CASTELLI: Turning Point USA is poor representation of conservativism
Opinons Column: Conservative Across the Aisle
The past two years have seen a considerable increase in polarization on the tail ends of the political spectrum. While in certain cases the most recent presidential election brought unlikely allies together, the aftermath left both parties scattered and confused. Major reorganization and re-evaluation of both parties' platforms — particularly Democrats — was in order if they were to continue to be a positive and considerable influence on the political stage. On the Left, groups such as Antifa and the Women’s March sprouted up and embraced more socialistic ideas, such as free healthcare and college tuition. The tactics that these groups use, specifically Antifa, are aggressive, provocative and often violent. The purpose of these protests does not seem to change minds and convince those in the center, but to resist the current administration and its policies, whatever they may be. These emerging groups dominate conservative media segments, and rightfully so. Yet, many forget — or ignore — the Right's little monster, Turning Point USA (TPUSA).
Founded by Charlie Kirk in 2012, the “501(c)(3) nonprofit” organization seeks to “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.” It hosts activism events, conferences and speakers on college campuses to talk about winning the "culture war" and to combat Leftist bias. Especially since the election of President Donald J. Trump, TPUSA prominence at the forefront of the conservative movement has only begun. TPUSA has its presence on more than 1,000 college campuses (that, though, is subject to skepticism, as I will talk about in a little bit), according to the website.
TPUSA’s activism utilizes tactics, often ironically, frequently employed by the Left — victimization, mockery and identity politics — against them, which, to a certain extent, can work. By selectively using these tactics, TPUSA shows the double standards and hypocrisy of the modern Left. But, these methods that TPUSA so vehemently advocates against are ones it uses itself. This is no more poignantly exemplified than by the Professor Watchlist, a website meant to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance Leftist propaganda in the classroom.” How is this not different from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hatewatch of discriminatory and bigoted organizations that the Right cries about? I have the same disdain for the fear and collective tactics, no matter which side is using them.
What is frustrating and complicated about TPUSA for conservatives is that the core messages it promotes are those that it agrees with in principle, such as free markets, limited government, free speech, gun issues, etc. Yet, the execution of these ideas are often immature, cringe-inducing and obnoxious. Similar to its liberal counterparts, Kirk’s goal is to provoke and stand in solidarity as “the true victims of discrimination in America,” a phrase so ironic you can cut it with a knife. Are conservatives subject to discrimination in certain cases on college campuses? Certainly, but playing the victim card TPUSA chastises the Left for is unprincipled. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy a little chaos from time to time and watching the status quo be shaken. After all, to provoke is to ignite change. But, provocative actions should not be done just for the sake of being done — they should offer a realistic solution rather than just “owning the liberals.”
But, TPUSA's provocative tactics may just be a personal grudge of mine. But, the group has been guilty of falsifying its numbers and over-inflating its influence on college campuses in comparison to other conservative organizations. Since its inception in 2012, the young group boasts to have “held more activities than all youth groups combined.” Consider the works of more mature conservative groups, like “Leadership Institute’s schools, workshops, training programs, Campus Network and Campus Reform ... (and) Young America's Foundation’s conferences and seminars, campus lecture program, Young Americans for Freedom chapters, Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise, National Journalism Center and Reagan Ranch program.” Kirk has been said to have gotten, "50 conservatives elected to student leadership positions on campuses,” a claim widely debunked that it is never mentioned in the organization's annual Year in Review publication. This organization raised $2 million for this project, representing a significant portion of its revenue. Concerning those 50 students Kirk helped elect, Politico Magazine reported that, out of a random sample of those students, “all denied they had worked with Turning Point USA on their campaigns,” going so far as to condemn the organization.
For conservatives, it is easy to latch on to the few who are active in political discourse against their opponents. But, if one will easily throw their principles away as long as they see their opponent lose, then they are no better than them. If conservatives and those on the Right consider themselves principles and “the side with facts,” then they should be careful who they associate themselves with.
Giana Castelli is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. Her column, "Conservative Across the Aisle," runs on alternate Fridays.
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