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The Conservative Critic




This weekend Free Press Fail journeyed across this great nation to the Phoenix, Arizona (Maricopa County no less) to witness the largest multi-day conservative conference in the country, America Fest (AmFest), hosted by Turning Point USA (TPUSA). Corinne Clark Barron and me, Jennifer Zilla, bravely ventured into a sea of college aged youths (the target for TPUSA and the event) to see what it was all about. 

If you’re not familiar with TPUSA you should be. It is an organization headed by Charlie Kirk which seeks to empower and educate young people on the concepts of liberty and free markets. But the organization, which started in 2012, has become a lot more of an ideological movement than those basic principles. Now, with a massive following, TPUSA is one of the most influential conservative organizations in the country and it is on the front lines helping young people choose the right side of the political fight. 

The TPUSA organization has long held smaller format events such as their Women’s Leadership forum (they’re now starting a men’s leadership forum which is pretty exciting) but the America Fest brand started only in 2021 to much fanfare and attendance. Free Press Fail decided immediately we needed to be part of the movement. 

So attend we did and here were the best, worst, and weirdest moments of the second annual TPUSA America Fest according to me: 

Best: Tucker Carlson opening night 

Tucker Carlson went about 45 minutes longer than he was supposed to but you would never have noticed. With a roster of amazing speakers, Carlson remained my favorite through the entire event. With no notes, he was completely authentic and likable. Even as he presented the crisis in our country as a battle between good and evil (a word he does not like to use) he was able to keep a warmth and mirth about his person. He laughed at himself several times and spent quite a bit of his talk reminding the crowd that it is our moral responsibility to be cheerful and to live happily and that mission is all part of this great battle against evil we are fighting. I dang near cried.

Best: Packed room for Kari Lake 

On night two, Kari Lake was the big closer. A lot of folks had been in and out of the convention hall watching speakers from the big screens they had in the VIP area or checking out the booths in the marketplace. But when Kari Lake took the stage, everyone crowded back into the seats to show solidarity. Being that we were in Maricopa County, it felt important to everyone there that we show Kari in her house that we back her and that we showed the mainstream media (who were all in attendance but conspicuously covered nothing from this event) that we support her. When I asked fellow standing-room only attendees why they came back in for Kari instead of watching on the screens they said “I wanted the room to look full for her.” That whole crowd had her back and let me tell you, election integrity is not an issue the base is walking away from. That is a complete lie perpetuated by cowards like the current RNC heads and the media. 

Best: It was Trump’s event and he wasn’t even there

Despite the narrative of feckless influencers, grifters, and power hungry hopefuls; there is no one less over for conservative voters than President Donald J. Trump and now I have witnessed this truth with my own eyes. If anyone had taken that stage and said anything less than Donald J. Trump is the greatest thing since Jesus Christ; they’d have been eaten alive. The speakers list was packed full of allies (which isn’t because TPUSA particularly cares to support Trump on their own – it’s because they know the demand). Donald Trump Jr. was one of the most attended and most rowdy speaker sessions and Kimberly Guilfoyle (major Trump ally and paramore of Donald Trump Jr.) was so popular that the young men at the conference leapt to their feet and charged the stage when she came on like she was a rock star. Kayleigh McEnany also made it despite having birthed a child only 19 days before. That’s not to mention Steve Bannon, Mike Lindell and the other small army of Trump loyalists who were the primary headliners. The MAGA and “Trump” chants resounded through the entire event and every person I spoke to – many who were also Floridians – agreed that Donald Trump was the only person they’d support in 2024 and they really hoped that other people they like a lot (Daddy DeSantis) aren’t stupid enough to join the primary. Their words. Also my words. 

Best: Radical womanhood

Not to be confused with radical feminism, radical womanhood (a term I think I made up) was on full display at TPUSA AmFest. Radical womanhood – in my mind – is fighting back against the removal of the word “woman” from vocabulary by the progressive trans movement and fighting back against the devalue of the power of womanly biology which the progressive left has long perpetuated through abortion, gender confusion, and celebration of the ugly. The women at TPUSA include Kayleigh McEnenany, Candace Owens, performer Raelynn and Kimberly Guilfoyle, all encouraged conservative women to embrace their feminine spirits and feel the joy that God gave us as mothers, wives, executives, lawyers, teachers and anything in between. Kayleigh had given birth just 19 days prior to taking the stage. Candace had given birth a few months before. Raelynn brought her baby daughter on stage and sang a brand new song about raising her right. Kimberly wore big lashes, bold makeup and glossy hair and spoke audaciously. No woman on that stage felt afraid to be beautiful, be smart, be kind and celebrate motherhood and love. The message was clear: there is no such thing as a “person who menstruates” or a “chest feeding person” or a “birthing person.” Being a woman is something to be proud of and not to blur with political nonsense about nonbinary genders. In the words of Raelynn “God made girls.” 

Best: Taking back America’s Men 

TPUSA announced a men’s leadership summit and a lot of the speakers spent time talking about the dangers our men are facing today and how we truly have invented an entire generation of lost boys. The left and media have spent so much time promoting “marginalized” agendas (mostly the gay agenda) and celebrating a powerless beta version of the American male, our boys have been robbed of the challenges and training they need to become worthwhile men. We are in a crisis of porn addiction, marijuana dependency and suicide. TPUSA is helping men make a comeback and I’m here for it. 

Weirdest (But Best): Alex Stein 

I didn’t know much about Alex Stein other than his viral video cat calling AOC but he attended the event as a special guest of a few social activities and he on more than one occasion saved a party or a segment from being boring and brought a lot of life into the group. I never saw him deny a fan a photo (he must have taken literally hundreds of selfies with mainly young fans) and he really lit up a room. After doing some research on his story, experiencing his intentionally absurdist and bombastic comedy and seeing him bring what I can only describe as ‘gorilla joyfare’ to large crowds- Alex Stein is someone I deeply respect. 

Wildest (still Best): Project Veritas After Party 

I really didn’t know what to expect of a party full of a bunch of political dorks (including me). But James O’Keefe and the Veritas crew really knew how to throw a rager. The party was on par with the ones my friends and I threw in the privacy of our homes through our 20s just on a much bigger scale. There was dancing, there were performances and O’Keefe himself actually had some decent moves. The thing I liked about it was that at no time did I feel any sense that there was a safety issue. It was a rager that kept things fun but never devolved into something insidious. I never felt compelled to help a young girl away from anyone or make sure she knew where her friends were or get her a cab or a water – and that is very unusual for me at a party of this scale. So I really have to hand it to O’Keefe and the Veritas family that they knew how to make something extremely rowdy and fun without it falling apart.

Worst: Phoenix is an Anti-Diet Coke city 

I ran into a TPUSA staffer in the elevator on my way out of town and he asked me if I had any feedback to improve the event and I genuinely did not. It was an incredibly well done event. In the light of day do I have ideas on how to make it even bigger and even better, IDK maybe? But really the whole thing was spot on. 

So the only ‘worst’ I’m willing to give is that for some reason Phoenix hates Diet Coke and that is a problem for me as an addict. The hotel I was at only had Diet Pepsi. FINE! The Convention Center was also Pepsi only and by the way, it was more valuable than gold they were constantly selling out. And then I went off campus to a breakfast place and I asked for Diet Coke and the waiter said “We don’t have any diet products” and I laughed. I laughed, kids. Because I thought he must be joking. He was not joking. I also went off campus to three separate bars (two of which were irish/english style pubs which were very cute) and they all only had Diet Pepsi. I got by but it was a very dark time for me.