In 2009, thirteen year old Wunderkind Jonathan Krohn took CPAC by storm, now 3 1/2 years late, he’s no longer a conservative:
“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” said Krohn. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues.…
Krohn is bucking the received wisdom that people become more conservative as they get older, a shift he attributes partly to philosophy.
“I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff,” Krohn said. “I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful.”
Politico’s ability to state that Krohn’s moving in his late teens while reading German philosophy is “bucking trends” is beyond absurd. Moving left as you enter your college year particularly if you read German philosophy. It’s so cliched that the Independent 1980s Christian film Geronimo included this as a major reason for the main character’s drift. The point about being growing more conservative is that you grow more conservative as you live life: get married, have kids, and start paying taxes, not that you become more conservative between puberty and learning to drive.
It should also be added that plenty of people go the opposite way. One friend of mine was Hispanic and adopted son of a liberal Boston Jewish family. He grew up to be to the right of me and attending a hard core fundamentalist church in Virginia.
Of course, the only reason Krohn’s “ideological evolution” is news now is the gusto with which conservatives embraced him. Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity gave him major airplay and numerous conservatives. For my own part, while I wasn’t his biggest cheerleader, I was cautiously optimistic about him and said conservatives should give the kid a shot. At the same time, I warned about other teen conservative pundits that flamed out:
Kyle Williams is perhaps the most obvious example. He began writing for WorldNetDaily.com in 2001 at age 12 and also had a book published. He got in a speech at the National Press Club and a few TV interviews before he mostly disappeared, except for his weekly article for WND every Saturday.
I read Williams’ column with interest, but it began to take a turn towards the end. My wife remarked, “Someone that young shouldn’t be this cynical.” Williams went from conservative cheerleading to dishing on conservatives and their causes. Williams was struggling with who he was, what he believed, and what he wanted to do with his life in front of an audience of thousands. Williams ended his column in 2005 at the age of sixteen.
Another teenager, Hans Zieger, began a column at age seventeen and ended up writing for WorldNetDaily.com as well. He had a unique focus on issues relating to the liberal assault on the Boy Scouts and wrote a book on the topic, as well as another one called Reagan’s Children. He “retired” at twenty-one at the end of 2006, declaring, “I don’t know enough to be weekly offering my opinions as though possessed of some eminence.” Zieger is now a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative alternative to the ACLU.
Despite this, I said, “Give the kid a chance.” While I had my reasons for doing it and could take the easy pundit “out” of saying, “If I had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.” The fact is that I got wrong.
Why did I get it wrong? Because I sympathized with Krohn and in one way envied him. I’d begun writing letters to the editor when I was ten and eleven and began writing columns when I was fourteen, but it took until I was nearly 23 before any website took my work. Krohn and others like Williams enjoyed a great and very real success with their books and the media attention they’ve received that’s quite remarkable.
But for me the story of Jonathan Krohn proves to me that years of frustration and obscurity may be good for the young political wanna be pundit. Perhaps, it’d be well if before a young person earns a platform to express themselves nationally that they actually have grown enough to know who they are. My political life was spent doing a lot of listening and a lot of working for unborn children outside of abortion clinics not going on Hannity, and I can’t help but think that’ s healthier.
And for the rest of the adult conservatives who welcomed and encouraged Mr. Krohn’s iconic status, what can explain it? The appeal of the very young conservatives is the idea of hope. We see thousands of kids observing Earth Day and spouting whatever nonsense they picked up at their local schools. It seems refreshing when a young person expresses a conservative viewpoint no matter how undeveloped it is. But it’s not fair to the child who, whether they’ll remain conservative or not, is no condition to make a major decision about their career and future in punditry.
I don’t think that young interested people should be discouraged from being involved in politics. They should be involved, but they should do so in a quiet way, volunteer for campaigns, write on a blog, write for an ezine. Don’t parade them around in front of three thousand activists and millions on television because they happen to be under 18. It’s not the duty of sincere attention-seeking kids to make these boundaries, but it falls to activists, conservative media, and especially parents.