Little else illustrates the "real choice" that voters will be asked to make in this year's presidential election than the Obama campaign's juvenile Web ad, "The Life of Julia."
Julia, we're supposed to believe, is today's everywoman, a cartoon character who depends on government for her education, work, sexuality, health, retirement and everything in between. Available on barackobama.com, the ad starkly omits husband, family, community, church and all those intervening people and civic institutions that are famously part of the village that's the sustaining lifeblood of not just women, but everyone.
Commentators are hailing the ad as political genius, appealing to single women who apparently can't make it on their own. Never mind that some women find the ad repulsive. Check out "I Am Not Julia" on YouTube.
Brenda Krueger Huffman spoke for them on businessinsider.com:
"American women are smart. They are independent, self-sufficient and personally responsible. They want to make their own choices in life. They care about their children and grandchildren. They know what is best in making decisions for their life and for their family.
"They also understand economics — deficit government spending, new or expanded entitlement program costs and reforms needed — better than some are giving them credit for in government. They care about the future of this country and about the future they are leaving for their children."
"The Life of Julia" ominously lays out what a Mitt Romney administration would deny women, inanely suggesting that women must become more dependent on government to become more independent.
Julia's underlying assumption is that any reduction in spending threatens to cast women out into the darkness. It implies that striving to balance needs or rights is an unwarranted, dangerous or hardhearted attack on goodness.
It's as if America had never created an economic safety net, a progressive income tax, a nearly unchallengeable right to an abortion through nativity, civil rights protections, free health care for the indigent, shelter for the homeless, education for the disheartened and untutored, and layers of security for retirees. It's as if asking the question "how much is sustainable, affordable and workable" is a heinous act.
By leaving the elements of a civil society out of the equation, Julia willfully ignores what political analyst Yuval Levin in the National Review calls the vast landscape of mediating institutions between the individual and government. Said Levin:
"The left's disdain for civil society is thus driven above all not by a desire to empower the state without limit, but by a deeply held concern that the mediating institutions in society — emphatically including the family, the church and private enterprise — are instruments of prejudice, selfishness, backwardness and resistance to change, and that in order to establish our national life on more rational grounds, the government needs to weaken and counteract them."
This insightful observation will draw howls of outrage from the left; emails will ask me, "When did the Obama administration ever say it wants to do away with the family, the church, private enterprise?"
The answer lies in the Obama administration's actions, its support of same-sex marriage, tax policies and regulations that would impede small businesses, contraceptive rules that deny Catholics the right to carry on their faith-based social mission in hospitals and elsewhere. Do I really need to go on?
In 1964, I voted for Lyndon B. Johnson in the belief that many of America's promises were empty visions. Jim Crow was rampant. The private sector was incapable of or unwilling to bring realistic hope to the underclass. In that election, too, Americans had a real choice in what they wanted their nation to be, and they wisely chose.
However, since then, the dogmatic left no longer asks how much more government taxing, spending and intervention is enough. It's all not enough. The left now takes the quest for an optimum level of taxing, spending and intervention as a sure sign of a mentality that wants to do away with the last scintilla of compassion. Of course, there's always more work to do, but the Obama left has gone completely off kilter.
Appropriately, Julia's face in the ad is blank — no eyes, mouth or individuality is apparent. The Obama campaign couldn't have picked a better metaphor for a government that sees little use for the mediating people and civil institutions that made America the good place that it is.