He didn’t intend to become a conservative influencer, the kind of guy President Trump casually retweets, but that’s exactly what happened to Rogan O’Handley. Yes, that’s his real name, although you might know him better by “DC Draino,” an ex-practicing lawyer who now boasts 1.2 million followers on Instagram.
A 2011 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School—one of the nation’s top five—O’Handley planned to be a star in the field of entertainment law and enjoy the fruits of his labor in Los Angeles, schmoozing among Hollywood elites and living the good life. Then Trump got elected.
Everything shifted, at least for the millennial closet conservative living in L.A. “I couldn’t publicly support President Trump,” O’Handley told me in a phone interview. Living as an entertainment lawyer in California, “If you believed anything to the right of communism, you got shunned,” he said. “After 2016, if you vocally supported the GOP, President Trump, or even just conservative ideas, you lost friends, you lost job opportunities, you got unfollowed on social media.”
O’ Handley’s social and vocational collateral declined as he was punished for his beliefs. Although O’Handley had yet to embrace full-throttle conservatism, he’d always been a moderate Republican, the son of two “diehard Democrats” who raised him in Massachusetts.
O’Handley was elected president of his student government at Northeastern University, fueling his growing interest in politics, which continued into law school. After three years of working in corporate finance and another three in entertainment law, O’Handley hit a career sweet spot. “It was very challenging but very lucrative,” he recalls.
As Trump basked in his win, O’Handley watched as California shifted further left. Antifa started running around Berkeley. The state’s fiscal policies ballooned into skyrocketing tax rates. Leftism wasn’t just hit or miss, but pervasive. The successful lawyer started to feel some serious cognitive dissonance between his belief system and the place he dearly loves.
“When Obama was in office, you could support him, you could do anything. On Facebook, people were unfollowing me because I supported Trump,” O’Handley says. After seeing some funny political memes on Instagram he thought he, too, needed an outlet. This is an effective way to communicate a message, he says he remembers thinking.
He started an Instagram account under the pseudonym “DC Draino,” although his name and identity are publicly associated with the account now. “Drain the DC swamp!” he says, assuring me he’s “very anti-corruption.”
O’Handley gained followers by the thousands and the tens of thousands right away. Something about his persona struck a nerve. Although it felt freeing to express his beliefs anonymously, over time, O’Handley began to wonder if he should do more. He visited Florida while attending a friend’s wedding and fell in love with the people, the weather, and the political dynamic.
The Sunshine State is far more moderate than California. “At about 80,000 followers, I put in my notice,” he says, and just like that, O’Handley quit entertainment law to become a social media guru and political activist full time.
It’s not hard to see why DC Draino picked up so many followers in so little time, although his style is not for everybody. O’Handley fills a niche for patriots, MAGA-lovers, and middle Americans fed up with D.C.’s elite. The fact that his Instagram feed is private and still boasts more than 1 million followers is remarkable. Draino posts a mix of memes, screenshots of his Twitter, and short, snappy videos about politics, typically mocking Democrats.
The president retweeted this post back in May, causing DC Draino to go viral.
Uh oh, wouldn’t want the Commies in blue states to see us Floridians all out at bars having a good time with no face masks
Might destroy their narrative that everyone’s gonna die if we don’t live in a bubble forever! pic.twitter.com/kyqK3oVcQf
— Rogan O’Handley 🇺🇸 (@DC_Draino) May 15, 2020
As you can see, O’Handley’s brand is snarky, concise, and appeals to Trump’s base—all attributes that align with his worldview and aspirations for his brand in new media.
“My primary goal is to wake up as many patriots as possible and get as many involved to help save America, because right now oppressive leftism is kicking the door and making its way in,” he says. The riots and protests we’re observing now, O’Handley says, are an example of “as bad as it gets.”
To that end, he shares a friendship with black activist Candace Owens. Despite the army of haters any viral account is sure to draw, O’Handley’s anchor and his compass are one and the same: “Protect and defend the Constitution. Reveal leftist lies. Examine the data and explain what’s really going on.”
He’s enjoyed so much success in this arena, O’Handley is working on launching a full-fledged media company later this year. He’s published editorials and appeared on Fox Business. He was invited to the White House social media summit last year. Some followers say he’s solely responsible for converting them to conservatism. Still, his goal is simple: to acquaint people with America’s founding principles, the Constitution, and to “separate signal from noise.”
O’Handley thinks more people support Trump than let on, much like his own personal experience. “Trump is the best vehicle we have for ushering in the defense of the Constitution,” he says.
Nine years after graduating from one of the best law schools in the country, O’Handley practices “zero law now.” He does “100 percent social media citizen journalism” and has never been more satisfied, although he admits he misses practicing law sometimes.
What drives him is the gaping hole he sees between what people want, what they believe, and what they do: “People want courageous truth. They will support and share. It can be a tweet, video, meme, but as long as you’re standing up for common sense, truth, and the Constitution.”
Was it worth leaving a lucrative job in one of the most coveted domains of law to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? O’Handley sounds confident, and not the least bit nostalgic. “I loved my job but there are moments in our country’s history where we can’t sit idly by. We have to step in and fight. This is my way of doing that. I do believe we are winning.”