Opinion / December 6, 2019

Fuentes Impresses Crowd in Iowa: Brief recap and Analysis

Nick Fuentes, a Conservative political figure and host of “America First”, gave a well received speech at the “Quad Cities Immigration Forum” on Monday in Bettendorf, Iowa, which was followed by local controversy and plans for an upcoming protest. The forum, hosted by Scott County Teenage Republicans, was organized to highlight the drastic consequences of illegal immigration. Among the attendees were many “angel parents” from Iowa and across the country.

During most of the event, it appeared that the topics of discussion were: A desire to complete the wall, the dangers of socialism, open-borders democrats, and advocating support for Trump’s re-election. We know this is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for your average Trump voter to get fired up over, especially among those with views that fall under the umbrella of what is currently considered mainstream conservatism. Basically this event was going exactly how you imagined it would be.

Then Fuentes entered, taking to the podium to deliver the forum’s grande finale. Unlike other speakers, a majority of Fuentes’ speech was (as you might expect) about what he views as a top issue our country is facing: Demographic change through mass LEGAL immigration, along with the economic, political, and social shifts that said change brings. Those familiar with arguments he makes on this issue can probably guess what some of the pillars of his speech were; voting trends, changing culture, economic costs, demographic winter, what a nation is, becoming a minority, etc. It was a great speech, packed with all the right talking points and relevant facts we’ve become accustomed to hearing in a variety of settings. There was a notable applause at the end followed by a 10 minute Q&A, during which nobody disavowed or even really got upset with anything that was said during the speech.

Along with the content of Fuentes’ speech, what was also impressive was the framing and delivery, which seemed specifically tuned for the audience of the forum, in this case MAGA boomers, and which drove the speech beyond surface level rhetoric into something that really sold the crowd. The ability to frame things in a more mainstream way with solid delivery requires a certain degree of political savviness and social intelligence that often goes under-appreciated but is vital to winning people over.

In the beginning, there was also a solid effort to build rapport with the audience by mentioning that like Trump, there are nasty articles about controversial things Nick has said, and like Trump in 2015/2016, he is also in a battle with the conservative establishment. Furthermore, Nick mentions that he campaigned for Trump in New Hampshire and stresses the importance of re-election to avoid radical policies of Democratic candidates, which were then explained. Already, the crowd seemed like it was relating to Nick or at least engaged and curious to see what his controversial positions are. 

After a brief statement on the negative effects on illegal immigration and how that is still a major issue, the speech segwayed into the issue of demographic change, which opened up with this exchange:

Fuentes: “If you don’t oppose legal immigration and demographic change, what do you think you get ultimately when all these states turn blue….What is the inevitable outcome?”

“Socialism” a man in the audience says

Fuentes: “You’re exactly right….you get socialism”

Now, there are obviously big concerns besides socialism, but stressing the socialism aspect first and not diving into more fringe aspects right away is the right framing to use with this kind of audience, the reason being obviously that you can start to win them over with cookie cutter stuff everyone is open to agreeing with before easing into other concerns and the bigger picture which may trigger some deeper thinking. Again, a lot of this is common sense.

Throughout the speech, different subjects are brought in a digestible way that would resonate with the average Trump voter who is concerned about immigration but may be unsure about what is considered more “fringe”, and that’s fine. Examples of this included: Welfare costs, The death of the GOP through demographic winter, demographics changing neighborhoods and culture, studies by Borjas, what really comprises a nation, being a minority in your own country, etc. Talking about this in a more broad sense without going all the way is not “Optics cucking” or “Backing down” as cringenats like to say, rather it’s adjusting your message based on the audience in order to appeal to the mainstream. After all, isn’t becoming more mainstream and not being isolated the end goal? 

The framing and delivery used during Fuentes’ speech are part of an overall presentation strategy that will win people over, to me it seems almost as important as the relevant facts in the speech itself. Think of it as the difference between someone who can actually sell a message on their own and build a movement with organic followers vs your average conservative inc. pundit who has mediocre clout because they can’t articulate anything, and are only somewhat relevant because of connections or willingness to kiss ass (sometimes both). 

So yes, it’s great to be big-brained and knowledgeable on the relevant facts, but an  exceptional delivery is also very important. It’s a big driver behind Nick’s success and why more and more mainstream republicans and conservative figures have been more open to hearing him out and discussing central issues that the dissident right is pushing.

Now unfortunately, the group holding the event and Rep. Shilling did disavow Fuentes after they got harrased about letting him speak, but it’s telling that the speech was well received in person and nobody was even upset during the Q&A. It seems that the optics are continuing to shift and this performative disavowing can’t go on forever.

You can watch the full speech here