Bearing Drift’s 15-Year Anniversary

It might have been fifteen years ago, but I do remember it like it was yesterday. Whenever you see that sentence, know a person is starting to feel much older.

Bearing Drift (BD) is now 15. What once began on a day of boredom waiting for John Kerry to ultimately concede is now, and remains Virginia’s conservative voice.

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

Originally, BD was my digital experimental playground. At the time, I was the corresponding secretary for the Republican Party of Chesapeake and was pondering if instead of trying to write HTML code to build a website, if I could get information to the public online in an easier way.

I had come across this phenomenon of “Weblogging” and saw there was an online platform called “Blogger” which had ready-made graphics. Particularly one with a lighthouse (I was a Navy navigator at the time, after all). So, “bearing drift” – a term I loved and repeatedly explained to other surface warriors who would listen – was born.

Why Bearing Drift? Originally, it meant simply to observe and respond accordingly. Bearing Drift is the best thing ever: You see things moving relative to you that you’re approaching? Great! You know you won’t hit them or it. Proceed as is. Status quo. Life is good. That’s solid conservative advice.

But also in accordance with the “rules of the road,” collision avoidance in almost every instance requires turning right. I redefined the site to meet a more partisan reader and my own desires to support conservatives. In order to avoid “constant bearing, decreasing range,” turn right and get bearing drift. You won’t collide.

Interestingly, if you move to the right, the relative motion of your target of avoidance indicates it is veering further and further left.

As I look at BD’s own tack right, and an increasing divide from friends and those who once wrote here, it should come as no shock that I feel a bit of remorse. While I have extremely firm convictions — life begins at conception, marriage is between a man and a woman, gun ownership is a right, those with the gift of free enterprise deserve the opportunity to exercise it with limited government intervention, our Constitution is the highest form of law and not to be changed lightly, etc. — I still recognize that to support those ideas, we need a strong educational system, roads that allow the free flow of commerce, an Internet for the free flow of information (and privacy), public works, and healthy, happy, and housed humans, etc.

In other words, public policy is messy and requires a bit of thought and compromise, not knee-jerk reactions and pithy sound bites. We should have our convictions, but be open to different perspectives – perhaps even perspectives that we never realized support our own.

Last week’s elections should give us all reason to pause and ponder our actions.

In a way, Bearing Drift represents a dynamic environment. At its best, it is a clearinghouse of ideas where individuals make their case – rationally and with decorum. At its worst? Well, that’s been well-documented.

BD began in a very creative environment – Commonwealth Conservative, Not Larry Sabato, Virginia Virtucon, Too Conservative, Raising Kaine – these were the sites that dominated the “blogosphere” at the time and the competition was very present. But there was also a fierce appetite by the readers who felt they were not being fed unfiltered or even general news and information from the mainstream media.

BD also has managed a few innovations and achievements over the years: first political podcast online (former Del. Sal Iaquinto), first podcast with a statewide officeholder (former then-AG Bob McDonnell), a print magazine by an online platform, co-hosts of statewide conferences, and the list goes on.

The BD honor-roll is a long one, but this site doesn’t exist without its original collaborators. The Squeaky Wheel, Ragnar, and Capt. Dunsel. The names of these fine men will remain silent because that was their request. This is also a BD principle – we don’t break promises.

Republican Advance, Virginia Beach, 2012. (left to right) Shaun Kenney, Lynn Mitchell, Jason Kenney, Jim Hoeft

But we should also recognize BD’s editors: Shaun Kenney, Norm Leahy, Brian Schoeneman, and Lynn Mitchell. Additionally, Mike Fletcher’s work on designing the magazine was amazing. And, of course, there’s Brian Kirwin whose brand of writing and flair for the dramatic has always been certain to draw a crowd. But perhaps most important has been Jason Kenney’s steady and unwavering support as webmaster. This website doesn’t exist without Jason’s technical know-how.

I know my nostalgia is growing a little long, but my hope is that you see BD has never been one person’s idea or one party’s domain. It’s meant for creative people with innovative ideas to support a government that gets out of the way when needed but is still present for the necessary.

Let’s keep the conversation going for at least another 15 years!


J.R. Hoeft founded Bearing Drift in 2004 and served as its editor-in-chief and publisher. It is part of the Virginia Line Media LLC group which includes The Jeffersoniad website and our regionally syndicated radio show, The Score.