The opening night of TPUSA's AmericaFest made one thing clear: this is a nationalist, conservative movement based in the idea that the United States is fundamentally the greatest nation on the face of the earth. And for the students and conservatives who attended, numbering to 10,000, this was a welcome message.
As the lights came down, chants of "Let's Go Brandon" erupted from the crowd, merging with an undercurrent of "F*ck Joe Biden." Strains of Jimi Hendrix's national anthem played as the crowd cheered, the sounds of it shaking the room. Confetti littered down over the crowd as Charlie Kirk took the stage to speak about the values that united this group, and that is the grounding for this movement that seeks to continue the Trump era excitement about a new direction for the nation.
This direction can be as much defined by what it proposes as to what it opposes. It is against diversity initiatives that claim America is white supremacist, it is against political correctness, it is against trans gender ideology, it is against social justice, wokeness, the 1619 Project, critical race theory, and the "self-righteous ruling class."
Kirk calls for a return to the values that bolster love of nation, God, and life itself. He offered that Americans should seek humility, gratitude, and to build up the nation with optimism. He spoke to the massive crowd about creating families, and starting young, having children, experiencing the joy of parenthood, and bringing new life to the world.
TPUSA is the largest grassroots conservative freedom movement in the country, Kirk concluded. TPUSA is not without its critics. It has been smeared as racist, white supremacist, white supremacist adjacent, and Kirk has been vilified as well. Yet this movement is unapologetically pro-America, pro-nationalist, and the crowd, perhaps tired of being told their nation sucks, that dissent with the progressive, leftist, social justice narrative is morally reprehensible and racist.
The crowd got to their feet when Tucker Carlson took the stage. Carlson has known Kirk for decades, and said that Kirk was one of the few people who noticed, and responded to, the massive changes that began to remake the nation from one that valued itself and its contribution to the world and to democracy to one that is essentially self-hating.
As to what's happening in the nation, Carlson said that "this really is the low point. It's got to be the low point. After which we have the rise, where it starts to get better."
"The things that are going on now are so crazy, and they're so disconnected," Carlson said of the ruling classes that run our governments, our cities, our media. He's horrified by the "vaxx stuff," he said, and he's right when he says it's "class war against the weakest people."
"The vaxx stuff is about punishing the people that have no one to protect them," he said. "It's evil," he said. "The other thing that's going on is that the decisions are being made by people who are too far from" the people those decisions are affecting.
Carlson repeated the idea that human beings, Americans, should start families, that family leads to greater happiness than, for example, "becoming VP of Citibank."
He, too, feels that something essentially has gone wrong with the nation. We're not asking the important questions, he said. Those important questions are "How are my children, are they happy? Are they thriving? Are they independent of me, which is the point of parenthood, to make your children independent? Are they all those things? Will they find a mate so they can do what I did to create them int eh first place, which to reproduce and continue my family after I die?" He said. "And the last question is to ask what happens after we die, "what happens then?" He said.
The nation is a beautiful place, Carlson said, as he advocated for a simpler life, to seek freedom, to not drop out of society, but to think carefully about what kind of life they want to lead. "You can use the gifts that you were born with to make the society better," Carlson said.
"You don't have to participate in the systems that are oppressing people, making them sad, stripping the meaning from their lives, hurting them, bossing them around, and humiliating them on purpose."
"Everyone has something to give," he said.
"You don't have to live in the places where they control you precisely," Carlson said, as he slammed Biden's handling of Covid, his elitist mentality and lack of actual information, and said that those who went into the Capitol on January 6 and were arrested should be freed, as they were walking in "the people's house." The nation has forgotten that the government is here to serve its citizens, and not even remotely the other way around.
"Your first obligation is to your family," Carlson said. Is this a perspective shared by the contemporary left? Do progressives believe that family comes first, that loyalty to kin, and chosen friends, regardless of disagreement, or political differences, is what matters? To Carlson, "we spend way too much time thinking about people we will never meet."
"Be very wary of people who are giving you long lectures about improving the lives of people they've never met while the people around them wither," he said. And be wary of those who are terrified and lead by fear, when it comes to Covid or anything else. It was a bad idea, he said, to "put a terrified old guy in charge of corona."
"I want to be around happy people who want to build stuff," he said. "You're either creating something beautiful or you're tearing it down. And all the joy in life is creating something new."
"That's the joy," he said, "making stuff and hoping it lasts."
Carlson had a message, too, for Americans: go move into the country. The middle of the country has been abandoned, he said, "go live there." "Make a community," he said, "a real one."
"And wait for the dawn."
And as the conference launches Saturday, running through Tuesday, it's hard to think that this won't be the key message of the entire thing. Live freely, with joy, with optimism, with love of nation, your community, and a belief in equality for all of us.