PHOENIX, AZ – As Turning Point USA’s America Fest 2021 gathered in Downtown Phoenix at the Convention Center, there was an air that was different. It wasn’t just the sheer number of patriots gathered in one spot, just days before Christmas, but it was the amount of youth engaged. The common theme was a rebellious rugged individualistic energy that was not married to a political party, but instead, a political movement. But it was also families with a strong conservativism common sense bent. For the first time, values were in the forefront over political personalities.
Bonnie Ebstyne, President and Founder of Women of Arizona, eloquently said, “Never in our lifetime have we seen a political movement and a spiritual movement meld into a single movement”. She attended all four days of the conference, but spent significant time in the Exhibit Hall, meeting with attendees from all over the world at her booth.
These included two kids that came from Guam that flew in just for this event. Another young lady came in from London, who wanted to go to graduate school in America. She saw such a difference between the freedom in Arizona compared to England.
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I sat beside a mother and teenage daughter at one of the sessions. And these families that came to the conference were actually the average attendees. Ebstyne also sat beside another mother and daughter duo. Mom said, “When your daughter invites you to come, how can you refuse?”
Another interesting attendee was a man from Tucson, who was not politically involved until he saw BLM and Antifa burning down cities. This moved him because he went to jail and paid a price for being a teenager for committing arson. 18 years later, it is hard for him to find a job because of his record. Now, he sees people that are committing crimes deliberately and without consequences. He did not have a father figure in his family and now looks to conservatives who understand this fact, and hopes for criminal justice reform.
New products and new industries are coming out of the conservative movement and were prominently showcased. There are now parallel institutions and cash systems, creating alternative ways of doing business. For example, patriot cell phone companies are donating proceeds to conservative causes. Bitcoin and other alternative currencies give conservatives ways to get out of big banks. And of course, obvious vendors providing alternatives in education such as private schools, and alternative healthcare options were prevalent.
Everyone was eager to support each other and there was a strong collaboration vibe. Ebstyne, a Phoenix area local, is ordering beef from “Good Ranchers”, who had a booth at the exhibition hall. Their beef has omega 3s instead of omega 6’s and they are dedicated to educating their consumers and providing the best quality meat.
In addition, America Fest made it a point to uplift conservative media. As a citizen journalist, they were welcoming of my efforts and that of my longtime friend, Kyle Becker of Becker News, breaking important news on the ground with unique analysis. I was able to catch up with Kyle at his booth. Becker News was founded in December 2020. Kyle left Fox News, after working on the Sean Hannity show for two and a half years and a long career before that with RedState and Independent Journal Review.
Now Kyle is filling a void, mobilizing people in the grassroots who feel corporate media doesn’t represent them. “So it was a fulfillment of my dream to start my own independent media company and call it like I see it and independently research, investigate news on everybody’s mind but in an honest way where people can verify the facts, news and data themselves. You’ll get a little bit of my news and analysis especially now that I have the wildfire newsletter out every day.”
Tucker Carlson was the first night’s opener and he truly set the tone of the conference, providing a fresh message that surprisingly avoided clichés while speaking about tried and true topics. Stressing the family, he gave a positive message about the normalcy, consistency and quiet strength of our values.
Sarah Palin, who once was the premiere Rockstar of the movement, excited the base but it was clear how much the movement has grown from when she was the VP candidate. Setting the tone about 14 years ago, new talent has come up and taken over. These included famous firebrands like Marjorie Taylor Greene, citizen journalist, James O’Keefe, former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who brought her father on stage with her, organizer Charlie Kirk who has been promoting building and strengthening family bonds and Candace Owens who demonstrated this in action. Owens just had a baby and she skipped a chance to be in front of tens of thousands of people and instead Zoomed in to the conference, who Ebstyne thought, “she gave up a self promoting opportunity to be with her child.”
Election fraud was also mentioned, as Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, two of the leading Congressmen in the fight, stuck their necks out, highlighting the technical fraud embedded in the use of the software in the 2020 Arizona elections. They stood to support the audit. Ebstyne took issue with the propaganda and many conservatives even believing that the audit was a “nothing burger” due to the media downplaying it. She thinks they’re “anxious to see it swept under the rug”.
Meanwhile, I agree wholeheartedly with her cautioning against quick judgments on who the “good guys” are. She says, “even the most savvy are struggling to determine who the good guys are.” Even in the conservative movement, she cautions against superficial values and celebrityhood and falling for those with only charisma.
In the end, America Fest truly captured the essence of Turning Point’s ability to get to the community, with “We The People” leading, and most importantly, going to the core values of regular America. Tucker Carlson brought up a powerful statistic saying that in government, 95% of politicians have messed up personal lives. If you went to the phone book and picked a random 10 people, the regular population would have maybe four at most. Carlson really drove the point home that the future is not with the politicians, but the regular people to take back this country.
While Ebstyne thought the most powerful moment for her was Rep. Lauren Boebert’s closing prayer, her husband liked Madison Cawthorn, and they both enjoyed the strong evangelical component to the Conference. But it was Ted Cruz that she wanted to highlight. “So many are quick to dismiss ‘politicians’ as corrupt to the bone. Not me. We must venerate the good ones. It is cynical and dangerous to lump them all together. I think the Left likes to dismiss politics as a dirty business. It discourages people from getting involved which is what the enemy wants. It leaves the playing field empty with no resistance, which is partially why we are where we are.”