Why Obama's 'Julia' and Republican Response Are Good Things

Campaign Slideshow Brings Debate Over Actual Policy Issues to Light

By Published on .

Since last week, political junkies and decided Republicans and Democrats have become obsessed with Julia.

Those of you who don't pay close attention to politics until the last two weeks of October and avoid cable news may not know who Julia is . She's not one of President Barack Obama's composite girlfriends mentioned in his autobiography -- which was another obsession making the rounds last week. No, Julia actually matters. Or should matter. The composite-girlfriend storyline was the sort of foolishness that says nothing about policy and everything about what politics has become -- a half-baked script written online and acted out on cable news.

On the other hand, Julia and the reactions to her deal specifically with the positions the Republicans and Democrats will be fighting over in the coming months.

The Obama campaign's Julia gets ready for college.
The Obama campaign's Julia gets ready for college.

Who is Julia? She is the character at the center of "The Life of Julia," an online slideshow created by the Obama-Biden campaign that details the life of an American woman from ages 3 to 67. The viewer is shown the many ways another Democratic administration would benefit Julia -- and how bleak her future would be if Republicans were in control. A typical slide contains the following text:

Under President Obama: Julia decides to have a child. Throughout her pregnancy, she benefits from maternal checkups, prenatal care and free screenings under health-care reform.

Under Mitt Romney: Health-care reform would be repealed.

One would think a glorified PowerPoint presentation would have come and gone in the political world with little comment. But not since Ross Perot's chart-heavy infomercials in the 1992 campaign has a bit of office-place-inspired campaign material provoked such a reaction.

Why? Because it takes something complicated and breaks it down into simple, easy-to-digest nuggets. Because it gives a human name (if not a face) and a human story to the typically dry topic. And by relying on a fictional person, the Democrats don't have to worry about any embarrassing skeletons -- she used student loans to buy beer, she was a member of the Earth Liberation Front, she voted for George W. Bush -- tumbling out of Julia's closet. And, of course, by choosing a woman, it plays directly into the "War on Women" storyline that the Democrats have run with over the past few months as socially conservative Republicans, including a number of the GOP-primary contenders, went after abortion laws and reproductive-rights issues.

But it may have been Republicans who've given the most publicity to Julia. As they see it, the slideshow perfectly encapsulates the big-government overreach of the Obama administration. And, according to a number of conservative women, the entire campaign is patronizing, insulting and anti-American as it insinuates that a modern woman can't live her life -- and shouldn't even bother to try -- without Barack Obama to hold her hand every step of the way.

Both sides, of course, will argue over research that serves as the basis for the slides. Just as both sides will argue over the proper role of government in individuals' lives, what our tax laws should be like, the appropriate approach to health-care legislation and more. And both sides can also claim that one is hysterically overhyping the adverse effects of the other.

Here, for an example, is Julia's Circle of Life, created by conservative blogger "Iowahawk." It not only cuttingly rewrites the pro-Obama portion of the slides, but hilariously offers darker and darker prognostications for poor Julia should the Republicans win out.

Iowahawk's Julia gets ready for prom.
Iowahawk's Julia gets ready for prom.

Sample text:

Under President Obama: It's prom week and Julia has not been asked out yet. Thanks to President Obama's "No Shy Girl Left Behind" prom initiative, she will have an attractive date and corsage provided for her by U.S. Secretary of Dreamboats George Clooney. Imagine the looks on those mean, stuck-up cheerleaders when Julia arrives with her hot federal boyfriend and limo!

Under Mitt Romney: The Romney/Ryan plan would let fundamentalist preachers outlaw dancing in Julia's town and she would be forced to dance in dangerous side-by -side Jeeps. Also, "Glee" will be canceled by bullies.

But even in this bit of comedy, the slideshow is taking jab at the underlying principles of actual proposed policy.

Which is to say all of the debate surrounding the life of fictional Julia is much more preferable than a two-week news cycle over which candidate's victory would be worse for the dog population of the U.S.

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