At the same time, the slide show’s vision of the individual’s relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. 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.
The condescension inherent in this vision is apparent in every step of Julia’s pilgrimage toward a community-gardening retirement. But in an increasingly atomized society, where communities and families are weaker than ever before, such a vision may have more appeal — to both genders — than many of the conservatives mocking the slide show might like to believe.
Apparently someone in the White House thinks so, which makes the life of Julia the most interesting general-election foray by either campaign to date. Interesting, and clarifying: in a race that’s likely to be dominated by purely negative campaigning on both sides, her story is the clearest statement we’re likely to get of what Obama-era liberalism would take us “forward” toward.