Meghan McCain has earned some well-deserved grief around these parts for her recent statement that “revolutions start with young people.” Revolutions start with ideas and people with the courage to fight for them, regardless of age.
Then again, when you see Jonathan Krohn, the fourteen-year-old columnist for Human Events and author of Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back, you almost have to wonder if she wasn’t on to something after all.
Jonathan is the subject of a recent Daily Beast profile by Samuel P. Jacobs:
Just north of bar mitzvah age and south of five feet tall, Jonathan became the dauphin of the right wing with a two-minute speech at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. With a child actor’s self-possession, Jonathan took the stage and called for a return to first principles. He’s the closest thing Republicans have to a Jonas Brother of their own, and Jonathan returns to the conservative conference this week after a year spent sharing the stage with Miss America Carrie Prejean at Tea Party rallies, trading jabs with Bill Bennett on his talk-radio show, and penning columns for right-wing Web sites.
“Here’s the deal,” he says, “I’m not like a lot of my colleagues who think President Obama’s goal is trying to harm the country. That’s insanity. That’s out there. That’s loony tunes.” Instead, Jonathan sees himself as the grownup in the conservative caucus. He downplays loud yappers on talk radio. “Sean Hannity is a very angry guy,” he says. He believes that conservatism’s strengths are self-evident, although prides himself on a catholic worldview. “I don’t just read conservatism by Bill Buckley,” he says.
Jonathan rattles off statistics about test scores and the GDP. That turns to a discussion of how under-regulation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae led to the financial crisis. He would like to see Palin wonk out a bit. He’d love for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to run in 2012. And if Daniels doesn’t go, then his fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich.
Jonathan has been making the cable news rounds for a while now, speaking confidently about politics and displaying an obvious passion for the country and familiarity with current events. His book is an overview of conservative philosophy as he understands it, advocating a back-to-basics return to core principles.
Jacobs’ profile is positive overall, though he implies that Jonathan possesses arrogance beyond his years: “Jonathan sees himself as the grownup in the conservative caucus…‘You may remember in the ’80s,’ the young man born in 1995 begins to say. Jonathan does this a lot.” Last March, The American Spectator’s Jeremy Lott panned Krohn’s previous book (Define Conservatism, minus the “-ing”) as embarrassingly simplistic.
The kid may not be a young David Horowitz or Jonah Goldberg, and based on Lott’s review, his probably shouldn’t be the final word on conservatism’s definition, but that’s no reason to pile on him. At fourteen, Jonathan’s got a lot of learning and reflection ahead of him, but most of us went through the same thing, are still going through it, and can expect to keep learning—and he’s got a darn good head-start. Heck, my interest in politics didn’t even begin ‘till I was around his age, and if there’s anything my continuing education has taught me, it’s how much more sophisticated and tricky political philosophy can be compared to the impression one gets from cable and punditry alone.
One of the first political books I ever read was Sean Hannity’s Let Freedom Ring, which, looking back on it now, was a little on the simple side, too. But people have to start somewhere, and even a basic, nuance-light overview of conservatism can be tremendously valuable as an introduction to the Right, by offering a glimpse of beliefs rooted in a desire to help the country, reasons to believe our ideas work better than the other side’s, and what can be for many the first indication they’ve ever seen that conservatives have motives other than greed and hatred.
Jonathan Krohn’s got a long career ahead of him, and there will be plenty of time in the future to compare him to the big dogs. But in the meantime, let’s be grateful he’s providing a rare voice that can appeal to a generation desperately in need of conservative alternatives.