I’ve been involved in politics for a very long time for someone my age. I started a podcast at age 13 because I felt that too many of my peers were only being taught the progressive side of the political spectrum in public schools.
I was determined to show them that there is an alternative to what they’ve been taught, and I didn’t care if I was the only young conservative left in the country to accomplish this task. I will be the first to admit that in my younger years, I fantasized about being the next Rush Limbaugh and thus being the face of the future conservative movement. The idea of having the spotlight on me seemed glamorous as it does to all teenagers at one point or another. Looking back as well as looking at where I am today, my presence in the conservative movement is established to the point where my grandfather jokingly refers to me as an “E list celebrity.” I have a small-to-medium sized following of individuals who genuinely value my perspectives. I contribute to two of the best independently run conservative blogs on the internet with Freedom Post and Red Millennial. Most importantly, I’ve forged relationships with other young conservatives with some of them becoming lifelong friends along the way. All in all, not too shabby for someone in their early 20s.
I don’t bring my experience as a young conservative to try and say that I’m superior to anyone else or that my experience is definitive of all young conservatives either. I’m simply stating that I too have had dreams of being the most important conservative in my generation. In truth though, I’m glad that the limelight of fame was never shifted directly on me because I’ve seen otherwise bright young conservatives consumed and slowly destroyed by it.
Conservatives Are Overly Eager For Youth Involvement And This Is Becoming A Problem.
There is no denying that the left has had a stranglehold over popular culture for the last 40 years and subsequently each generation has embraced progressivism more than the last.
Because of this, conservatives have become desperate to find a way to engage the Millenial generation, which in part has revolved around seeking a champion.
The Jonathon Krohn Saga.
In 2009, then 13-year-old Jonathon Krohn self-published Defining Conservatism which reiterates and repackages the conservative ideology for a new generation. I’ve read various excerpts of Krohn’s book and there doesn’t seem to be anything unique to differentiate the 13 year old Krohn from elders such as Mark Steyn or Rush Limbaugh. Krohn had a good look about him, sounded good and presented himself well. But question began to emerge as to whether he really understood the cause he championed, or just parroted what he had heard on talk radio. He later admitted it was the latter. Krohn even spoke at CPAC in 2010 and was hailed as the “Conservative Wonderkid” and a savior for our movement. In 2012 however, everything changed when Khron repudiated all of his conservative beliefs and even endorsed Barack Obama for a second term. The void left by Krohn caused many conservative leaders to become skeptical of youth involvement as a whole. Progressives grabbed onto the Krohn saga as evidence that young people would always turn their back on conservatism once they grew up and got smart.
Enter Caiden Cowger
A few years later Caiden Cowger got noticed for two reasons. He declared himself the anti-Krohn to the point where his credo was that he would never change his mind and nobody could ever teach him anything, despite being 12 years old. Secondly, he built his brand around anti-gay rhetoric. Caiden wanted badly for the big names in conservative talk to notice him but they uniformly ignored his existence and instead Caiden’s recognition was limited to progressives who used him to mock young conservatives as homophobic and belligerent. Like Krohn, Caiden did not show any special insight into what he was saying, nor did he make the movement accessible or appealing to young people. The conservative world became wary of embracing young voices, until the debut of CJ Pearson earlier this year.
CJ Pearson And The Future of Conservative Youth.
CJ Pearson appeared like a whirlwind at age 12 on the scene this past year, to the celebration of the adult conservative world. He’s been on Fox News repeatedly and a star of youtube, Facebook, and other media. He’s also been the center of controversy. First, let me start by saying that I believe that CJ has many great qualities needed in a conservative leader. He’s smart, charismatic, and he’s to the point. He attracts people to the cause and he’s intellectually nimble. With that being said, I feel that too many people have rushed to the conclusion that he should be the singular face of the conservative youth. My question (and the question that several other Young conservatives have) is: Why? Just because you make one YouTube video or self publish one book doesn’t make you the definitive voice for any sort of movement. At least, it shouldn’t. CJ has previous involvements with shady individuals and his integrity has been called into question after it was discovered that he fabricated being blocked on Twitter by Obama himself. At the end of the day, CJ Pearson made a big leap forward for the conservative youth movement, but CJ is one young man, with lots of talent and lots of flaws. He’s human and he’s still growing up. Can any one person be flawless enough to represent an entire movement, especially when he’s still a kid?
Reinventing The Conservative Youth Movement.
In it’s current incarnation, the conservative youth movement as a whole is largely ineffective due to the fallowing:
- It’s mostly an online and social media based movement as opposed to a boots on the ground activism led movement.
- We are seeking champions to personify the movement, rather than ideas to represent the movement.
- There isn’t a conference of any kind strictly for young conservatives.
- Too many individuals are fighting over the definition of conservatism in a negative way, as if to reduce the size of the movement rather than expand it. Too often we hear young conservatives shout at one another “you’re the next Jonathan Krohn!” “No, you are!” We need the passion and the intellectual iron-sharpens-iron, but we need to focus all that energy on building a diverse but unified movement.
- There really isn’t a good support system in place for young people who are still new to being a conservative activist.
- We are trying to find “The face of the movement” instead of focusing on building an army of soldiers. The Youth Conservative Movement needs to stop looking for personalities and start focusing on ideas that draw in more and more young people. Each of our soldiers may be imperfect, but that’s okay, because a strong army can be made up of imperfect soldiers, as long as the cause is righteous.
A movement made of minors is a movement necessarily riddled with the pimples and zits of immaturity, and we need to rely on some adult input, but also we need to self-police so that we lift one another up when we fall, and we don’t allow each other to get away with crap.
We need to figure out what the movement stands for, in order to be true to the philosophy of conservatism while facing up to the realities and challenges of the 21st century.
Until we figure out how to address all of the issues above and come together as a united movement, we will continue an endless cycle of bickering and infighting instead of promoting conservative values. It’s as simple as that.