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Thursday, December 8, 2016

“And a little child shall lead them.” — Isaiah 11:6

Jonathan Krohn is a symbol of what is wrong in American politics.

That is a not a character assessment. To whatever degree one can judge such things from a distance, he seems a decent kid — smart, likable, nerdy, a 17-year-old Georgia boy bound for New York University in the fall.

But in 2009, just before he turned 14, Krohn gave a short speech at CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference — video of which went viral and made him a star. Preternaturally poised for an adolescent — or for anybody, come to think of it — he outlined his four “principles” of conservatism. Conservatives fell in love. Someone in the audience actually ululated with joy. He was interviewed on Fox “News.” Newt Gingrich blurbed his self-published book.

Three years later, conservatives hate him. “Douche” and “vacuous freak” are among the more printable things they are calling him in online forums.

Krohn’s sin? He changed his mind. He now embraces marriage equality and health-care reform, among other apostasies of conservatism. The news broke a few days ago in an interview with Politico. Conservatism, it seems, was just a phase he was going through. Not that Krohn now considers himself a liberal. No, he rejects the very idea that we must be defined by political ideology.

Good for him.

Here is a newsflash for those bemoaning Krohn’s defection: kids change, they try on different identities. Conservatism was simply Krohn’s version of Goth attire or Bieber fever. Given that he is still a kid, he may have some entirely new passion six months from now.

The fact that so many on the political right had such faith in the utterances of a child, the fact that they feel so profoundly betrayed now, suggests the degree to which our perception of, and relationship to, political ideology has changed in the years since Ronald Reagan rode off into the sunset. Back then, ideology was something that guided you. Now, it is something that defines you, a thing you are (like your race or religion), as opposed to a thing you merely support.