Remember Jonathan Krohn? He was the 13-year-old kid who delivered a right-wing speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, the video of which went viral. Following his sudden Internet fame, he made appearances on dozens of political television and radio shows. Billed as the future of the Republican party, Krohn even wrote a book titled Define Conservatism. Well, it turns out that although Krohn can still define conservatism, he no longer chooses to label himself that way, instead expressing a number of liberal viewpoints to Politico.
A little more than three years after his popular CPAC speech, Krohn has definitely shifted his ideologies. For one, he likes the new health care legislation. He also supports same-sex marriage. Not to mention that his favorite television series are “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” As for the upcoming presidential election, he says he would most likely vote for Barack Obama… that is if he were actually able to vote. He is only seventeen, after all.
It is rare for the media to pay attention to teenagers’ political views, particularly those under voting age. However, when Krohn initially spouted the conservative talking points, he became a welcome younger face for the Republicans, a party often associated with an older crowd. Pundits including Newt Gingrich, William Bennett and Mike Gallagher all heralded Krohn at the time.
That same speech that brought him so much attention is now hard for Krohn to stomach. He chalks it up to naivety. “That speech was something that a 13-year-old does,” Krohn tells Politico. “You haven’t formed all your opinions. You’re really defeating yourself if you think you have all of your ideas in your head when you were 12 or 13.”
Krohn credits his pursuit of education for changing his ideological ties. “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,” he said. “It wasn’t me thinking. It was just me saying things I had heard so long from people I thought were interesting and just came to believe for some reason, without really understanding it.” Perhaps this is why the Texas Republican party opposes the teaching of critical thinking skills.
Four years ago, critics accused Krohn’s parents of brainwashing their child. His mother and father denied this charge, which seems more plausible now that Krohn has developed opposing views. That is not to say it was an easy transition, however. “Neither of them were overjoyed, but it didn’t really make a difference in their respect and love for me,” Krohn said.
Krohn does admit that he has gotten a lot of flack from other people who say he is wasting a great opportunity. They believe he could use his notoriety to run for political office or become an even more famous Republican pundit. Krohn insists that this concession is no big loss, as he would not be able to pursue a career that clashed with his values anyway.
That’s not to say that Krohn is out of politics entirely. After all he’s been through, he cannot help but keep up with political news, even dabbling in writing some political satire. For the time being, though, his plans are to take philosophy and filmmaking classes when he begins attending New York University in the fall.
Notably, despite his increasingly left-wing viewpoints, Krohn is unwilling to label himself a “liberal” at this point. “I’m tired of being an ideology,” Krohn says, acknowledging his folly of blindly aligning with a political party previously. He may only be seventeen, but that is a lesson plenty of adults still have yet to learn.