I’ll admit, I had always thought the general stupidity/disinterest of most of the electorate was a net negative. A lot of people don’t know much about why certain things happen in or to our country. Many of those people fall into the “don’t know, don’t care, don’t vote” camp, but the more dangerous among them are in the “don’t know, do care, vote as someone instructs them to” segment. This would be concerning for obvious reasons.
But finally, we’re getting some positives. In an attempt to convey the issues in a “lowest common denominator/hey it works for Buzzfeed, right?” kind of way, the Obama administration has brought its grand vision of government to life in convenient slideshow form. It’s Julia – perfectly described by Ross Douthat as “an everywoman only by the standards of the liberal upper middle class” (She’s a web designer! When can we follow Julia on Pinterest?).
There she is, being all studious at “U” University. You’ll note the skillful sidestep of keeping Julia in college as she remains on her parents’ health insurance as part of health care reform. I remember the main argument used in favor of keeping young adults on their parents’ plan until 26 primarily being jobless recent grads, but that’d be kind of an awkward problem to bring up, seeing as Team Obama is still working to solve that one.
But nitpicking aside (and there are so many nits to pick and jokes to make!), this is really a leap forward in the way Democrats are willing to openly talk about their vision of society. It used to be that “cradle to grave” was used as a pejorative when referring to the slippery slope of government entitlement and assistance, but it looks as if Liberals are now ready and willing to own that as what they desire. Douthat again:
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
When the Right shrieks about the “nanny state,” it’s usually about government intruding into your life, telling you can’t smoke somewhere or order a Happy Meal for your kids. It’s a temporary arrangement – appropriately, like a nanny is. The nanny state is government as meddlesome interloper – tiresome, but still well-defined. You know when it’s there, scolding you or naming an ill-advised law after a child.
Julia presents something else entirely – the “daddy state,” if you will (not sexist, ladies! The POTUS is just currently a man). In this scenario, the exception is the move you make independently of government. Leaning on the state to get you through isn’t just the last resort when times get tough, and the government doesn’t just step in when we need to declare war on an abstract thing (i.e., obesity, drugs, etc.). Now those are the default settings. The state is always around, acting as your de facto parent, ready to set things right if you make a misstep, and probably not even giving you the stink-eye an actual parent would when called on to clean up your mess.
And honestly, that’s fine. Liberals have been fighting their most statist urges since the end of World War II. I’m glad they finally have a chance to openly embrace them – it’s got to be a weight off the shoulders of most.
And anything that differentiates our choices beyond the political equivalent of Coke and Pepsi is a positive – for the most part, Republicans have sponged up the entitlement priorities of Democrats (this is how we decree things to be “political third rails”) and thrown in some flag pins. This is a chance to draw further contrast between these two (still crappy!) parties, and hopefully to show just how badly we need other options.