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Finally there’s the cartoon character Julia, featured in an Obama campaign slide show “The Life of Julia” touting how much big government does for women with the programs Republicans allegedly want to “gut.” Its purpose is to show “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime—and how Mitt Romney would change her story.” From Head Start to Medicare, Julia’s life is defined by her utter dependence on the federal government. The whole production is so silly that even the liberal New Yorker panned it: “’The Life of Julia’ borrows its aesthetic from USA Today and its narrative logic from Chutes and Ladders. It is a very bad place to begin a campaign. As a story, ‘The Life of Julia’ is a mess; it’s got the verisimilitude of a string of paper dolls. As an argument, it’s worse. Better public education and affordable health care are worth fighting for, urgently, and they matter to everyone, but the heart of the fight is not over whether Julia, a fictitious college-educated Web entrepreneur, can one day plant Brussels sprouts.”
Julia illustrates better than anything all the dangers of “democratic despotism” analyzed by Tocqueville 150 years ago. Rather than self-reliant individuals who rely on family, church, and civil society for support in negotiating the challenges of their lives, Obama champions the all powerful state that marginalizes and weakens these resources, and justifies ever greater interference in personal life by providing goods paid for by somebody else. Rather than the Founders’ vision of limited government allowing free people to pursue their happiness, Obama champions for women the “hubby state” that erodes their freedom and dignity by taking responsibility for their choices and actions, infantilizing them as much as a sugar daddy does a trophy wife.
That dependence and diminishment of women’s agency and freedom by intrusive big government is what connects Warren, Fluke, and Julia. Warren discounts the hard-work and talent of individuals and privileges instead the policies of government, which of course will always need more intrusive power and more money in order to continue providing these collective boons that allegedly help people to succeed. Fluke wants government-coerced payments for birth control so that women are less accountable for their sexual behavior, since the big brother state will coerce insurers to provide birth-control pills and, when she forgets to take them, a free abortion to undo the consequences of her actions. And Julia illustrates how thoroughly dependent women are under the “soft despotism” of big government, which replaces her personal relationships and resources with the bureaucratic functionaries armed with what Tocqueville called a “network of petty regulations––complicated, minute, and uniform,” until eventually women and men alike become “a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.”
So who is conducting a “war on women?” The Dems, who want women dependent, their freedom restricted by the rules and regulations of big government, their independence and self-reliance sold for transient benefits? Or the Republicans, who want women and men left alone to make their own choices, take their own risks, accept the consequences of their own actions, pursue their own happiness, and thus achieve the dignity of free people who, as Tocqueville wrote, consider freedom “a good so precious and so necessary that no other good could console them for its loss,” and who “find, in tasting it, consolation for everything that occurs”?
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