Jason Mattera was really proud of recent game of gotcha with Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. So proud, in fact, that he posted a video of his encounter to YouTube--on the pretense that he had exposed Senator Franken's lack of knowledge of what was in the landmark health insurance reform bill recently signed into law.
Mr. Mattera is an up-and-coming young conservative involved with the Young America Foundation and a wide variety of other conservative media enterprises and ventures, and he is absolutely right. The video is an embarrassment--except, it humiliates him and conservatives everywhere, rather than Senator Franken and the democrats. You see, what Mr. Mattera managed to do is unprecedented: in three minutes and twenty-five seconds of some of the most painful video you could possibly watch, he exposed single-handed everything that is abhorrent about current conservative political strategy.
And before we can even get started discussing ideology, we have to start with tactics. When faced with the opportunity to speak with a member of one of the most august legislative bodies in the world about one of the most monumental pieces of law in the the country's recent history, most people would relish the opportunity to actually make it a two-way conversation. Unfortunately, Mr. Mattera is not like most people.
In accordance with the longstanding tradition set by the town hall "protesters," the tea party movement, and the fine people who hurled derogatory epithets--and bodily fluids--at sitting members of Congress in the hours preceding the vote, Mr. Mattera is not interested in the free, open discourse and exchange of ideas that has made our democracy thrive. Rather, he is interested in walking the fine conservative line that seeks to use the tactics of the Thrasymachean bully while claiming the status of an oppressed victim.
Mattera hassles, harangues and hectors Senator Franken--badgering him with insulting questions without letting him get a word in edgewise. Franken--who has significant experience in talking down teabaggers--finally gets exasperated with not being allowed to actually answer the questions, eventually retorting, "shut up and listen." And you can guess how excited Sean Hannity was to discuss that portion of the interview, to the detriment of anything else. The conservative movement at its finest: shouting down opponents while claiming oppression by the very same.
But if that weren't enough, let's examine exactly what provisions of the health care law Mr. Mattera is so incensed with.
The first provision: tax incentives designed specifically to promote fitness in schools and reduce childhood obesity. It doesn't take the most brilliant health care policy expert in the world to point out that the childhood obesity epidemic is a serious concern--not just medically, but fiscally as well. Childhood obesity has significant correlations to expensive, chronic conditions such as diabetes. Healthy children, on the other hand, usually become healthy adults--the type who produce far less strain on the health care system. From a purely logical standpoint, then, it makes significant sense for the government to invest in children's health.
Mr. Mattera, however, seems to disagree. It is hard to know whether this is because he hates government, hates children, or both. Perhaps if Mattera had a child in public school, he might be more concerned about whether or not that child could receive a healthy meal, or get a chance to exercise. In either case, Sean Hannity and the rest of the conservative media movement have absolutely no problem with reviling this particular provision.
But as bad as it sounds, Mattera is just now approaching his tour de force. He concludes his "takedown" of Senator Franken by challenging him on a relatively obscure provision--one that requires employers to provide lactating mothers with time to extract milk.
It would be hard to come up with a provision that would be more innocuous. Common sense would dictate that conservatives who praise family values above so much else would be thrilled with a law that gives women the time and space they need to feed their young children the food that God intended for them. But Mattera, on the other hand? He simply can't deal with this. He gets nearly apoplectic, claiming that the government will bring in the "milk police." Yes, that's right. The milk police. One wonders how Mr. Mattera would feel if he were a nursing mother, but he's not--so he apparently holds those who are in contempt.
So, ladies and gentlemen, behold your modern conservative movement, hard at work. So desperate are they to attack anything proposed by President Obama or the Democrats in general that they will shout down sitting Senators, rail against healthy food and exercise for children, and curse the nursing mothers who would like to work and care for their children.
As Rachel Maddow said: they're not embarrassed. They're not embarrassed to threaten physical harm and violence, all while playing the victim. They're not embarrassed to use children's health as a political football. They're not embarrassed to rail against the rights of nursing mothers if it suits their cause. Not only are they not embarrassed by it; rather, they actively laud it. They promote those who engage in it as the future of their movement.
Memo to conservatives: if Mr. Mattera and his ilk are indeed the future of your movement, bring it on. Because the American people will reject your combative and heartless vision for what America should be.