November 27 2012
We mocked the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia” infomercial. It told the saga of a woman named “Julia” who lived her entire life dependent on the federal government.
The Obama campaign had the last life: “Life of Julia” won. Bill McGurn has a must read piece today in the Wall Street Journal on why Julia prevailed. Bill begins with an epiphany-provoking show on TV:
The name of the program now escapes me. Several months ago, while flipping channels with the remote, I stopped on an MTV show about a working mom whose whole life was upended when her partner announced that he was splitting. It caught my attention because this mother lived in a nice apartment that looked like one in my suburban New Jersey town, and she was applying for food stamps.
This wasn't your caricature "taker"—the woman had a real job. With her partner leaving, however, she could no longer afford the rent, and she would have trouble providing for her two young boys alone. As she walked up to an office to sign up for food stamps, she said something like, "I can't believe I am applying for public assistance."
Her situation provoked two questions. First, how could her boyfriend just abandon his sons without having to pay child support? Second, what is the conservative response to a woman who finds herself in this situation?
The show comes back to me in wake of the thumping Mitt Romney took in the presidential election among the demographic this mom represents: unmarried women. During the 2012 campaign, we conservatives had great sport at the expense of the Obama administration's "Life of Julia"—a cartoon explaining the cradle-to-grave government programs that provided for Julia's happy and successful life.
McGurn admits that insecurity among women promotes a yearning for “Life of Julia” programs. So are Republicans doomed if they don’t fold and either outbid the government dependency crowd or promote some form of dependence lite?
Conservatives put forward a long-term plan that rests upon the liberty and prosperity to make something out of one’s life. Democrats offer immediate help: “Here are some food stamps so your children don’t go hungry tonight.”
Nobody stops to think, McGurn points out, about the long-range consequences of these programs. How many students even know that their student loans actually drive up the costs of college?
It should also be noted that the woman on the TV show was an unmarried mother, and the fellow who left her in the lurch hadn’t been supporting his children but those of some other man.
McGurn doesn’t think the position of conservatives who see the destructiveness of “Julia” programs is hopeless. He believes that conservatives must find a way to educate people that the free market works “not only for the kinds of folks who work at Bain Capital.”
Conservatives failed utterly to make their argument in 2012, abetted in this failure by a vicious campaign that turned a decent man into a heartless plutocrat who killed people by giving them cancer. It is going to be very difficult to convince the Obamaphone woman that there is a better way. But the future of our country depends on doing this.