A 13-year old conservative author upstaged Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week. Jonathan Krohn's brief remarks, captured here on video, laid out a definition of conservatism that wowed the VIP audience.
He said he was inspired to write his book "Define Conservatism" because during the Presidential campaign "too many people who threw the term around who didn't understand what they were talking about (applause). They didn't understand what conservatism was. They didn't understand conservatism as a base of principal. But they understood it as a base of policy."
An amusing sideshow? The kid actually may be speaking to the core ideological and political battle that will play out in the U.S. over the next two years. Beleaguered and beaten, the Republican Party is clearly pining to find a new future and new identity. It will come from young leaders like Bobby Jindahl and Tim Pawlenty (governors of Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively), and maybe from the barely pubescent Krohn. But age aside, what really matters is that the Republican Party is not likely to shoot for a centrist middle ground that can win back swing voters. Instead, its new voice is coming from far right ideologues like Limbaugh and this new face Krohn who distance themselves from policy, government and party and make it all about political and social philosophy.
That doesn't leave room for the pragmatists or any sort of unity. It instead points to a potentially tumultuous next two years when very disparate views mark the political landscape, and middle ground is hard to find. That's a lot to read into a 13-year old's two minute speech. But bottom line is that the kid is "on message" for the right. He was not a side show. He stole the show.