food blog.)
It wasn't long ago that Judy and Loesch were friends, having struck up a relationship through the blogosphere and working to incorporate the St. Louis Bloggers Guild. "I feel like I'm disappointed by her method more than her message," says Judy, adding, "I feel like she takes it very personally when people disagree with her. For me, if I did that as a political writer, I'd have to be on Xanax. In her case I think it's part of a persona that is working for her."
Loesch's activism got in the way of a relationship with Craig Wagner, a longtime liberal friend of Chris who helped Dana with her website but quit last fall. "Mostly I try to keep politics out of friendship, but it gets to a point where you've got to put your foot down sometimes," Wagner says. "I mean, would Dana do free work for the Kennedys?"
Other liberal friends, such as Steve Truesdell, a photographer, have no problem calling Loesch to the mat. "You have the character of a Hate radio DJ down pat," Truesdell wrote in an e-mail to Loesch in October. "Your continued rise in this arena will be fun to watch. You have the aggression, the looks, and the vocab to go far in 'Hate broadcasting' and right wing idolatry. Do be careful though, one day the outrage you urge in others will turn to violence and innocent people will die in your name. This is assured. That is a lot to live with, even when one has Religious righteousness and a fervent belief in their absolute rightness. I hope when that day comes you can live with the results of what you have sown."
Says Truesdell: "I do like her, and a couple times a year we'll be at a social event and have a nice conversation. I do think there's a good heart there; I just disagree with everything above the neck." (Truesdell occasionally contributes photos to the RFT's website.)
Loesch has written repeatedly on Mamalogues about her dismay at losing friendships because of her politics. "It's not like people come to our house and we try to baptize them or convert them to conservatism," she says. "That's what makes me the angriest: I have never ever changed who I am or what I believed. The only thing I changed was that I just came out with it."
It's not as though Loesch's delivery strikes a chord with every conservative. "I really like her, and I find being with her to be really inspiring," observes Alanna Kellogg, a local food blogger. "At the same time, when I read her work — and I'm a conservative, so in many senses I should be a part of her chorus — I find it shrill. I would love to see her ground herself in history, political theory, more substance."
Loesch has wrestled with outing herself politically on Mamalogues. At the initial mentions of conservative views, she encountered pushback from liberal readers. She hemmed and hawed and finally censored herself — then struggled with that decision, too.
But in her opening entry of 2010, Loesch spouted off "SFW" — "so bleeping what" — to readers who want her to save the soapbox for the airwaves, and going forward she resolved to write whatever she pleases. "I'm going to say this: I'm not slighting men (and I don't have to preface every thing I say about women with 'no offense to you men' because it's ridiculous) but women have a different, not greater, different, relationship with their children. When you birth or adopt a child, nurse him in his infancy, when you can literally discern your individual children's scents, when it's woven into your very DNA to protect, protect, protect, nurture, nurture, nurture that child, you're going to pay attention to an election, the winner of which who [sic] could decide whether or not that infant you raised and know so well is going to war or whether or not he or she will have a world left when they grow up.
"Being a mother is a political act and a gigantic leap of faith."
What does the immediate future hold for Dana Loesch?
As a "momfluential": maybe some lucrative endorsement deals (Loesch currently pimps HP printers in a web-mercial). As a professional talker: a cushier 97.1 slot during daytime radio hours, from two to four o'clock, beginning March 1. As an activist with a celebrity following: appearances at conservative gatherings both established (Conservative Political Action Conference 2010) and parvenu (the Liberty Ship, a Caribbean cruise).
"If she stays focused on what is important and keeps plugging away, anything is possible," offers Michael Savage, who applauds Loesch's "energy level" and "passion" in an e-mail. "Dana is doing well, especially for her age. [She] must keep being persistent and keep up the fight."
A third child? Probably not. A run for office? Ditto. "It seems like absolute torture," says Loesch, adding, "You'd have to play a character all the time."