Young conservative comes public about his switch at age 17.

What Women Really Think
July 3 2012 11:40 AM

Conservative Wunderkind Grows Out of It

Young Republicans.
Children sit at a table as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a press availability following a visit to his Michigan campaign headquarters on Feb. 28, 2012 in Livonia, Mich.

Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As I noted in last week's post about the Texas GOP platform, there's a strong thread throughout right-wing culture of seeing child-rearing not as a process of forming adults who can think for themselves, but of creating automatons who can echo conservative talking points, to fill the gap until science has developed robots that can screech "Obamacare is socialism!" without provoking the unease of the uncanny valley. Lest you think this is an exaggeration, let me point to the strange right-wing trend of cooing over young adolescents who can do remarkable, though unnerving, imitations of conservative demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, like 14-year-old homophobic radio show host Caiden Cowger or Jonathan Krohn, who became the darling of the right at 13 by making an ideology-defining speech at CPAC. It's tough, because it's good to see young people get involved in politics and go through that process of learning who they are and what they believe. But often these conservative wunderkinds cross the line from being rewarded for their involvement, and instead seem like their elders are trying to nail them down at an early age and make going back on their childish beliefs that much harder for them later on. I was a teenage debate team nerd, but I'm grateful my elders let me keep it in the classroom instead of broadcasting my nascent attempts at opinionating.

All of which is why I'm boggled at the courage that Krohn is showing at the age of 17 to come out and express his regrets about being a youthful parrot for right wing ideology. The intelligence that was easy to see in his 13-year-old self backfired on the adults who were grooming him, because it caused him to be, oh noes, curious and led him to start reading and thinking and eventually, he thought his way out of conservatism. I can certainly relate to that, having grown up in a Republican family and environment and thinking I was a Republican until the build-up of doubts from my own reading and thinking caused me to "switch sides," much to my family's continuing chagrin. It happens, which is why the Texas GOP is so intent on shielding minors as much as possible from being exposed to ideas or even facts that run counter to their ideology. It's the eternal conundrum of raising kids on the right. The smart ones are an asset, because they can put those brains to use for your cause. But the smart ones are also the ones that will struggle more when they're young with the contradictions and hypocrisies of the right, and therefore are the likeliest to defect.

Advertisement

Either way, I wish Krohn well and want to welcome him to our semi-secret club of once-Republicans who grew out of it. We don't often talk about our secret shame with our always-liberal friends, but we're out there. This part is the hardest, especially when it comes to disappointing your family. I promise you that it gets better. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.