Identity Politics is the backbone of Turning Point USA

In this Sept. 7 file photo, Kanye West attends the Ralph Lauren 50th Anniversary Event in Central Park during New York Fashion Week. President Donald Trump has panned Saturday Night Live's season premiere but tweeted praise for Kanye West. As the show ended, West took the stage wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and made an unscripted pro-Trump speech after the credits rolled. (Brent N. Clarke/AP, File)

In this Sept. 7 file photo, Kanye West attends the Ralph Lauren 50th Anniversary Event in Central Park during New York Fashion Week. President Donald Trump has panned Saturday Night Live's season premiere but tweeted praise for Kanye West. As the show ended, West took the stage wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and made an unscripted pro-Trump speech after the credits rolled. (Brent N. Clarke/AP, File)

Colloquially, “identity politics” is a term used to insult the way a political opponent advances his or her agenda by focusing on specious issues of sexism, racism and homophobia. Conservatives tend to believe identity politics is causing the downfall of education, journalism and government in the United States.

Take Charlie Kirk, for example. He is the founder of Turning Point USA, the most vocal conservative student organization in the country. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Kirk said the following: “Identity politics is the idea that your identity is your skin color. We, as conservatives, are those that just consider ourselves Americans. We think your identity is in your ideas, not your skin color. The left, they are always trying to divide people, not unite people.”

While Kirk’s assertions surely made his supporters feel proud of themselves, the fact of the matter is that the leaders of Turning Point are some of the most hypocritical purveyors of identity politics in the country.

Unfortunately, an overview of Turning Point’s identity politics must involve a discussion of Kanye West. Recently, Kanye tweeted a picture of himself in a MAGA hat with a caption that read, in part, “We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th Amendment.” The 13th Amendment, of course, was the one that abolished slavery. People were outraged by Kanye’s remarks, though it might have been unfair of them to expect political sophistication from a celebrity who said there were only a few hundred slaves in America in the 1800s. Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America, responded to Kanye by tweeting, “There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue.” It was a pretty innocuous Twitter spat until Candace Owens, the Communications Director for Turning Point USA, got involved.

She wrote on Twitter, “Nothing pisses white liberals off more than finding out that ‘their blacks’ refuse to behave the way they want them too.”

According to Owens, Chris Evans “sounds like a plantation owner,” thinks black people who disagree with him are “stupid,” and “basically called Kanye West a dumb n*****.” Chris Evans implied that Kanye was not an informed political thinker, meaning he stated the obvious. Owens made the conversation into a fatuous debate about identity politics. Charlie Kirk, Owens’s employer, claims conservatives believe identity has to do with ideas, not skin color. If this is true, it is odd for him to let a racial demagogue like Candace Owens be the voice of Turning Point. In any other political organization, falsely accusing someone of using a racial slur would get an employee fired. But this is Turning Point, after all, so there are no standards of decorum by which Candace Owens must abide.

Kirk, Owens and Turning Point are going to bat for Kanye West purely because he is a celebrity who likes Donald Trump. If Kanye were critical of Trump, they would barrage him with hypocritical and meritless censure like they did to Chris Evans. When Kanye voices his conservative opinions, Kirk calls him a “cultural icon” who fights for “diversity of opinion and thinking.” When Taylor Swift voices her liberal opinions, Kirk says she should “stay away from politics.” He has nothing but contempt for “diversity of opinion and thinking.” Turning Point members ought to stop harping about Kanye’s bravery in facing the “Democrat mob” when the founder of their organization acts like a self-appointed political censor for those who face the Republican mob.

The leaders of Turning Point deride liberals who use identity politics to cudgel the opposition, and then they engage in the very same behavior. If anyone who uses the issues of race, sex and creed to “divide” American citizens is playing identity politics, then the leaders of Turning Point are playing the game better than anyone else. Even if someone opposes democratic socialism and adores free enterprise, they would do well to avoid Turning Point. The fact that tergiversators like Charlie Kirk and race-baiters like Candace Owens are allowed to run the largest right-wing student organization in the U.S. speaks volumes about the current state of conservative activism.


Alex Klein is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus and can be reached via email at alex.klein@uconn.edu.