Opinion: TPUSA and the brainwashed patriot
Updated: Aug 27
By Lily Rusk, Clarion Editor-in-Chief, Rachel Nichols, Clarion Opinion Editor
Turning Point USA is a right-wing group that has charters in over 600 colleges and 700 high schools. They preach about rights for “the little guy” while being funded by billionaires like Foster Friess, an American investment manager. This is especially hypocritical because their ideology actively works against the rights of those they claim to protect; by protecting institutions that actively and proudly support hate in forms such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, they are in actuality against the “little guy.”
According to their website, they profess to believe that “The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world.” This makes sense only when they don't believe history should be taught from the perspectives of citizens who have been marginalized, like people of color or the LGBTQ+ community. Their America-first stance is a product of the misguided beliefs they have inherited from the perspective of those who have benefited from a broken, exploitative system.
They also believe “The US Constitution is the most exceptional political document ever written.” This is unsurprising due to the fact that TPUSA has connections to the Federalist Society, a Republican organization that is widespread in colleges throughout the country and exerts an immense amount of power over the United States Supreme Court. In fact, six of the nine Supreme Court Justices are former or current members of the Federalist Society. The next court system under the supreme court is the appellate court in which eighty-three percent of Former President Donald Trump's nominations were members of the federalist society (Washington Post). His list of Supreme Court nominees was made for him by the society.
The federalists believe in a concept called originalism. This is the theory of interpreting legal texts, especially the U.S. Constitution, as it was understood at the time of its adoption – for example, the country as it was in 1776, not 2023. This application has resulted in rulings like Dred Scott v. Sanford – enshrining racial discrimination – and Dobbs v. Jackson - the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, making a woman’s right to choose whether or not to bear a child void.
This concept of originalism is ironic because of how far the idea of originalism actually strays from the original intent of the founding fathers. Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers, not only supported abortion but wrote a How to Guide on abortion that he included in his math textbook (NPR). However, even the idea that the United States should strictly cling to what was written over two centuries ago by slave owners, when half the population had no right to vote, is questionable at best.
Finally, TPUSA posits that “Capitalism is the most moral and proven economic system ever discovered.” This bold statement is made without support. What makes it so great? The fact that it encourages toxic competition and discourages teamwork? TPUSA attacks socialism, but declines to analyze countries that have historically made efforts to embrace democratic socialism, such as Chile in the 1990s, which the U.S. helped de-rail. The “socialist” nation TPUSA’s founder Charlie Kirk prefers to highlight is Venezuela. This is, coincidentally, another example of U.S intervention hindering the progress that a socialist system could bring. After WWII the U.S. went to many third-world countries who were nationalizing their resources and supported coups and military junta’s that de-stabilized or even killed their opposition as a part of the neverending U.S. imperial conquest.
One of TPUSA’s main tenets is that they want a small government so people's liberties aren’t infringed. In reality, a small government does precisely the opposite: when there aren’t federal regulations in place the rich can exploit the poor without regulation. This diminishes democracy because it allows unelected people to determine the course of U.S policy.
Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of TPUSA argues that this problem is a symptom of corporatism – the control of a state or organization by large interest groups – but this idea is flawed because capitalism and “corporatism” go hand in hand. An unregulated system of monopolies and oligopolies fosters more exploitation and a bigger gap between the wealthy and those in poverty. Further showing their lack of support of democracy, TPUSA brought buses full of people to the Capital insurrection on January 6, 2021 – an insurrection in which a mob put elected officials' lives at risk.
TPUSA is focused on indoctrinating young people which led a new charter of TPUSA to open at Kennedy. While the group is small with 3 members, the ideas they preach have spread across the country. One of their core beliefs about small government is the idea that people should be taxed as little as possible or not at all. They don’t believe in the minimum wage and think competition will make up for all wage disparities.
This ahistorical perspective ignores the Great Depression along with a host of ready examples of why free market capitalism will not protect workers; these examples include the inherent belief that some people are simply better or “more fit” and that is the reason why wealth inequality exists (referring to Darwinism, which is problematic when applied to humans). TPUSA contends they want people to make decisions for themselves but at the same time they don’t want workers to control the means of production, which is antithetical to the freedom rhetoric they spew.
In their meeting they said that it is corrupt the way teachers fund political campaigns through unions, as is nepotism. However, when pressed on nepotism and other union-funded campaigns elsewhere in the U.S., they shifted to say it is only bad when teacher unions do it because their salary comes from taxpayers and nepotism is only bad in the government. This constant moving of the goalpost shows their inconsistent and shifting morals. The only people it sounds like they really think should have freedom are those at the top, which is essentially advocating for the status quo.
Some of the ideas preached by the club president included how seatbelts shouldn’t be mandatory, along with getting vaccinated. According to her, because her parents along with everyone else pay taxes that go to public school, it is corrupt to kick her out of school for not following COVID protocol, even though people who don’t even have kids still have to pay taxes. Just because your parents’ tax dollars go towards roads doesn't mean you can drive the wrong way on a one-way street. During the discussion, the president on multiple occasions said certain things were “literally corruption,” one example referring to teachers supporting political campaigns. I asked what she thought corruption was. After a few seconds of thinking she decided to look it up, at which point she ended the meeting before reading the definition out loud.
One of the group's major marketing techniques is the phrase “socialism sucks” on posters, stickers and brought up at the meeting we went to. When I asked why socialism sucks, the TPUSA representative answered with an example of how she believed a socialist system worked. She said if one of us worked 10 hours and earned 100 dollars, one of us worked 4 hours and earned 50 dollars, and one person worked 0 hours and earned 0 dollars, the money would be taken and the person who made 100 dollars would get $0 the person who made $50 would get 10 and the person who made $0 would get $50. I'm not sure what system this is, but it is not even close to socialism.
Socialism is not a redistribution of wealth, it isn't a poverty cult, and it isn't even free healthcare. In simple terms, socialism means that workers own the means of production. This means that instead of a CEO hoarding all of the wealth the workers produce, the workers get a proportionate share of the money made from the value they bring.
A common misconception about socialism is that the government will take all of your money and give you barely enough to survive. This is an understandable misconception considering many socialists do advocate for fewer tax loopholes for billionaires. This policy can be easily misconstrued as taking everyone's money away – however, even this idea of taxing the rich more (or even at the same rate as the middle class) isn’t a cornerstone of the socialist ideology.
Free healthcare is similarly equated with socialism as many Americans call European countries socialist. The system Europeans are actually operating under is a social democracy. This isn’t to say social democracies are bad, it is simply to say they aren’t technically socialist.
This notion of capitalism isn’t only for right-wing fringe groups -- according to the Pew Research Center 57% of the U.S. population views capitalism in a favorable light when compared to communism or socialism. This widespread support of capitalism can be traced back to the “red scare” which enforced anti-communist and socialist propaganda leaving capitalism as the only option. This was in response to rising tensions between American and Russia which was used as justification for the U.S.’s imperialist conquest after WWIIin countries such as Vietnam, Korea, Hati, and across South America.
These ideas of capitalism are much easier to perpetuate because they uphold the current system which billionaires benefit from. Organizations that support socialism, however, have to be grassroots-funded because they are going against the system that benefits the wealthy few, with the burden of little funding. Groups like TPUSA, by contrast, are able to preach beliefs freely with billions of dollars behind them. When listening to what these organizations preach, it's important to listen to what they mean. They’re not arguing for basic human rights like so many others, but for more abstract freedoms that they think sound nice but in reality disenfranchise millions.
Photo by Lily Rusk, Clarion Editor-in-Chief