By Scott Kaspar, Publisher
Few people understand the power of the grassroots conservative movement like
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.
A native Illinoisan, who attended high school in Wheeling, Kirk had a vision for training and educating high school and college students “to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government,” and that vision would be accomplished through grassroots organizing and arming students with provocative messaging.
Kirk’s vision was put to the test in 2014, when Kirk and TPUSA students worked relentlessly to get Bruce Rauner elected to Governor. “We knocked on more than 50,000 doors as a team and made more than 100,000 phone calls. We barnstormed the state and mobilized students in every county to help Bruce defeat the Chicago political machine,” Kirk said.
Since its founding in 2012, TPUSA has skyrocketed from a startup operating out of a garage in Lemont, IL, to a conservative juggernaut operating out of a multi-building campus in Phoenix – and having a presence on over 3,500 campuses across the country.
TPUSA students have proven to be invaluable campaign aides to candidates running for office throughout the country. In my own congressional campaign, I relied on several TPUSA students to knock on doors and make phone calls. They brought an infectious enthusiasm to the campaign, along with an incredible work ethic.
And the backbone to TPUSA’s success rests on those core elements of grassroots organizing and provocative messaging.
But at every step of the way during this past election cycle, the IL GOP under Chairman Don Tracy held grassroots conservatives and their proven abilities to organize and get out the vote, in contempt.
During the primary, the IL GOP establishment put its collective thumb on the scale for Democrat Richard Irvin for governor, effectively thumbing its nose at grassroots conservatives.
While Chairman Tracy did not officially endorse Richard Irvin, just about every other IL GOP officer and member of the State Central Committee did, proving that Tracy was either complicit or incapable of controlling his direct reports, neither of which should be acceptable.
The IL GOP establishment’s attempt to push forward a Democrat to be its top officer created such a backlash among conservatives that the grassroots-backed candidate Darren Bailey would go on to win the primary by 42 points, despite the IL GOP establishment’s deployment of a divisive $50M campaign.
Importantly, under Chairman Tracy’s watch, the divisive primary left the Party completely shattered.
Establishment apathy to Darren Bailey coupled with an establishment mistrust of grassroots conservatives resulted in the worst general election in decades.
Last Saturday, Chairman Tracy had an incredible and unique opportunity to embrace the grassroots at the December 10, 2022 State Central Committee. More than 200 grassroots conservatives showed up at the meeting to publicly share their grievances about the devastating losses this past election cycle.
But rather than welcome the people, Chairman Tracy and the State Central Committee did everything they could to make it clear that the grassroots conservatives were not welcome and not wanted.
Chairman Tracy opened the meeting by attacking the grassroots and this conservative media outlet. With only two dozen chairs in the room for the public, most of the grassroots, many of whom had driven hundreds of miles to attend, were left standing for hours.
And when it came time for public comment, IL GOP officials tightly monitored an arbitrary 90-second time limit, ripping the mic out of the hands of grassroots conservatives that they didn’t want to hear.
Charlie Kirk understands that grassroots conservatives don’t need the IL GOP establishment, but rather the IL GOP establishment needs them.
Mobilizing the grassroots and arming them with messaging has been the secret to TPUSA’s success, and it can be the secret for the Republican Party to win races again in Illinois.
The IL GOP establishment’s disdain for the grassroots isn’t the only reason why Don Tracy should go.
Charlie Kirk also understands that Republicans have been beat at the ballot box by mail-in ballot and early voting initiatives pushed through Springfield by the Democratic Supermajority.
As Kirk writes, “The game has changed dramatically, where telling everyone just to show up on Election Day is a failed strategy… The Democrats have built a machine and they very strategically are able to … to broaden their reach and broaden their kind of vote ballot gathering operation.”
In last Friday’s edition of the “Chairman’s Memo,” Chairman Tracy set forth his plans to “loosen the Democrat stronghold” with a word-salad of platitudes:
“Supporting our investments in enhancing our digital footprint and assets, helping local Republican parties recruit new PCs and build VBM programs, increasing Election Integrity and GOTV capacities, and securing the resources needed to achieve these goals.”
But nothing about addressing the Democrat’s monopoly on early voting and mail-in voting. No programs to register and turn out low-propensity voters, and no programs to “embrace early in-person voting,” as Kirk urges.
To win races again in Illinois, the IL GOP has no choice but to engage the grassroots. But by having burned that bridge to the ground at last Saturday’s State Central Committee and having no plan for addressing early and mail-in voting laws, Don Tracy has proven that he is not the leader we need right now.
As Charlie Kirk would have to agree, a leader not focused on grassroots organizing and messaging will never win.
Scott Kaspar is an attorney, engineer, publisher of Illinois Review, and financial supporter of Turning Point USA. Scott can be followed on Twitter at @ScottKaspar.