It's 93 degrees in Jonathan Krohn's hometown of Atlanta, GA. But it's much hotter under his collar.
By now you know the name -- you likely did three years ago, too. Krohn, 13 at the time, delivered a rousing three-minute speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference about the greatness of conservatism. He became an overnight star with multiple appearances on Fox News. He was praised by Newt Gringrich, posed for pictures with Mitt Romney, and was dubbed a "Lil' Limbaugh."
Now, he's decided he's no longer a "conservative," and instead embraces positions much more liberal. And he's talking to The Blaze about it. All of it.
How to describe a transition without describing a transition
In general, Krohn tries to deny that he's "transitioned" from conservatism to liberalism.
"I'm not transitioned to another ideology," he says from his mother's silver car parked outside his grandma's retirement home. "I keep saying I really want to be myself. I don't' want to be identified as this ideology or that ideology."
Either way, he embraces Obamacare, gay marriage, and abortion -- his social conservatism, he says, was the first thing to go.
He throws out sentences such as "when I was conservative," and says "my views are a lot more liberal than they are conservative." He slips in phrases like "the ideological anger that comes from the right." And if you point that out, he admits that it's hard to describe his story without using widely-accepted terms.
"I see that, and I agree," the 17-year-old, with black plastic glasses and slightly disheveled hair, admits. "My problem with calling myself something is I've had bad experiences labeling myself. And I feel that the problem is that if you label yourself you get locked into an ideology with all the trappings. You have every little thing you have to agree to to be a part of an ideology, you know?"
He continues: "It's just a bad thing, I think. It's not how ideologies are supposed to work. You should have some individuality within that. Part of what drove me away was that lack of individuality."
But what you might not realize is that his fear of being locked into a certain set of viewpoints doesn't mean he couldn't eventually adopt some conservative principles again.
"I'm just saying that the moment I agree with something that's not necessarily left-wing, it's not going to be me betraying somebody and having this big broo-haha on Twitter," he says, mimicking a sinister voice.
In fact, all this doesn't mean he toes the liberal line on everything. In the left's rush to claim him, they may have overlooked what he told me was a "tough" question: What positions, if any, do you have that could be considered conservative?
To be fair, it's not a hearty, meat-and-potatoes answer. There are plenty of pauses to think about it. Still, he manages to eek out an answer:
"I still hold [pause]. I still think ... I like the idea of people being personally responsible; it's a good idea. But I really don't-- I can't think of any particular policy ideas that I'm 100 percent in favor of."
What about government spending?
"I think everyone thinks we should decrease government spending!" he says excitedly. "I don't think that's only conservatives. It's just I think the problem is it's just not as easy as saying that."
But if he had to settle on one thing, it involves the issue du juor of sending guns to Mexico.
"I think it was a bad idea to send guns to Mexico to drug cartels." Still, he's quick to sneak in a qualifier: "But once again I don't think anyone thinks that was a good idea! If you think that's a good idea, obviously you don't know what it is."
"Should Eric Holder have to testify? Yeah, It was a bad idea. It's not smart. Nobody agrees with it." The president's stonewalling, he adds, is him just trying to make the problem go away before the election, plain and simple and "for good reason."
So how have people reacted to his coming out party? Ask "The Hulk"
"Most of the people in the world have been very nice about it," he explains, "it's just that the people who are not nice are extremely vocal about it."
He's received supportive tweets from people across the country. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein mocked a conservative article critical of Krohn. And even the "Incredible Hulk" got involved -- actor Mark Ruffalo, who was on the show with Bill Maher when Maher took a shot at Krohn on Friday, told Krohn he had nothing but "serious respect" for the 17-year-old:
"A lot of people in the news area have been supportive of this," Krohn says, his voice falling somewhere between rapid annunciation and Christmas-morning excitement.
"You would have supported me two minutes ago before the Politico piece came out if I would have asked to be in the Tea Party!" he says, after relaying a story about a Tea Party leader who criticized him.
"These same people were the same people that supported me, and now you're just dissing me as a human being. The general reaction from a lot of conservatives hasn't been nice."
But while the names are uncalled for, there does seem to be room for legitimate criticism. After all, just three years ago he was extolling the virtues of conservatism and now he can't stop talking about, well, Kant -- all while getting his message out through liberal stalwarts like Lawrence O'Donnell. People are genuinely curious as to why.
Part of the "why" involves his study of philosophy. In his eyes, he was being too closed-minded, and philosophy opened him up. And when that happened, his old beliefs started flying out like bats from a cave.
"I'm just tired of people calling me 'that conservative kid,'" he explains, adding later: "That is not a fun monocher to have when you don't agree with conservative policies anymore. It's very hard, because then I have to explain to everybody every time why I don't agree with that anymore."
He speaks of the last two days like an Atlas Shrugged-like weight coming off his shoulders. While he's not been secretive about his transition over the last year or so, he hasn't had a large enough microphone. Until now.
"Now that this is out there, people know why."
But is it a ploy? There are those who have accused him of simply seeking attention and being willing to do whatever it takes to get it. After all, he just started a blog (collegiatenerd) and is trying to find funding for a "postmodern, dark satire about modern American life composed of a series of unrelated vignettes and called 'Broke in New York City.'"
"I don't know where they're getting that," he says of critics who have accused him of basking in the limelight and using the last two days to further his ambitions. In the end, he says, he just wanted to finally be finished being put in a box.
"People like to find a conspiracy. They like to think I'm doing this for some darker purpose. It has nothing to do with that! I am a good person!"
"Come on, really?" he adds after being asked about his intentions in a different way. "If somebody hears about my film because of this I'm not going to say 'no.' But that's not why I did this."
"This is my fight"
He talk about his mother, Marla, fondly. He gets most agitated not when talking about conservative critics, but rather when talking about conservative critics who have attacked her.
She's stuck by him throughout the process, which he says hasn't been easy for her. Not only has her son turned his back on his political beliefs, but he's also rejected his Christian faith -- he's now an atheist (a byproduct of his philosophy studies).
"Making fun of my mother and saying things like that isn't right, it's not appropriate."
"Things like that" are suggestions that his mother put him up to all this, or at least coached him how to milk it for all its worth. She's a middle school acting teacher, after all, and critics point to a 2010 New York Times profile of him and his family that portrayed her in a slightly meddling light.
"She doesn't support--," he cuts himself off. "She's not a liberal. She's a conservative. She lost a friend over this!" That friend, he says, texted his mother to say "have a nice life" and that she could no longer be friends because of what Jonathan was doing.
"They are not overjoyed over this," he says of his parents, "but they're not angry with me." He throws out terms like "nice" and "respectful" to describe their attitude. .
He then goes back to defending his mom.
"Leave her alone! She's my mom. Moms are not part of this. This is my fight."
So how did he get here?
While Krohn's transition may be a surprise to some, he says it's the product of a longtime-coming conversion.
"It's been a while and nobody listened," he says, explaining that he's been broadcasting his new-found beliefs for some time. And while no one may have been listening before, they are now. After Maher referenced him on Friday, he contacted Politico reporter Patrick Gavin -- who has written about Krohn before -- to propose the idea of an article about where he stands. Gavin agreed. And now here he is.
His critics (even the liberal ones) say he switched sides because conservatism is "uncool." Maybe. It is true that being young and conservative fight each other like wrong sides of a magnet. But consider that Krohn didn't come to his realization by watching Angelina Jolie or listening to Justin Bieber. His decision was more an existential one. After studying philosophy for three years -- reading the likes of Kant and Nizche -- he's become a different person. No faith. No Ronald Reagan posters. And no apologies.
"Back then I was really just saying stuff I heard on the radio a lot...and I just lived around conservative stuff all my life," he says of his Georgia upbringing. "And I just said stuff I thought I believed, but I really didn't know what I was saying enough to have a conversation about it. I knew enough to talk about it on television, but not enough to have a meaningful conversation about it. And I think that now I've had the time to sit down and think about what it is I personally as a human being I believe, that's more about what this is."
"I don't want to keep focusing on all this past stuff," he says later in the interview. "It boxes me in and people want to keep talking about the 'kid who switched.'"
But at least for now, they'll keep talking. Keep debating.
Still, "I didn't do this because of that" he assures again regarding the attention he's received and the discussion about his future plans. " I just wanted to have a better life of not being called 'that conservative kid' anymore."
And while he has many dreams for the future, at least that one has come true.