In early May, shortly after the peak of the GOP's war-on-women problem, the Obama campaign released a simple online infographic that inspired outrage from conservative commentators. Titled "The Life of Julia," the slideshow followed a hypothetical woman named Julia throughout various stages of her life in order to compare Obama's policies to the ones proposed by Mitt Romney. At age three, toddler Julia plays with a bead maze and enjoys the benefits of Head Start under Obama's America, while the infographic warns that Romney would cut Head Start by 20 percent. By age 27 the adult Julia is a web designer—a knowing wink to the young urban hipsterati loathed by conservatives—whose birth control is covered by her health insurance thanks to Obamacare's reforms, but would have lost those if Romney had his way.
It was silly, simple fodder that should have faded quickly amid the deluge of media noise. Except conservatives took it as the symbol of all that is wrong with Obama's America. "In the competition for the creepiest campaign material of 2012, we may already have a winner," National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote in an editorial shortly after the infographic's release, bemoaning Julia's reliance on the welfare state.
Americans eventually decided they preferred Julia's life under Obama to Romney, yet months after the election Lowry's publication continues to harp on the ad. On Monday, National Review contributor Matthew Franck analyzed Obama's inaugural speech in a post he titled, "The President of Julia." "This is the 'Life of Julia' campaign philosophy rendered in inaugural rhetoric," Franck wrote. Michael Walsh once again raised the phantom of Julia yesterday in a blog post deriding Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision to allow female soldiers to serve in combat positions. Walsh postulated that Julia's idyllic life won't come to pass in Obama's new world where women serve on the frontlines (despite the fact that female service members have already put their lives at risk in combat zones without receiving the benefits of their male brethren). "Julia didn’t actually have military service included in her fantasy love affair with Obama the Beneficent. … the only combat Julia was asked to see was in the GOP’s War on Women, happily defeated," Walsh wrote.
Why are conservatives clinging to this one tidbit of campaign minutiae long after its relevance? The National Review's invectives drip with male condescension at Julia's feminist markings, hinting at the same derision of female autonomy that cost Republicans elections across the country. "Pity the poor thing," Lowry wrote, a comment tinged with male condescension for the weaker sex, in his original post. Walsh mocks the decision to permit women to fight in the military as "new and improved Gurl Power," displaying a clear discomfort with the concept of feminist empowerment.
In yet another National Review article from December, Jay Nordlinger explicitly spells out his unease with the missing male authority in Julia's life, arguing that the Obama campaign wanted the president to stand in for the traditional provider role of a husband. "At some point, 'Julia decides to have a child.' No mention of a husband. No mention of marriage," he wrote, apparently unaware of the fact that many couples now have children outside marriage, or that some might even (gasp!) have a child with a partner of the same sex. "A nation of Julias is a very different nation from the nation we have been—which is really what the current political struggle is about. Or is the struggle over? Has the 'Julia' side won, utterly?"
Yes, the Julia side has utterly prevailed. Women of all ages voted for Obama 55-44 percent over Romney. Retrograde concepts of female sexuality cost Republican candidates dearly in a year when they were poised for gains in the U.S. Senate. The GOP's future electoral prospects remain bleak as long as the conservative commentators behind the party cling to their anti-Julia world.