Laurence Fine is 14. He finished eighth grade at the Solomon Schechter of Westchester and is entering ninth grade at Ridgewood High School, where he will be on the cross-country team.
And he runs a politically themed Instagram account, @Democrats_for_2020, which doesn’t mention his age or name, and bills itself as “This liberal news feed supports Democrats for 2020 and resisting GOP agenda. Together, we can take back the House, Senate, and presidency!”
The account has 5,765 followers. That is more than 70 percent as many followers as the official account of the House Democratic caucus.
Not bad for someone who has been politically aware for less than two years.
“All these candidates were running,” Laurence says of the primary season that kicked off the 2016 presidential elections. “I was wondering what the differences were between them. When the primaries came around, I was checking the polls while I was doing my homework.”
All the pieces of the puzzle, the winnowing of the candidates, the differences between the states, fascinated him. He started studying the issues, and those fascinated him too.
From there, he became fascinated in the general election.
“Not only was it a very interesting presidential election, it was the first one I was really into and following,” Laurence said. Note: he was not quite 18 months old when George W. Bush was re-elected president in 2004.
And then there was the election in November of last year, and Laurence found his interest in politics didn’t wither away. “I had a lot to say, and I needed to communicate my ideas and thoughts,” he said.
So he created his Instagram account.
He already had a personal Instagram account — that one is private, has only 195 followers, and identifies its owner as “Proud Democrat Jets fan.” (It doesn’t mention his original public affiliation — he’s the son of Rabbi David Fine of Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood. His mother, Alla Fine, is a global conference and event planning consultant.)
Why Instagram? “The younger generation is much more involved in Instagram,” Laurence said. “I want to connect with the younger generation, millennials.” (Keep in mind that Laurence is barely a millennial; the boundaries are controversial but seem to range from between 1976 and 1980 and end between 1998 and 2004. He was born in 2003.) He does not use Facebook or Twitter at all. Those are for old people. (Fear not for Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg, however: Facebook bought Instagram five years ago.)
Laurence posts every few days.
“I talk about the current administration, things that are going on,” he said. His most recent post is a picture of the president with this comment: “The president is threatening a government shutdown in order to get money for a pointless wall he promised he’d get Mexico to pay. A government shutdown would be a disaster, throwing our country in even greater turmoil #trump #trumppresidency #wall #governmentshutdown #threat #stopthis.”
The post received 20 comments. Some are from people who agree, and some are from people who come to argue. @dreams_of_our_founders, who regularly shows up to argue, wrote: “It’s hilarious to see how you Democrats react when we finally have a president who is trying to give the American people what they want. Your true colors are showing.”
Laurence loves the back-and-forth. “The response is great,” he said. “I’m able to speak with people and really learn what other people think about an issue. I’m able to have really nice discussions.”
While it is unclear whether it is a cause or an effect of the Instagram account, it is clear that Laurence has become a news junkie. “I always make sure to keep myself in touch with what’s going on,” he said. “On my phone I get news alerts — CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, MSNBC — many every day.”
His most popular feature are the polls of potential presidential candidates he runs every few months. His followers vote by commenting or by direct messages.
His most recent poll was in June. Senator Kamala Harris of California won, with 27 percent of the decidedly unscientific poll. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came in second, former Vice President Joe Biden third, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders fourth.
This summer, Laurence put his political interest to work offline, with a part-time internship at Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s Glen Rock office. He didn’t get to spend time with Mr. Gottheimer, though he did discuss an issue with him at a campaign event last year.
Laurence sees politics in his future, “whether being a social media expert or strategist or running for office.”
Meanwhile, he has advice for the Democratic party.
“I think what the Democrats need to focus on are the economic issues facing our country,” he said. “They need to talk about taxes, health care, college, wages. Not Trump, not the Republicans. They need to get people to vote for them because they want to vote for them, not because they don’t like the other guys.”
He doesn’t have a favorite candidate for 2020. “All the potential candidates in my polls seem like great candidates to me,” he said. “I think we have great options for 2020.”
Not that he will be voting in the 2020 elections. He won’t turn 18 until 2021.