The unfortunate news came Tuesday that Ty Hicks, the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Field Director who declared that all Trump supporters are racist, has been promoted to Executive Vice President of YAL. This news comes on the heels of the election of Donald Trump, who received support from a wide swath of youth activists from across the conservative and libertarian movements, some of whom are YAL activists. The anti establishment wave that swept through the nation this year has energized the right wing in a way that we haven’t seen in a very long time, a position that libertarians should be poised to capitalize on with a bold populist message. Unfortunately, this latest move sends a message that the YAL leadership does not share this vision of the future and is perhaps growing insensitive to the prospect of alienating wide swaths of the conservative movement. To understand how we got here, let’s briefly review the events of recent months.
The first sign of controversy with YAL occurred when Ty Hicks issued a post on a YAL Chapter Presidents Facebook group declaring that “YAL National does not support hosting Milo Yiannopoulos events, and any event featuring him must be disassociated with the YAL brand entirely”. Cliff Maloney then stated that this was a post which was made in error, that Ty had made a post of personal preference that was being interpreted as a statement of policy, and that Milo’s relationship with YAL remained unchanged. That being said, sources from within YAL revealed that the YAL leadership at Michigan State was told that YAL was not to host Milo at their campus. A pinned post on the Michigan State YAL Facebook Page which states that “Young Americans for Liberty at Michigan State University is no longer the host of the Milo Yiannopoulos visit on December 7th. Event control has been transferred to Spartans for Free Speech. All tickets are still valid” provides further evidence to substantiate this allegation. It is worth pointing out that some YAL chapters in the south did host Milo this past fall, which is certainly evidence contradicting the allegation. What we know is that Ty Hicks made a statement in regards to this matter which he represented as an official YAL policy, yet turned out to not be according to Cliff Maloney. That sort of behavior is not leadership, and certainly not deserving of promotion.
But, to be frank, that particular incident paled in comparison to the disgusting attack on tens of millions of Americans that Ty launched on his public Facebook page. Citing a story of a church burning in Mississippi that turned out to be a hoax, Hicks claimed that he did not see how anyone could consciously vote for Donald Trump without some level of serious racial prejudice in their worldview.
Hicks has still not apologized despite repeated calls to do so (he was contacted prior to the publishing of this piece and has not responded to our request for comment), and even defended his statement at the time by attacking the author of the piece for daring to criticize a public statement he made as a leader of a student group. He characterized the publication of his bigoted statements as “slander”. Even after Trump’s election, even after the string of leftist abuse of conservatives that has surrounded the aftermath of it, and even after the very story Hicks cited in labeling all Trump supporters as racially prejudiced was proven to be false he has still refused to apologize for this incorrigible statement. How is such a statement defensible in an era where the majority of people who we hope to convert into our cause voted for Donald Trump?
Some of you may be asking “Why does this matter?” and feel inclined to defend a young person who posted something stupid on Facebook as not deserving of being criticized so harshly over this. But let’s be very clear about what is at stake here; for the first time in 8 years factions of the right wing youth movement other than libertarians have gained serious momentum. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, except that we (libertarians) have stalled as this has occurred. Why has this happened? Because we let somebody else take the position of the bold, daring activists who challenge the status quo in a radical fashion. Suddenly we have rumblings of the most radical, bold and daring activist of them all (Milo Yiannopolous) being banned from YAL events, with Ty Hicks at the center of it. Suddenly most of the people who are doing the bold, daring activism on campus are being labeled as racially prejudiced. During the rise of an anti establishment fervor the National Field Director (now Executive Vice President) of YAL has positioned himself as being completely incapable of harnessing that fervor in favor of the cause of liberty.
The Trump movement is the single greatest coalition building opportunity libertarians have had since Ron Paul’s retirement, and anyone who doesn’t recognize and attempt to take advantage of that is useless in an outreach position such as leading a student group. Anybody who doubts that we need these people must not have been on the ground as activists during the 2016 campaign. Many of us who worked hard for Rand Paul had friends who we assumed would be in our camp that ultimately flocked to Donald Trump due to this anti establishment fervor. Those people are essential to a winning libertarian coalition and pushing them away actively aids statism and harms liberty.
There is also a basic human element to this that cannot be ignored. Ty Hicks literally called the liberty movement’s primary target audience a group which you could not be part of without harboring serious racial prejudice. My parents are Donald Trump supporters, many of my friends in the conservative movement are Donald Trump supporters, most of the people who I end up working with on the ground during intra party fights are Donald Trump supporters, and I don’t feel comfortable asking those people to support Young Americans for Liberty knowing that a member of their leadership team thinks those people are a bunch of racists. If you don’t understand why this is a problem you are not mature enough to lead a major organization.
To be clear, I say all of this because Young Americans for Liberty is the most important group in the liberty movement without question or comparison. Nobody has done more on the ground to help liberty candidates, nobody has launched more young people into a career and/or life of activism, and nobody has done more to build the libertarian message among young people. It is specifically because of this past success that any action which threatens it as seriously as such a heinous attack on the target audience of this group must be addressed with swift and decisive action. Ty Hicks should apologize for his statement, make clear that he does not believe Trump supporters are all racially prejudiced and outline specific steps for how YAL plans to take advantage of the anti establishment fervor that Trump has harnessed. Anything less displays a lack of leadership that the liberty movement simply cannot afford to bear at this crucial time.