I was registered to attend parts of the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference, but when I got to the venue this afternoon, their spokesperson wouldn’t let me in because I work for part of a progressive think tank. I don’t know whether to be irritated or highly amused. This is what happened:
I had barely told the people working registration my name when Jason Mattera, YAF’s spokesperson, came running up.
“Who are you with?” he asked me.
After some miscommunication, we established that he was asking where I’m an intern, and I replied that I’m an intern here at Campus Progress. There was an awkward pause.
“Sorry,” Mattera said.
“What do you mean, ‘sorry’?” I asked. “I received an email confirmation that said I was registered. I don’t see what the problem is.”
Mattera explained that the problem was that I’m a Campus Progress intern, and that since I’ve been liveblogging the conference all morning, I wouldn’t be allowed in, since blogging isn’t allowed at YAF’s conference (despite the fact that attendees have been tweeting about the conference all day). I told Mattera that struck me as bizarre, and a little bit like censorship. He suggested that I tell this to my “friends in the White House, and maybe they’ll pass a law to make us let you in.” Mattara is, apparently, unaware of the fact that it is Congress, not the White House that passes laws. Politely deciding not to embarrass him further, I instead pointed out that Campus Progress’s National Conference welcomed attendees of all different viewpoints and encouraged them to blog and tweet about the conference—some did.
Mattera told me this was “comparing apples to oranges … this is a conference for conservative students.” In fact, the two situations are kind of the same thing, and it’s YAF that looks bad. Campus Progress sponsors a conference with progressive themes, and yet it includes students who hold a wide range of views, and it certainly doesn’t turn students away on ideological grounds after previously confirming their registration.
I asked Mattera why his organization was so desperate to keep students with different viewpoints out (okay, I used the word “censorship”), and his response was that I could watch the livestream online. It seems strange that Mattera is willing to broadcast the event to the whole Internet but won’t let registered interns in to the event.
“Well, if this is what the conservative movement is doing to attract young people, I’m not sanguine about its future,” I said.
Mattera laughed at me, and then replied, “Goodbye—oh wait, here, have an Obama fist bump.” I refused his proffered fist, and he added, “Why don’t you move to Canada?” He seemed to think this suggestion was hilarious. (The fantastic thing about Mattera’s parting shot is that I do, in fact, have dual citizenship with Canada, have lived there, and will actually be going there in just under three weeks.) I turned and walked back into the elevator.
If there are young conservatives reading this, I really hope Jason Mattera doesn’t represent how you address your political ideology.