- Thousands of young supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in West Palm Beach, Florida, in December for the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit.
- The young, enthusiastic attendees are the future of American conservatism and evidence that Trumpism isn’t going anywhere – even if Trump loses in 2020.
- Speakers included “Intellectual Dark Web” internet stars such as Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin, as well as prominent right-wing figures including Donald Trump Jr., Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, and Nigel Farage.
- Students were repeatedly told the left “hates America” and has ruined everything from the NFL and the nuclear family to the Boy Scouts and political discourse on college campuses.
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – Thousands of young Trump supporters gathered here last week for the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit.
They wore red MAGA hats, carried “socialism sucks” signs, and sat on the edge of their seats in the Palm Beach County Convention Center as speaker after speaker told them the left was out to destroy America.
The young, enthusiastic attendees are the future of American conservatism, evidence that Trumpism isn’t going anywhere – even if Trump loses in 2020.
Over the course of the four-day event, attendees were educated on all of the ways that speakers said the political left had turned various demographics into “victims” and pushed people away from taking “personal responsibility,” as they were simultaneously told of ways in which conservatives were under attack and being victimized by liberals.
Speakers told the attendees, the vast majority of whom were white, that they were part of an oppressed minority in the US because of their political beliefs.
‘Nobody hates like the left hates’
Students were repeatedly told the left “hates America” and had ruined everything from the NFL and the nuclear family to the Boy Scouts and political discourse on college campuses.
Speakers railed against what they described as the “toxic culture of modern feminism” and offered impassioned diatribes characterising leftism as “an emotion, not an intellectual position.”
“The left is a cancer in Western civilisation,” the conservative radio host and writer Dennis Prager declared on the first day of the conference, setting the tone for the theme of the event.
“Nobody hates like the left hates,” Prager said. “Liberty is not a left-wing value. Everything the left touches, it ruins. It is a force for destruction.”
Prager is the founder of Prager University (or PragerU), an online video portal that offers short, distilled explainer videos on political issues via a decidedly conservative lens. PragerU’s videos have been viewed well over half a billion times on YouTube.
Young conservatives are being wooed by a Canadian psychology professor via YouTube
Some speakers were less overt in their critique of leftism, such as the University of Toronto psychology professor and best-selling author Jordan Peterson, who has become a rock star on the right over his defence of traditional notions of masculinity.
The crowd in West Palm Beach went wild for Peterson and his stream-of-consciousness approach to speaking. During his talk, Peterson went after what he called the “leftist criticism of the West” as being an “oppressive patriarchy.”
“It’s partly an oppressive patriarchy some of the time, but not so much when compared to every other structure that’s ever been built by human beings,” Peterson said to applause. “That’s a much better way of putting it.”
After his talk, students nervously asked Peterson questions as if they’d been granted an audience with royalty. One young woman told Peterson she watched several hours of his talks on YouTube every night.
“It was like Elvis came out, and here he was talking about social psychology,” Charlie Kirk, the president and founder of Turning Point USA, told INSIDER of Peterson’s appearance.
The Canadian professor is a controversial figure, and critics feel he’s normalized the “radical right” in his crusade against identity politics and political correctness.
Peterson has sparked outrage, for example, over his opposition to a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.
He’s contended it could constitute a free-speech violation and zeroed in on the issue of pronouns in relation to the transgender or gender-nonbinary communities. Peterson’s refusal to back down on this led to student protests and criticism from the administration at the University of Toronto but made him an overnight folk hero on the right.
PragerU and ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ YouTubers are the new Fox News and talk radio for young conservatives
Peterson was joined at Turning Point’s conference by a fellow Intellectual Dark Web YouTube star in Dave Rubin, who told the crowd he was a liberal but went on to decry much of what liberalism represents in the present day.
“What’s happening on the center right right now is you guys are having the debate,” Rubin said during his talk.
He went on to defend Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theorist head of InfoWars who has been barred from virtually every major online distribution platform in recent months. Rubin described what happened to Jones as “digital assassination” and warned that the people he said “took him out” would work to “push the line” to undermine other right-wing figures.
Peterson and Rubin are not household names but have a massive reach and devoted followings. They are particularly popular among young men.
Rubin’s YouTube show, “The Rubin Report,” has nearly a million subscribers, and his episodes have collectively been viewed nearly 195 million times. He also shares his content with his nearly half a million followers on Twitter.
Peterson, who’s been described in The New York Times as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now,” has 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube, and his videos have been viewed over 80 million times.
Young conservatives are increasingly turning away from traditional news outlets such as Fox News and talk radio and looking to platforms such as “The Rubin Report,” PragerU, and anti-political-correctness intellectuals such as Peterson for information and guidance in the Trump era.
Donald Trump Jr.: ‘The left is supposed to be about tolerance and all that. It’s BS.’
Donald Trump Jr., a close friend of Kirk’s, was also among the long list of speakers at the conference.
“The left is supposed to be about tolerance and all that,” the president’s eldest son told attendees. “It’s BS. There’s no tolerance there. They’re only tolerant if you buy in to 100% of whatever it is that they’re saying is the trend.”
He applauded the students for embracing conservatism and rejecting the left. “You’re combatting the platform that they’re creating,” he said. “They just want to reverse anything that Donald Trump has done.”
Students then started chanting “Build the wall,” and at least one shouted “Lock her up!”
At a conference that featured appearances from top Trump administration officials and advisers, students were told all Muslims are ‘radical’
The conference featured an array of speakers, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, the Brexit architect Nigel Farage, and the Fox News hosts Jesse Watters, Tucker Carlson, and Greg Gutfeld. This was not an event at the periphery of the political right but smack dab at the heart of it.
Students in attendance, some of whom were as young as 14, laughed when speakers mocked Democrats, booed at virtually any mention of CNN, and cheered whenever speakers praised Trump.
When they weren’t listening to talks that were part of the main event on topics such as how to “own the libs” from the Daily Caller reporter (and accused recidivist plagiarist) Benny Johnson, one of the guest emcees of the conference, students had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on various topics of concern to conservatives.
At one such session, titled “F U-nity: Addressing Terrorism on Campuses,” Sophia Witt, Turning Point’s director of Israel and Jewish outreach, told students that all Muslims were “radical.”
“I don’t even want to call it ‘radical Islam’ – it’s just ‘Islam,'” Witt said to apparent approval from the audience.
‘I don’t think Trump is a Republican’
The conference occurred amid a particularly tumultuous week for the Trump administration, which saw Defence Secretary James Mattis resign and the onset of a partial government shutdown. This all came in concert with widespread criticism of Trump over his abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
But the event seemed to be a world apart at times, as speakers either didn’t address the chaotic headlines of the day or decried the media for not giving Trump enough credit for what they saw as his accomplishments as president.
“No one elected Jim Mattis to be president,” the Fox News host Laura Ingraham told attendees on Friday, downplaying the departure.
“If the Republican Party thinks it’s going to roll into 2020 with some new ‘We’re gonna be the world’s policeman’ kind of deal, ain’t gonna work. What Donald Trump is doing is extremely smart and tactical,” Ingraham said as she praised Trump’s policy on Syria.
“Do not forget why Donald Trump was elected in the first place,” she said, adding: “They didn’t vote for Bush’s foreign policy. They voted for what Trump promised to do: Take care of the homeland, enforce America’s borders before you obsess and spend trillions of dollars on other countries’ borders.”
Ingraham’s commentary was reflective of another theme that encompassed Turning Point’s conference, which was the ways in which Trumpism had surpassed Republicanism.
“I don’t think Trump is a Republican,” Candace Owens, a communications director for Turning Point, told INSIDER. “He ran on a Republican ticket, but no, I think Trump represents his own sort of emergence of a more independent party that holds conservative beliefs.”
Kirk echoed these sentiments. “What does ‘a Republican’ mean anymore?” Kirk said. “Is it Paul Ryan? Is it Mitt Romney?”
Trumpism has surpassed Republicanism
Trump struggled to win over young voters in the 2016 election, and polls consistently show most aren’t particularly fond of his handling of the presidency. But Turning Point USA’s conference in Florida last week showed that among the young folks who do support the president, their passion is deeply entrenched and not necessarily a product of loyalty or affinity toward the GOP.
These young conservatives feel ostracized by their peers for their political views but also seem to perceive themselves as rebels bravely standing against the mainstream. They reject neoconservatism and liberalism, don’t trust the federal government, have a religious-like disdain for socialism, a fervent passion for capitalism, and a vocal resentment of the media. They’re unapologetically nationalistic and salivate at the phrase “border security.”
In short, they have fully embraced Trumpism – in some cases before they’re even eligible to vote.
Thousands and thousands of students from all 50 states who LOVE @realDonaldTrump scream “USA! USA!”
This is a sight the media WONT report
Why is the media ignoring the largest EVER gathering of young conservatives?
RT so they can’t ignore!! pic.twitter.com/dn5rDdKZ5b
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) December 20, 2018
Regardless of what happens in 2020, Democrats and even some Republicans will have to contend with this Trump-inspired movement in the years to come.
Trumpism does not end when Trump leaves the White House.
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