By John Coffey
Turning Point USA (TPUSA)’s newly formed Stanford chapter hopes to distinguish itself from its national organization and the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) by acting as a mediator between left and right, chapter executives told The Daily.
TPUSA is the “largest and most powerful campus activist program” in the United States with a presence on over 1300 college campuses, according to the conservative youth organization’s website.
Last May, SCR hosted national TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk and director of urban engagement Candace Owens in a “Make Stanford Great Again” event. Also in May, TPUSA placed Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu on its “Professor Watchlist,” calling him “an antifa ring-leader.”
However, chapter president Nathaniel Stuart ’20 distanced the chapter from previous TPUSA activity on campus, saying those were SCR events coordinated with the national TPUSA organization before the Stanford chapter’s existence.
The Stanford chapter, Stuart told The Daily, is “not exactly identical” to TPUSA’s national organization. Chapter vice president Faa Diallo ’21 added that the chapter does not plan to interact with the national organization “in any real fashion,” saying that the national organization is “not too hands on.”
According to Stuart, the core mission of Stanford’s TPUSA chapter is “to have discussion with people from all over the place.”
Stanford’s TPUSA chapter will attempt to “bridge the gap between left and right,” Diallo said.
Although there were several SCR members in attendance at the Stanford chapter’s first meeting — including Stuart, Diallo and SCR president John Rice-Cameron ’20 — Stuart said he envisions the TPUSA chapter to be an independent group with conservative ideals.
“We’re completely non-partisan,” he said. “A big thing that you’ll notice that’s different is the way we discuss things. We’re going to be focused on having conversation … not necessarily taking a stance.”
However, TPUSA secretary and SCR treasurer Ben Esposito ’21 told The Daily that SCR is planning to work with TPUSA “given our common politics … [to pool] together our resources to promote conservative principles and policies on campus.”
“[TPUSA] will bring even more energy and initiative to the growing conservative movement at Stanford,” Esposito said. “Liberal groups have long had an ideological monopoly on campus. That is now changing.”
According to Stuart, the TPUSA chapter plans to hold future White Plaza tabling events focused on generating discussion, not on changing minds. Proposed topics for TPUSA’s tables include free speech. Notoriously, a SCR “Change My Mind” event supporting Brett Kavanaugh last quarter resulted in battery charges — eventually dropped — and a rap song about the controversy.
Stuart also hopes to host joint events with groups he sees as TPUSA’s polar opposites, including Stanford’s International Socialist Organization (ISO) chapter.
In a message to The Daily, however, ISO wrote that it is skeptical of the Stanford TPUSA chapter’s differences from SCR.
“It’s unclear to us if or how this group is in any way different from SCR,” ISO wrote. “If they think rebranding as an organization … helps them, that’s their prerogative.”
Although at odds with Stuart’s vision of the group, ISO’s wariness of SCR’s personnel connection to Stanford TPUSA is not unfounded. During the discussion of welfare reform in the chapter’s inaugural meeting last Thursday, Rice-Cameron said he finds welfare to be “absolutely catastrophic to the basic social fabric of the United States” — a sentiment echoed by several TPUSA members in attendance.
Dissenting members stayed behind after the meeting to discuss expanding the government’s role in welfare. Stuart reiterated that Stanford TPUSA meetings are not just a space for conservative ideas and that an individual member’s opinion does not necessarily reflect the values of the organization.
“I don’t want to focus completely on just talking with conservatives about conservative ideas, but I’d rather just talk about ideas with people,” he said.
Contact John Coffey at jcoffey2 ‘at’ stanford.edu.