LITTLE ROCK — The Democratic Party campaign video “The Life of Julia” performs a public service by informing the public of the Obama administration’s vision of the ideal society.
It is not a pretty picture.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, the video traces the life of a fictional “Julia” from birth all the way into retirement, with government providing for her care and comfort (even her contraceptives) each step along the way.
As National Review’s Rich Lowry puts it, “Julia’s central relationship is to the state. It is her educator, banker, health-care provider, venture capitalist and retirement fund. And she is, fundamentally, a taker. Every benefit she gets is cut-rate or free. She apparently doesn’t worry about paying taxes.” The end result is a pathetic creature more closely resembling a whining infant in its cradle than a free, adult human being.
Implicit in this “cradle to grave” view of government is the goal of creating, in Lowry’s words, “a nation of Julias,” dependent, needy and forever being succored by the nanny state. The more people depend upon government for their sustenance, and the more extreme the level of typical dependence, the closer we will have moved toward the ideal political order.
Charles Krauthammer calls this “free-lunch egalitarianism.” Mitt Romney has referred to it as “the entitlement society.” By whatever term, it represents a radical shift in Americans’ understanding of the role of government in their lives.
Barack Obama may claim that these are “American values,” but they most certainly aren’t the values of our Founding Fathers; indeed, it might be difficult to identify any ideas further removed from those that influenced the delegates at Philadelphia back in1787.
Perhaps never before has an American political party more nakedly offered up a life on the dole as a morally desirable condition for able-bodied citizens.
Implicit in the “Julia Nation” is a number of sub-themes-that Americans have lost any sense of self reliance and can’t fend for themselves in even the most trivial ways; that government should always grow bigger because of this incapacity; and that there are no adverse social or fiscal consequences flowing from, or even logical limits to, the growth of government spending.
For those of us with an interest in political ideology, the cradle-to grave concept explicit in Julia’s life also represents the final extinguishing of any remaining differences between American “progressivism” and European social democracy.
Cradle-to-grave security has, of course, been the abiding promise of European social democratic parties since at least the end of World War II. A term first coined by British Labor Party leader Clement Attlee, “cradle to grave” would represent the fulfillment of the European socialist movement without all of the nasty “dictatorship of the proletariat” and violent revolutionary stuff. It was the logical ideological descendent of Eduard Bernstein and the Fabians, if not Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.
By so openly embracing this concept, American Democrats have now removed any doubt that they have become and have actually long been such a party.
Those who take umbrage at such claims are free to identify for the rest of us any fundamental differences between the program and aspirations of American Democrats and those of the British Labor Party, the German Social Democratic Party, or Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party in France.
Irrefutable logic tells us that, if the American Democratic Party is a social democratic party, and social democracy has long been understood as a strain of socialism, then the American Democratic Party, and its titular leader, President Obama, are clearly socialists of at least some sort, too.
They just won’t, until now-until “Julia”-admit it.
What this also means is that what we call American liberalism has come to have scant relation to the classical liberalism of America’s founding. The central tenet of liberalism historically is restraints upon the size and power of the state for the sake of individual liberty; the central tenet of both American progressivism and European social democracy is the creation of a huge and powerful state for the purpose of providing cradle-to-grave security. Understood properly, liberalism and socialism are antithetical, not complementary, propositions.
So we should thank Democrats for the “Life of Julia.” They might not have intended to be, but they are now finally being honest with the American people about what ideology they subscribe to and where they wish to take the nation under the slogan “forward.”
Thus, the central question that Obama’s re-election bid poses is whether we want the transformation of America into a full-fledged European-style social democracy to continue. It is that issue, not the Romney family dog, women’s contraceptive tab, or Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage that matters most.
There was, once upon a time, not even all that long ago, something disgraceful about able-bodied citizens living off the labor of others (“going on the dole”). Obama and his party now unapologetically and enthusiastically invite all of us to do so.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.