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The event organised by America’s largest conservative student group only lasted four days.
But in that time, they and the speakers who addressed them, managed to cover an awful lot of ground, and give voice to many dreams about what they would like the future to look like.
Donald Trump as speaker of the House of Representatives, just to see the face on Nancy Pelosi’s face as he takes the gavel from from her? Why not.
Lauren Boebert, carrying her Glock semi-automatic pistol as his chief whip? Of course.
And how about Kayleigh Mcenany back in the White House as press secretary? They would love that.
But while there was lots of bashing of the “fake news media” at the Turning Points America event in Phoenix, Arizona, someone who tried to ask a simple question of Kyle Rittenhouse, hailed as a “hero to millions”, was not welcome. He was blocked by security guards and had his accreditation removed after trying to ask the 18-year-old why he supported Black Lives Matter, as he claimed to do so.
Turning Points America was founded by activist Charlie Kirk and it regularly holds events to push its message of “freedom, free markets and limited government”.
This summer Trump himself addressed one event, also in Arizona, describing the so-called Green New Deal proposal to remove fossil fuels from America as “green new bulls. When he spoke in 2019, while still president, he claimed, not for the first time, that liberals wanted “to take Christmas out of Christmas”.
Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, spoke at this latest event, where he claimed China was mocking the United States because its military was allegedly promoting transgender pilots. “What do you think our enemies are doing? They’re laughing,” he said.
While the two events were only only separated than less than six months, it might be the most recent event, held at the Phoenix Convention Centre, that offers more insights about the nation’s future.
When Trump spoke in the summer, Joe Biden was still enjoying something of the approval rating boost that comes with being a new president.
A tracking poll by FiveThityEight suggested 52 per cent of Americans approved of his performance, while 42 disapproved. And while Covid remained a worry, the full implications of the Delta and Omicron strains, that have pushed the death toll in the US well past 800,000, were not clear.
And neither had Biden botched the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, or Republicans sails been filled with momentum from the gubernatorial victory in Virginia. Now all of that has happened. Biden’s approval rating is down to just 43 per cent, close to being a historic low, and many believe Republicans are poised to retake both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterms.
As such, at least some of the wishes on view in Phoenix may turn into reality.
This was not the first time that Florida congresswoman Matt Gaetz had given voice to his purported plan to make Donald Trump the next Speaker of the House if the GOP takes control. He has previously claimed he has talked to Trump about it.
Yet, the audience in Arizona gave a very warm reception to his proposal.
“Now, the media hates it and the establishment fears it, but I kind of like the ring of House Speaker Donald J Trump after these midterms,” he said on Sunday.
“Can you imagine Nancy Pelosi’s face as she’s asked to give that gavel to Donald Trump?”
He added: “That’s how I pitched it to him. I said ‘Mr President, you only have to be Speaker for like 20 minutes. You take the gavel, and imagine the speech you would deliver as she has to watch with that sour look on her’. We’ve got to start treating them like they treat us.”
Lauren Boebert, the Colorado congresswoman known for her strident promotion of guns, and defence of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, suggested she would be happy to be a top aide to Trump, and carry her gun with her into Congress. Firearms are permitted in members’ offices, but some legislators have claimed some of their colleagues carry them with them at all times.
Sarah Palin says 'over my dead body' will authorities make her have a covid vaccine shot
Interviewed by a reporter with the right-wing broadcaster, Real American Voice (RAV), Boebert was told she would make an excellent speaker.
“Well, Matt Gaetz wants me to be the whip,” Boebert said on Monday. “I’d need my Glock on my hip when I’m whipping those votes.”
The pair concluded the interview by agreeing that Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar had “played the victim”, over comments Boebert had made, widely considered Islamophobic, after she likened Omar to a bomb-carrying terrorist. “She needed more fundraising for this quarter. This quarter was a little slow for her,” Boebert said. “So let’s go on TV, shed some tears, and you know, play the victim.”
Initially, The Independent had planned to attend the event in person. But given concerns about traveling amid a new surge of coronavirus infections and the spread of Omicron, we decided that watching the event’s livestream, while not the same as being there in person, was a safer option.
Such a decision made all the more sense, given that large numbers of people were not wearing masks.
More worryingly, several high-profile speakers sought to question the efficacy of vaccines – the CDC says “All Covid-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing Covid-19 – and said they had not received a shot.
Sarah Palin, who was the GOP’s running-mate for John McCain, said “over my dead body” will she allow authorities to force her to get a vaccine.
She said she had the virus, and said at the time, the US’ top medical official, Dr Anthony Fauci, had talked up the natural immunity for those who had been ill.
“Now they’re telling us that even though we’ve had it – we have natural immunity – now that we still have to get a shot,” she said. “And it’ll be over my dead body that I get a shot. I will not. I won’t do it and they better not touch my kids either.”
Marjorie Greene Taylor, a Republican representative from Georgia, said she too had not had the vaccine.
“I’m not vaccinated and they’re going to have a hell of a time if they want to hold me down and give me a vaccine,” she said. “ And I don’t think it should be anyone’s job tell us that. It should be people’s right to choose.”
In her speech, she suggested the Jan 6 riot was a false flag operation involving federal agents.
Among the highest-billing guests, along with Trump Jr, was Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year from Illinois, who became a hero to gun rights activists, after being found not guilty on all counts, after shooting three people, two of them fatally, in the summer of 2020.
The shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, took place amid protests for racial justice. The teenager shot three white men, and was charged with five counts, including first-degree intentional homicide. The jury cleared him, after his lawyers argued the teen acted in self-defence.
Kirk was one of those to put up some softball questions to the 18-year-old, telling him: “We must say that he did everything right that night, that Kyle acted properly and morally and lawfully when someone tried to kill him…You held it all together. You’re a hero to millions.”
At times Rittenhouse looked somewhat sheepish at all the cheers he was receiving. Yet he also appeared ready to take on the mantle of a self defence hero, not entirely dissimilar to the way George Zimmerman carried himself after fatally shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, and being cleared of murder.
“I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to tell the world what happened in Kenosha, the truth, unlike what the prosecution tried to say. That’s why I took the stand,” he said. “I think my trial was an example of them trying to come after our Second Amendment rights, a right to defend ourselves, and to take our weapons.”
On Tuesday, Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany, who served as the last of Trump’s White House press spokespersons told a story, to loud applause, of how she overcame nerves on her first day on the job that had left her in tears. The solution, she said, had been go get on her knees with her parents on speaker phone and to pray.
“Then I went to the West Wing private bathroom. I got on my knees and I said a prayer. And when I walked in, and I stood at that podium, I’d gone from tears to utter and complete serenity,” she said. “I’m telling you, I felt like I was meant to do that.”
Also on Tuesday, another favorite for conservatives, Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina, who previously claimed to be “armed” on Jan 6, gave his take on foreign policy. “Until we get our southern border secured, I don’t give a damn about the border conflict in Ukraine.”
The final words were left for Kirk. He said it was “a lie” that people “could have it all”.
“You have to prioritise some things. You’re going to have to let go of some things that might make you feel good in the moment, to go pursue something that is more meaningful than an instant dopamine kick,” said the 28-year-old.
“And here’s another good rule for life – if something feels good in the moment, it’s probably not good for you.”
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