The future of the conservative movement presented himself on Friday, and he was 13.
Jonathan Krohn, the author of "Define Conservatism" and political prodigy voted "Atlanta's Most Talented Child" in 2006, was the talk of the Conservative Political Action Conference for a brief portion of the afternoon session.
His two-minute address on "Conservative Victories Across the Nation" covered the lost principles of the Republican Party, which he called the "shell" to conservatism's "filling." It was filled with the type of rhetorical flow and emotional pitch one would expect from a seasoned hand. Except, Korn is more than four years away from being able to vote.
Certainly, it was enough to win him a whole host of plaudits, from his co-panelists to the big-name attendees. "Watch out David Keene," said Millie Hallow, the moderator of the panel, in reference to the conservative luminary who heads CPAC.
"He came up to me, grabbed my hand, and shook it," said Joe the Plumber. "If I didn't know any better I would say he was 30 years old. He definitely has a great confidence about him. I enjoyed talking with him.... He's definitely sharp."
How, exactly, a 13-year-old (Krohn turns 14 on Sunday) got to this place is story of an intense, downright obsessive, interest in politics. Sitting at a table and signing copies his books -- his red tie flopping on top of the white tablecloth, a flag pin pinched to his sports coat -- he assigns credit for his fast ascension to none other than Bill Bennett.
"I got into politics when I was eight years old. Six years now. And I got involved because I started listening to talk radio. It goes back to one event. The Democrats filibustered something in the Senate when I was eight years old. I don't remember what it was on and I didn't honestly care when I was eight years old. I cared about the history and the Senate rules," he told the Huffington Post. "I listened to Bill Bennett and tons of other talk show hosts who talked about that and other policies and started branching out and caring about other issues in regards to politics. Bill Bennett really became an idol for me. I listened to him every morning from 6 to 9 for, oh, years. And I started learning more and started to be able to think on my own, understanding politics on my own. I started to be able to use my mind to engage in political conversations under the conservative banner."
He talks fast and with high-pitched emotion (no cracking of the voice), often banging his two fists against the table (each one holding a pen) for dramatic effect. His mother, naturally protective, reminds him at one point that he's talking to a reporter from the Huffington Post.
"I know he is a liberal," he replies. "But you are not the first liberal I talked to at CPAC."
The topic on his mind - or at least mine - is how the Republican Party can resurrect itself. "Conservatism, conservatism, conservatism..." he replies. Whether these are talking points, I'm not sure. Either way, he has them down. "A lot of people say to me, 'oh, you're a Republican.' And I say, 'No, I'm a conservative.' I'm a Republican when I support candidates. When I talk about the party I'm affiliated with I'm a Republican. But when it comes to what I am, I'm a conservative."
It was, Krohn says, an abandonment of philosophy that brought the GOP to its current state; on issues from immigration reform to bailouts. "I think they started losing it because the American people saw the American party wasn't really based on conservatism," he says.
And it will only be when Republicans return to their core conservative beliefs that electoral power will be reassumed. It's an idea the majority of CPAC participants ardently believe. But he's the only 13-year-old waxing philosophically about them.
As for his choices for president, Krohn talks, once more, like a seasoned vet. "I would love to see Newt Gingrich," he said. "But it's impossible to see him up there. I don't see him doing it. I would love Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney as well."
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