There’s no question about it. Turning Point USA, the brainchild of Charlie Kirk, is one of the most successful youth-centered political advocacy movements of the decade. This conservative non-profit has hundreds of chapters based in both public and private high schools and universities across the country. The organization is serving, presumably tens, if not hundreds of thousands of young conservatives. This would seem a boon to all right-wingers, as the youth vote is a demographic conservatives have historically struggled with. Getting young people to engage with conservative ideas is doubtless a good idea for conservatives, but Turning Point is going about it the wrong way.
TPUSA: Party Over Country
Let’s take a step back for a moment. I’m not questioning whether or not Turning Point’s political advocacy is directly effective. TPUSA is almost certainly increasing the number of identifiably conservative young people in America. What should be concerning to the broader right-wing movement are their methods.
Turning Point is openly brash and intolerant toward liberal viewpoints. This isn’t some libeler’s claim. A passing glance at their YouTube channel uncovers videos like “The Left DESTROYS Everything They Touch”, or “The Left Only Cares About Activism, NOT Governing.” Regardless of the validity of these characterizations, they expose an ugly truth about TPUSA. Their objective is not to better inform the youth on political matters through an admittedly conservative lens. It’s to indoctrinate the youth into their explicitly tribal ideology.
There’s been a lot of talk since the 2016 election about political polarization in America. Some point the finger to the left, others point to the right – but polarization isn’t any one party’s fault. It’s the fault of individual people who are willing to talk past one another to score debate “points” before they arrive at any form of political consensus. It’s hard to describe Turning Point as doing anything other than exactly that.
Honey and Vinegar
This tribal indoctrination is not only bad for the young people who fall for it hook line and sinker; it’s a poor look for the conservative movement as well. This should be, by any measurement, what TPUSA is working against. Instead, it’s what they’re propagating.
The youths who gravitate to Turning Point are necessarily already quite conservative. Otherwise, they wouldn’t find anything TPUSA is doing of interest. This concentration of like-minded people into one organization inevitably creates an echo-chamber, and that’s precisely what Turning Point is. Not all echo-chambers have to be bad, but as we’ve already discovered, TPUSA is generating anti-leftist propaganda from their echo-chamber, via one-sided polemicist language that will truly only appeal to conservatives. This damages the ability of its young members to think critically and without bias, while also alienating the rest of the young, rising voting block they’re supposed to be courting.
It may come as a shock to some, but Generation Z, while negligibly less progressive than millennials, is still noticeably more liberal than it is conservative. As the old cliché goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. To the average Gen Z teen who isn’t already a down the line right-winger, TPUSA seems to be spewing a lot more vinegar with their conservative dogma than they are honey.
Furthering the Divide
When you grant the presented argument, Turning Point USA is only furthering the root cause of what they’re fighting. The dogma, propaganda, and self-assurance TPUSA spreads and exudes brings conservatives further to the right. It also repulses centrists, along with the liberals and progressives they’re truly attempting to combat. If Turning Point actually wants to cause a net-gain in young conservatives, they need to tone down the self-righteous rhetoric.
This criticism is, of course, applicable to any politically biased organization. Turning Point simply illustrates the issue of echo-chamber-based polarization so clearly – and are so close to doing political advocacy correct. They appear an organization capable of higher-minded thinking than their click-bait, reactionary conservatism degenerates them to.
The movement toward political generosity over political polarization needs to start somewhere if America is going to avoid a real schism. This is what makes TPUSA and the organizations like it so frustrating and ultimately redundant. They fight fire with fire. What people need to realize, someday, is that more fire just leads to more destruction. Next time, bring a bucket of water.