When I was a kid, if you wanted to get involved in politics, you went down to the local Democratic clubhouse and hung out. Sooner or later, one of the adults would ask you to run an errand, then maybe you’d show up every day after school and answer the phones.
Around election time, things really got busy, so you were given a stack of leaflets and told to make sure that every house or apartment in the neighborhood had a leaflet under the front door.
At some point when you were a little older, like maybe college age or a few years more, you might even get on the payroll or be chosen to run for a vacant State Assembly seat. If you kept your nose clean in Albany for a few years, there might even be a chance you could win a big one and go down to D.C.
But the point is that if you wanted to be a political activist, the only path you could take was to work within the political party. Unless, of course, you’d rather stand in front of the supermarket ringing a bell and asking people to sign some petition which nobody signed.
That was then, this is now. Want to become what Grandpa would call a ‘macher’ (read: big shot) in politics today? Come up with a name for your political organization, apply to the IRS to become a 501c4, open up a website and a Facebook page, begin recruiting people to join your group online, and give them an opportunity to make a donation as well.
In other words, you create a parallel universe to the established political parties without actually running for public office yourself. On the other hand, if you get enough people to join, you can then get everyone who is running for public office to make a point of connecting with your group.
Last weekend a group, Turning Point USA, held a meeting in Florida which featured appearances of all the entire MAGA team from Trump on down, including Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. They all showed up at the Student Action Summit to tell the group what they need to do at their colleges or high schools to help spread the good word.
The founder of this gig, Charlie Kirk, says the organization exists on more than 1,000 campuses and its mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom.” In fact, Kirk has publicly described himself as being in the forefront of an effort to rid American education of the influence of ‘cultural Marxism,’ which is nothing more than a revamped version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic diatribe used by Adolf Hitler, among others, to provide the intellectual rationale for the concentration camps.
And even though a Turning Point spokesman disavowed the appearance of a group of swastika-waving Nazis in front of the convention center where the meeting was taking place, this group certainly didn’t show up to protest the appearance of the Turning Point gang.
Before you start getting worried about this new wave of ultra-right political activity sweeping across high schools and college campuses throughout the United States, let me share with you a bit of research I did to get a better idea of what this group is all about.
Their website says they are supported by 100,000 ‘grass roots patriots,’ and 500 college chapters which can be viewed on a large-scale, searchable map. So, I looked at how Turning Point is doing in my state – Massachusetts – and was very impressed when the first campus listed at Boston College claimed to have 127 students involved. Here’s a picture of Turning Point’s first campus demonstration this past March:
Of the other six Massachusetts campuses where Turning Point claims to have a following, four happen to be high schools where the students aren’t old enough to vote, and the total membership for all six campuses together is 27. That’s right. Twenty-seven students in six schools.
In Western New York State, Turning Point is ‘active’ in twelve locations, except two of the twelve sites have no members at all. Together these colleges and high schools claim a membership of 27 grass roots patriots. Six college campuses around Penn State have 44 members, out West in Colorado, five schools around Denver have enrolled some 34 kids, below is the chapter at Pike’s Peal Community College which claims to meet on Thursdays.
Turning Point doesn’t have anywhere near 100,000 members. If they actually have one-tenth that number, I’d be surprised. But put a bunch of groups like this together, rent an arena somewhere and get someone like Josh Hawley to show up and wave his fist at the crowd and guess what?
You’ve become the equivalent of a political party even if you don’t appear on the ballot of any state.
Do we have groups doing this kind of thing on the blue side?