In the last two weeks, Candace Owens has exploded onto the political scene. Beginning with Kanye West’s famous tweet, her life has been a whirlwind of television and radio appearances and speeches. The Left is attacking her viciously, while some on the right view her as a potential savior.
Candace spent yesterday in Minnesota. As Scott described here, she spoke at a lunch forum for Center of the American Experiment, the think tank that I run. We booked Candace before her sudden burst of publicity–sometimes you get lucky–and ticket sales went through the roof as her fame grew. Ultimately, 550 people attended the lunch forum. Candace said that she was stunned both by the size of the crowd and the warmth of her reception.
Her original purpose in coming to Minnesota was to speak at St. Olaf College, 30 miles or so South of the Twin Cities, at an event sponsored by Turning Point USA, the organization for which she works. (That event was organized by my daughter, who is the TPUSA president at St. Olaf, and I got the idea of inviting Owens to speak from her.) My wife and I drove Candace to St. Olaf for the evening event, which we attended, and back to her hotel in Minneapolis. So as it turned out, I spent a good part of the day with her. Since she is the woman of the hour, I offer these observations for what they are worth.
1) She gave a terrific speech to the Center audience. Her theme of individual empowerment–especially black empowerment–is powerful. The speech was as enthusiastically received as any I have seen. This short series of clips gives you a good idea of her style and some of her themes:
The audience, as you would expect, was mostly white, but we did draw a good number of African-Americans. During the Q and A session, a middle-aged black woman prefaced her question by saying that she had been waiting for decades for someone like Owens to come along.
2) Candace is tremendously likable. Scott noted that she is beautiful, which actually understates the case. But appearance is at most a door-opener. She exudes warmth and genuineness, on stage as well as privately. Five minutes before our lunch event was supposed to begin, I was nervous because I had seen no sign of her. I made my way to the rear of the ballroom, and found her there, taking selfies with members of the audience. We worked our way back to the front of the room, slowly because she stopped to greet and take pictures with all the student tables. When the event was over, she posed for pictures with–I am not exaggerating–100 to 200 people.
3) Her speech at the college was very different from the one she gave at the lunch forum. There was perhaps a 30% overlap in material, with the rest being different. And in a smaller hall, talking to an audience of college students, her tone was quite different. She explained afterward that she never writes a speech, but rather starts talking and tries to gauge the audience and relate to it. Which she does extraordinarily well. This ability cannot be the product of her still-modest experience; it must be a gift.
4) After the St. Olaf speech, she got together with a group of 25 or 30 kids who are members of Turning Point. She chatted happily with them and posed for another round of photos, despite the long day she had already put in.
5) Spending time with Candace Owens made me want to be 28 again. After giving two strenuous speeches and mixing with two groups of fans, we got her back to her hotel at around 9:30, still without having had anything to eat. She was up at 5:00 this morning for a remote appearance on Fox & Friends. The subject was a vicious op-ed that the New York Times published, attacking Candace as a “dangerous” figure (but also a “puppet”). Here is her segment:
6) President Trump is a major Candace Owens fan. I suspect that he saw her appearance on Fox & Friends, because shortly after he tweeted:
Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country. She represents an ever expanding group of very smart “thinkers,” and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
7) Candace understands and articulates clearly why the Left hates her. The Democrats are used to getting 90% or more of black votes, and they need them. If they drop down to only, say, 70% of black votes, they can’t win a national election. This is why they are in a constant state of hysteria, trying to keep black voters in line. Someone like Candace Owens, an appealing person who preaches a message of black competence, black independence and black individualism, represents a serious threat.
Candace gets Google Alerts on her name to learn, as she said, more about herself. She commented last night that the only positive account of her that came through on Google Alerts yesterday was Scott’s post on her American Experiment appearance.
8) Kanye West has been under tremendous pressure to recant his support for Owens and for free thought, but Candace is convinced that he won’t be intimidated. She expects him to double down on black independence, and thinks that other African-American celebrities will join in. We will see.
9) A few on the right have suggested that Candace might be a phony. I saw absolutely no sign of this. While a relatively recent convert, she understands conservative principles. She cites Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell as influences. And her insistence that black Americans’ futures need not be dictated by their past is plainly a passionately held conviction.
10) Even before Candace burst onto the scene, I thought that Turning Point USA is one of our most effective conservative organizations, and the most effective one on college campuses. Now that Owens is teaming up with Charlie Kirk, that is doubly true. TPUSA is an organization worthy of your support.
11) If you get the impression that I liked Candace, you are right. She was as engaging offstage as on. I suppose sudden fame could spoil her, or she could succumb to one pitfall or another. The Left, of course, is lying in wait for her to make a mistake. But my guess is that she will be a significant force on the right, and in American public life, for many years to come.