Over the weekend, as most of America was recovering from Thanksgiving, a truly shocking thing occurred.
The 13-year-old conservative video sensation CJ Pearson announced he was no longer a conservative. While this development might come off simply as a teenager — gasp! — changing his mind on something, it’s a news item due to how serious Pearson’s words have been taken by conservative movers and shakers.
Sadly, the story of this young man illustrates a very dumb tendency of the conservative movement: to elevate any conservative-leaning person under the age of 16 to the status of a serious pundit. (RELATED: Kids Have No Place In Politics)
The then-12-year-old first rose to fame after posting a videotaped rant against the policies of Barack Obama back in April. Many conservative outlets ran the clip as an “epic takedown” of the president, instantly catapulting the teen to renown. Additionally, Rand Paul’s campaign was happy to broadcast the fact that the youngster had endorsed the Kentucky senator’s bid for the White House.
Then came the first big change on the part of Pearson. He switched his all-important endorsement from Paul to Ted Cruz during the summer, which caused a degree of controversy. It is true that grown men got very upset that a now-13-year-old changed his position on who’s the best person for the highest office.
Cruz’s campaign soon embraced Pearson and anointed him the head of Teens for Cruz.
In September, the teen made headlines again when he released a video excoriating Obama for believing Ahmed “Clock Boy” Mohammed’s story that he was only accused of bringing a prank bomb to school because he’s a Muslim. Conservative outlets, including The Daily Caller, touted the clip and Pearson for issuing an epic takedown of the situation.
But the young Ted Cruz supporter pushed his luck too far when he falsely claimed Obama blocked him on Twitter over the fracas. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze brought that fact to light, and soon after Pearson’s star power began fading.
In early November, it was announced that Pearson was no longer associated with the Cruz campaign. On the day after Thanksgiving, the African-American teen made his fateful decision that he no longer wanted to be associated with conservatism due to the ideology’s supposed inability to deal with racial issues.
He cited the shooting of Laquan McDonald for his change and soon began tweeting supportive messages to notorious Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay Mckesson. It’s pretty funny for Pearson to have an ideological revaluation over conservatives’ handling of race when those same right-wingers were gobbling up the young adult’s take on racial affairs.
However, the changing views of CJ Pearson isn’t the crux of the story. It is entirely normal for a 13-year-old kid with little experience and much to learn about the world to change his mind on various subjects. Especially when they’re in the public spotlight and receive unprecedented attention for those said views.
What’s the real issue here are the many conservatives who decided it was a good idea to make Pearson a public face of the Right. Teens are of course entitled to have opinions and voice them if they’re so moved to do so. What’s not right is for grown adults to pretend that their opinions should be considered the work of a leading pundit. Or even worse, try to make money off that young person’s profile.
This young man, sadly, isn’t the first time something like this has occurred. Jonathan Krohn earned a coveted speaking spot at the 2009 CPAC and wrote two books sharing his thoughts on conservative philosophy all by the age of 15.
But when he turned 16, he shed the conservative talking points and announced he was no longer on the Right. He soon began writing for outlets like Mother Jones and Salon.
Pearson’s story strongly resembles Krohn’s. The one difference is that it took him a few months rather than a few years to decide he was no longer a conservative. Pearson didn’t even last long enough to win a speaking spot at CPAC — which he likely would’ve received if he hadn’t renounced his past positions.
What both Krohn and Pearson’s stories reveal is an ideology that’s all too willing to make itself look stupid. There’s no greater way to say you’re not serious than to promote kids too young to have a drivers license as serious political thinkers.
Young people are bound to change their minds on things. They lack experience and there’s a lot of things they just don’t know or understand. While it may be cute to have a 12-year-old spout off like Rush Limbaugh before a camera, it’s plain dumb to give them a slot at CPAC.
Maybe conservatives have internalized the liberal line that they’re just a bunch of stuffy, old white men and they’ll take any voice that breaks the stereotype. Or maybe conservatives feel they need a silly gimmick to sell their ideas.
Either way, those on the Right need to stop making pint-sized pundits into movement stars. They all have the same ending and the same string of embarrassments.