William Bennett is the latest and arguably most thoughtful of the “Life of Julia” critics. He writes:
Julia’s happily-ever-after tale is remarkably void of reality. Nowhere in her fictional life is it mentioned that Head Start has done little, if anything, to improve elementary education, that she will likely graduate with $25,000 in student loan debt, that she has a 50% chance of being unemployed or underemployed after college, that Medicare and Social Security are headed toward insolvency, and that her share of the national debt is $50,000 and growing.
For Republicans, Julia’s story might seem like a joke too good to be true, but they should take it very seriously. Because buried within “The Life of Julia” is the ideological vision of modern liberalism — to create a state that takes care of its people from cradle to grave. The story of Julia is a microcosm of Obama’s vision for America and emblematic of his view of the government’s role in an individual’s life.
He raises an uncomfortable truth that conservatives would rather not ponder: “As banal and hackneyed as Julia’s life of government dependence may seem, many Americans support it.”
I would briefly note the irony of the liberal feminists’ idealized single woman: no husband and utterly dependent on government. This is progress?
Bennett is right in saying that a certain segment of Americans can’t be persuaded that the super-sized welfare state is both impossible to sustain (because you can’t tax and borrow enough to pay for it), unable to deliver on promises (large bureaucracies are remarkably antiquated and resistent to change) and morally deficient. But elections turn on the persuadables in the middle of the political spectrum. And it is these voters, especially those whose lives are not ones in which government is the “primary relationship” in their eyes, that Mitt Romney will need to reach.
President Obama’s list of “free stuff” is very attractive and alluring. Romney’s rebuttable must be just as specific. To make things easier, he has the European failed welfare states as “Example A of why this won’t work.” But he could do a great deal more describing how a smaller, fiscally sober federal government, lower taxes and less onerous regulations can transform the economy, open opportunities and allow individuals (with the help of families, friends and voluntary associations) to reach their full potential.
Romney is betting that the electorate has not yet become that sheep-like herd ready to march “Forward!” with Obama. But the argument doesn’t make itself; Romney, in terms clear and convincing, needs to show how his policies make prosperity and success possible for the largest number of people. He better hope that the Julias are not yet majority of the voters.