National Review Internship Led Democratic (Almost) Candidate for Governor To Go From Pro-Life Conservative Republican To Liberal Democrat, She Says

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Danielle Allen was a conservative pro-life Republican in college before she did an internship at National Review, she told an interviewer Sunday.

Allen, a Harvard professor who is exploring a run for governor of Massachusetts, said her family was conservative and that her father even ran for U.S. Senate as a Reagan Republican in California. Then she got an internship the summer after her junior year at National Review, a conservative magazine in New York City founded by William F. Buckley Jr., and the experience, she said, changed her political outlook.

Allen appeared Sunday, May 30 on On The Record, a political interview show on WCVB-TV Channel 5.

A transcript of her comments about her political switch in an exchange with interviewer Ed Harding follows:


Ed Harding:  Let’s talk about you personally, because maybe people don’t know about you. You were – Is it fair to say that you were once a conservative Republican, pro-life, opposed to affirmative action? Is that fair to say?

Danielle Allen:  I grew up, yes, in a conservative family. My dad ran for Senate in California as a Reagan conservative, served in the Reagan administration. And I went to college in, you know, with those characteristics that you just described.  Yes.

Ed Harding:  So, so the question then becomes, how’d you become, how did you go from one end to become a progressive Democrat?

Danielle Allen:  Well, I’ll tell you, the truth is the turning point came the summer of my junior year in college. So I was, yes, so conservative, in fact, that I interned for National Review magazine. And that was my turning point summer.  That was the summer of ’92. And in that summer we were all just first starting to get data about income inequality. And I remember sitting in editorial meetings and people were, you know, hashing through the data, and there was just a huge effort in the first instance to first sort of try to make the data go away. Sort of say this isn’t happening. And then, when people accepted that indeed this was happening, that there was a rise in income inequality, then an argument that was emerging was, “Oh, this is O.K. as long as in future generations people can sort of rise up they’ll be all right.”

That just seemed really wrong to me, in all honesty.  It just seemed to me that we’re actually responsible for the experiences people have in the present. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, maybe their grandkids will be O.K..” We actually need to make sure that things are fair, that life is empowering, that economic opportunities are empowering for everybody in the present. And that was just this a real moment of kind of opening up of fissures for me in what I understood about conservatism. And I began my journey in the direction of the political positions that I hold now on the progressive side of the question.


Allen’s father, William B. Allen, now a retired professor of political science, ran for the U.S. Senate in California as a Republican in 1986 and 1992. He also ran in the Republican primary for governor in 1990.

During the 1980s he served on the National Council on the Humanities and later chaired the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. President Ronald Reagan appointed him to both.