Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) event “Culture War” took place without protest or disruption on Thursday, Oct. 24, when TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) lead a dialogue centered on condemning socialism and American nationalism.
The Granite State Room was close to its full capacity of almost 700 attendees, with Memorial Union Building (MUB) staff having to add seats for people arriving after the 7 p.m. start time.
With a TPUSA event in 2018 being heavily protested on the University of New Hampshire (UNH) campus, this one came with a substantial police presence, including a K-9 unit. Black curtains cordoned off the Granite State Room from the rest of the MUB, along with wooden barriers. Other security measures included rules prohibiting those attending from bringing large bags or big signs.
The event began with senior political science major Mitchell Scacchi, the president of the UNH chapter of TPUSA, introducing the speakers. Scacchi also emphasized university guidelines surrounding “free exchange of ideas,” saying that “anybody whose conduct interferes” with the event would be instructed to leave.
Kirk then took the stage and was met with enthusiastic applause. Kirk expressed his appreciation for New Hampshire, “the live free or die state.” He also referenced the “opposition” that the event received on UNH campus in the week prior, citing a video posted on his Twitter of individuals tearing down posters in the Murkland courtyard and telling the TPUSA member taking the video that they hoped he would die. UNH student members of TPUSA shared the video to several UNH student Facebook groups.
Kirk mentioned other opposition that his views faced in the past, and overviewed what his organization stands for: American exceptionalism, free markets, personal rights over government intervention, and his belief in those rights coming “from God, not from government.”
Rand Paul then joined Kirk on stage to begin a quasi-interview style discussion, in which Kirk led Paul through a series of talking points centered on TPUSA’s core values. For a significant portion of the interview section, they focused on anti-socialist rhetoric, due to Paul having recently published a book entitled “The Case Against Socialism.” This became a segue for Kirk and Paul to condemn universal healthcare, which is a key component so far in the Democratic primary race.
Many of their talking points circled around to criticizing the “hypocrisy” the Democratic candidates (as well as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)), although Paul clarified that he is “friends with Bernie [Sanders],” his fellow senator.
They also discussed the second amendment, taxes, the impeachment inquiry and “endless” wars in the Middle East. When discussing the potential of raising taxes on wealthier citizens, Paul said that the concept of the wealthy paying less in taxes than the poor was a lie propagated by “the fake New York Times.” He then went on to say that “most people [who make] under $50,000 [a year] don’t pay income taxes,” which is not true, according to tax experts.
This was not the only time Kirk or Paul criticized the media, with Kirk saying in his introduction that “the media might tell you” that global quality of life was not improving, and Paul referring to the New York Times again as “failing” and “fake.”
Kirk then opened up the event to questions. In addition to specific policy questions for Paul, Kirk fielded many questions on past statements he made in prior speeches or interviews, including his stance on supporting Israel and a past claim he made that he was denied from West Point and a person of a “different gender and persuasion” was given his spot.
“I never said that, that’s fake news,” Kirk said in reference to the claim. This is a statement he gave to The New Yorker, although at the time he did state that he was being sarcastic.
Other questions included topics such as California’s liberalism, immigration and climate change. When an audience member asked how to justify his support of gun ownership with recent mass shootings, Paul said that it was “a difficult argument” but that he ultimately supported the amendment because “if you look at the statistics, gun violence is going down dramatically.” According to Statista, an independent online statistics portal, this is false.
Throughout the event, there were discussions of potential protest. During Kirk’s introduction, an attendee shouted their support of this statements, and Kirk said, “I expected that to maybe be a protestor.” Later, when Kirk began the question-and-answer portion, he thanked the audience for “being so respectful—no interruptions, so congratulations New Hampshire.”
The “Culture War” event is part of a national tour of college campuses. The UNH event was put on by the UNH chapter of TPUSA, with a small group of traveling volunteers.