How Turning Point USA’s Brand of Conservatism Falls Short
On March 23, the Mount’s chapter of Turning Point USA, alongside the Mount Republicans, hosted a talk by Turning Point representative Isabel Brown. Brown is described as a “Gen Z conservative voice” on Turning Point’s website. Due to that description, going into the event, one may have expected Brown to address one of the many issues facing the nation, such as the opioid epidemic or the immigration crisis at the border, and how a conservative ought to approach it on a public policy level. However, Brown’s talk was largely devoid of any such discussions and instead centered largely on her experience with leftism on college campuses, the publishing of her new book and her personal rise to prominence through Turning Point USA. The only point Brown addressed regarding what conservative platform actually is was a general notion about believing in limited government. It is here that Turning Point USA, along with many on Capitol Hill who call themselves conservatives, fall short in their understanding of the conservative electorate and the issues that motivate Americans at large.
According to Turning Point USA’s website, its goal is to “promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government.” For an organization that categorizes itself as conservative and has a history of working closely with the Trump administration, there is surprisingly little that is markedly conservative about this platform. One may find it largely synonymous with the classical liberalism of the 17th and 18th centuries. Rather than prioritizing that which was traditionally valued by conservatives such as the family or national cohesion, Turning Point USA and other conservatives seem to have an ideology in which market economics and minimal government action are promoted as inherently good.
One can understand how such an ideology may fall on deaf ears for many Americans whose wages have remained stagnant since the 1980s, partially as a result of free market policies such as unrestricted free trade and immigration. Government intervention in the economy, for example, is not antithetical to conservatism, but rather is often its embodiment. Protecting the dignity of the worker through regulation or using government power to restrict abusive practices by tech giants are not only policies that conservatives ought to be advocating for, but also are the ones that resonate with a frustrated electorate. The reality is that platitudes about the virtues of the free market and the evils of big government are not what will impassion the everyday American. Conservatives ought to promote a vision for the nation that goes beyond free speech and corporate tax cuts if they hope to inspire the electorate and effectively address the issues our country faces.