As part of their campaign to convince every female voter that if Romney defeats Obama they will be barefoot, pregnant and cast into a Mormon harem, the Obama campaign came up with a piece of agit-prop called The Life of Julia, which may be viewed here. My co-blogger Paul Zummo has ably blogged about this here. Julia is shown as a strong and independent woman who would be completely adrift but for the man in her life: Uncle Sucker. Sugardaddy Sam takes care of Julia at every stage of her life with some
handout entitlement provided gratis by the taxpayer and the good unicorns who magically make money appear in government coffers.
It is said that generals tend to fight the last war and that politicians are often running in the last election, and that is certainly the case with this homage to life as a carefree government serf. In 2008 there were Obama voters who did think that he was going to magically change their lot in life:
After four years I think only the most demented and delusional of Obama’s followers actually believe this. With Julia Obama is appealing only to voters he already has. For many other voters, I think this paean to government dependence might have echoes of a promise anything snakeoil salesman as in this cartoon from the forties:
So as a political tool for Obama to seek re-election I think this Julia campaign is rather ineffective. What is interesting about this episode is how much backlash there has been to it, and so quickly. Here is a sample:
Then we have Iowahawk’s hilarious take on the life of Julia here, the Heritage Foundation with a better life for Julia here, City-Journal has the life of Zachary, the son of Julia, here, and Emily Stimpson at CatholicVote.org contrasts her life with that of Julia’s here.
Ross Douthat, the only thing worth reading in the New York Times since they do not have comics, unless one counts Paul Krugman, summed it up in his column:
All propaganda invites snark and parody, and the story of Julia is ripe for it. She’s an everywoman only by the standards of the liberal upper middle class: She works as a Web designer, has her first child in her early 30s (the average first-time American mother is in her mid-20s), and spends her golden years as a “volunteer at a community garden.” (It will not surprise you to learn that the cartoon Julia looks Caucasian.)
What’s more, she seems to have no meaningful relationships apart from her bond with the Obama White House: no friends or siblings or extended family, no husband (“Julia decides to have a child,” is all the slide show says), a son who disappears once school starts and parents who only matter because Obamacare grants her the privilege of staying on their health care plan until she’s 26. This lends the whole production a curiously patriarchal quality, with Obama as a beneficent Daddy Warbucks and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan co-starring as the wicked uncles threatening to steal Julia’s inheritance.
But if the slide show is easy to mock (and conservatives quickly obliged, tweeting Julia jokes across the Internet), there’s also a fascinating ideological purity to its attitudes and arguments. Indeed, both in its policy vision and its philosophical premises, the slide show represents a monument to certain trends in contemporary liberalism.
On the one hand, its public policy agenda is essentially a defense of existing arrangements no matter their effectiveness or sustainability, apparently premised on the assumption that American women can’t make cost-benefit calculations or indeed do basic math. In addition to ignoring the taxes that will be required of its businesswoman heroine across her working life, “The Life of Julia” hails a program (Head Start) that may not work at all, touts education spending that hasn’t done much for high school test scores or cut college costs, and never mentions that on the Obama administration’s own budget trajectory, neither Medicare nor Social Security will be able to make good on its promises once today’s 20-something Julias retire.
At the same time, the slide show’s vision of the individual’s relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. The liberalism of “the Life of Julia” doesn’t envision government spending the way an older liberalism did — as a backstop for otherwise self-sufficient working families, providing insurance against job loss, decrepitude and catastrophic illness. It offers a more sweeping vision of government’s place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision — personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual — can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.
Go here to read the insightful rest. The first rule of campaigning is do no harm to the candidate. The bright young things at the Obama campaign who dreamed up the Julia fiasco violated that rule. Thanks! Unlike 2008 expect more of this as conservatives, who have been grinding their teeth for four long years, react swiftly to the efforts of team Obama to have another four years of government as expensive farce.
Update: TAC’s Larryd has a life of Junia, here, at his blog Acts of the Apostasy which is a must read!