Nor am I alone. Recently Eliza Gray had a similar experience while reporting on young conservatives in the age of President Trump. “Oddly enough,” she wrote in the Washington Post, “the person who appeared to be doing the most to shape the thinking of the new generation of Republican leaders was not the president of the United States—but Ben Shapiro, a 34-year-old anti-Trump conservative pundit who came up unprompted in more than a third of my conversations.” Again and again, students turn exchanges involving politics and ideology into discussions of Shapiro, his media presence, his ideas, and his mode of discourse.

As it turns out, I happen to think well of Shapiro and admire not only his intelligence but also the way he is modeling political debate for an audience of millions. (We’ve corresponded once or twice but have never met.) More important, though, is what Shapiro’s celebrity tells us about the changing nature of media, the emerging sensibility of conservative youth, and indeed the future of American conservatism itself…

Shapiro’s fluid, informative, closely argued, intense, and fast-paced delivery is appropriate for a culture that values both immediacy and authenticity. His briefs for the conservative position testify to the fact that a well-reasoned, empirical, and logical conservatism still exists. But if Shapiro were simply partisan, if he were interested primarily in electoral politics, his appeal would not be so widespread.