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“Whether you like it or not, this is his opinion,” he said. “You’ve got to support your son or daughter, whatever their passion is. Vote for Wagner in 2040. That’s when he’s going to run for president. I told him when he gets to Washington it would be nice if I got box seats to a Redskins game. If they played Buffalo, even better.”

Mr. LaGrone is chairman of the Nebraska College Republicans. His paternal grandmother, the Muskie delegate in Miami Beach in 1972, once ran as a Democrat for the Colorado House of Representatives. His dad worked on her campaign. His stepsister is a teachers union leader, and his stepmother is a classic liberal.

His GOP turnaround came when he was a senior in high school. He was president of the Nebraska chapter of DECA, an international organization for young people interested in business, when federal funding for the group dried up and he helped procure state funding to make up the shortfall.

“It opened my eyes to the importance of fiscal conservatism,” Mr. LaGrone said.

He was 18 at the time. Before that, it had all been about the family party.

“When I was in fourth grade, there was a mock election. I asked my parents who I was supposed to vote for, and they both told me Al Gore. There was discussion around the home, but it just wasn’t very in-depth and policy-driven,” he said. “It was more, well, you vote for the Democrat because they’re Democrat. I realized that I didn’t agree with Democrats.”

His dad was “shocked,” he said. “A lot of times, I think parents do just assume you’ll be what they are.”

Grandparents, too.

Mr. LaGrone voted for the first time in 2008, around his birthday.

“My grandmother left me a message telling me happy birthday, and how disappointed she was in my choice — John McCain,” he said.

The question of politics falls right in with religion when it comes to tricky parenting, said Jim Fay, co-author of “Parenting Teens With Love & Logic.”

What does he recommend parents do when sons and daughters announce political views in conflict with their own?

“It doesn’t matter what the kid is talking about if you say, ‘Oh, thanks for sharing that, I’ve always wondered how teenagers saw that.’ “

Are most parents that open-minded? “I doubt it,” Mr. Fay said.

Remember that guy Mr. Wagner’s mom voted for in 1988? Well, Mr. Dukakis now teaches at Northeastern University and cares deeply about public service for young people. He worked on a new, free website,, intended as a nonpartisan call for high schoolers and college students of any ilk.

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