Turning point

Neutralizing the scourge of identity politics.

This year, my wife and I were invited to participate in Turning Point USA’s Young Black Leadership Summit that ran October 25-28. The program included a visit to the White House— the high point, for me.

I am, of course, neither young nor black, but was invited as a supporter of the Turning Point organization. When my wife and I showed up outside the East entrance to the White House around mid-morning on October 26, we had little idea what to expect, especially since this was our first visit to the executive mansion.

As it turned out, the atmosphere was so festive that even waiting outdoors in the cold was fun. Several hundred participants in the summit filmed videos and took selfies. Periodically, a film crew made its way through the crowd, interviewing participants.

As we wended our way through security, we chatted with a number of young people—a math major from Stanford, a filmmaker from Columbia, and so on. Why would young black Americans choose to be conservatives? For the same reasons the rest of us do: freedom, opportunity, and the desire to build a stronger America.

When we got inside, an enormous table of food was set out for us, while a small Marine band played. What made the occasion fun was that, except for my wife, me and a handful of TPUSA staffers, the entire crowd was African-American. As advertised, the summit was young and black.

Ben Carson talked briefly to warm up the crowd, and then there was a delay as we waited for President Trump to appear. The would-be mail bomber had been caught an hour or so earlier, and this was the president’s first public opportunity to talk about it, which focused news coverage on the Turning Point event. While the crowd waited for President Trump to appear, chants would spontaneously erupt: “USA! USA! USA!” “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “Build that wall!” I can’t think when I have had more fun at a political event.

At around 11:30 a.m. the president emerged to a rapturous welcome. Whatever you think of President Trump, he knows how to work a crowd. Observing him interacting with an audience numbering in the hundreds, rather than thousands, in the relatively intimate setting of the East Room, was a master class in communication. After talking a bit about the bomber, the president’s remarks focused on the African-American community and how it has been ill-served by its loyalty to the Democratic Party. That message was received enthusiastically by the audience.

Many in the crowd were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats. When Trump’s speech was over, the audience crowded to the front of the room and the president signed all the MAGA hats that were handed to him. For those without hats, he signed event badges or other memorabilia. We watched for a while and then began to make our way out of the White House.

On our way out, a young black man was in front of us, talking excitedly to a friend or relative on his cell phone. He said that he had just met the president and added: “He isn’t anything like you think. He was really nice! And he isn’t orange!”

A great scourge of American public life is identity politics, the main staple of the left. Forget about sound public policy: you must vote for us because you are of a particular ethnic group or a particular gender. This sort of tribalism is antithetical to a functioning democracy, but it has worked well as a means of maintaining the left in power. Turning Point USA is making a commendable effort to break the chains of identity politics, and we were proud to be part of it.