Like any Friday, Las Vegas tonight will be flooded with tourists, Elvis impersonators, and bachelor parties trying to recreate the hijinks of The Hangover. Visitors will be streaming into arenas at the metropolis-like hotels to catch Sin City staples like Cirque du Soleil and David Copperfield.
But at the Moon Nightclub, at the Palms Resort, hundreds are expected to gather for an altogether different kind of event. Namely, the kickoff party for Students For Trump, a youth movement chaired by Turning Point USA’s firebrand activist Charlie Kirk, who will be speaking at the party.
Curiously, for a student event, it’s only open to guests aged 21 and older. That’s because it’s not for the students; rather, it’s for the organizers who’ll shape student activity over the next 15 months. They’re the ones who will draw up plans for volunteers across college campuses, chiefly in battleground states, who will then run voter drives and attract signups from like-minded students. The aim, after all, is to register one million students to vote for Donald Trump in 2020.
That’s a hard number announced by Kirk in July, shortly after purchasing the assets for the student group, which looked in dire need of a makeover.
You don’t want to miss this.
And it all kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas
Sign up to attend here. Don't miss it.https://t.co/Luyt8Te0qs
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) August 19, 2019
Students For Trump, colloquially known as S4T, was founded in 2015 by Ryan Fournier and John Lambert, and it got off to a somewhat rocky start. Most notably, Lambert was charged earlier this year with wire fraud and conspiracy for posing as an attorney “with an alleged scheme to defraud consumers of legal advice and services,” according to the Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. He allegedly racked up $46,000 from duped customers, including a victim who had to withdraw money from his 401(k) account. Lambert pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.
PR issues aside, the group—technically, it’s a political action committee—was reportedly dodging the Federal Election Committee’s request for donor information. This summer, Kirk set up a new nonprofit, Turning Point Action, a 501(c)(4), referred to as a “social welfare group” that is legally allowed to participate in politics without having to disclose donor information. S4T now runs under TPA.
The work has already begun on the new face of S4T, billed as “a student-led movement fueled by freedom.” The website offers visitors mesmerizingly idyllic images of the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty. S4T is active on social media, making use of new-gen memes on Twitter, and posting photos of beautiful young people on Instagram, decked in MAGA and MLCA gear. (The latter, of course, stands for “Make Liberals Cry Again.”)
“Millennials and Generation Z want to run their own lives and make their own money,” said Kirk in July’s press release. “What we don’t want is insane, socialist and Marxist policies that our parents and grandparents risked and lost their lives to defeat.”
Kirk and company are optimistic about the youth vote they can turn out for 2020, and much of that is the product of whom they see as an inspirational president with fighting spirit, completely unlike polished candidates of the past like Mitt Romney. “The enthusiasm for President Trump is through the roof,” says a spokesman for Turning Point Action. “And that’s been really pretty incredible to witness.”
Campus foot soldiers afoot
Part of the purpose of the group is to motivate conservative students in what the leaders view as a left-skewing environment on college grounds. Turning Point Action says it believes conservatives are widely pressured to keep quiet about their political views on campuses. It seeks to turn this notion on its head and provide an alternative megaphone to what many view as the bully pulpit of Hollywood and the mainstream media.
S4T leaders are not unrealistic about the fact that young people generally skew left, but they’re hopeful for the sitting president’s ability to fire up a new generation of right-wingers, many of whom were not even old enough to vote in the 2016 election. According to Turning Point’s own data, since the acquisition, S4T has received 2,500 inquiries about starting college chapters at Division I universities alone. Not all of these will formally become chapters, but if accurate, it’s a palpable sign of support.
Tonight, at the Palms (owned, incidentally, by the Fertitta brothers, reportedly major Trump donors), Vegas visitors will hit up the residencies of Cardi B and G-Eazy. And a few doors down, the push for the million wide-eyed new Trump voters will launch.
“It’s a fun opportunity to get people engaged, get people excited, and get people moving in the same direction,” the Turning Point Action spokesman says. “I think 2020 is going to challenge the conventional thinking about the youth vote.”