“If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.” Winston Churchill is believed to have once said that and there are various forms of this sentence that get repeated over and over. Perhaps it’s because deep down a lot of people believe it. Supposedly something happens right around the time progressives turn 30, during which time they take serious account of their lives and question what they believe and why they believe it. In some cases, they “burn out” on activism and decide not to pursue a life in social justice. After all, what’s the point? The world has gone crazy and it’s only getting worse, despite our best efforts…Or so the thinking goes.
I’ve never liked the term “burn out.” “Burn out” implies a fire that goes out and won’t return. After all, anyone who has camped knows how difficult it is to get a fire started again after it’s gone out the first time.
The president’s re-election campaign recently unveiled an Internet slideshow demonstrating to women some possible consequences of their votes this fall. The Life of Julia, a mini-biography in 11 episodes, has an imaginary toddler, Julia, enrolling in a Head Start program, a 27-year-old Web-designer Julia benefiting from mandated preventive health care coverage, and a retiree Julia living “comfortably” on Social Security. And it contrasts the fate of these programs under Obama and Romney policies. Visually engaging but hardly dramatic, well-pitched but far from edgy as campaign advertising, The Life of Julia, I am tempted to say, is not all that interesting in itself.
Not so the conservative response to Julia. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, pronounced the slideshow “creepy” and “demeaning.” Julia’s life is “banal and hackneyed,” wrote William Bennett, in a more literary frame of mind. Ross Douthat perceived liberal “condescension” at every turn of Julia’s fictional life.