Obama ’84: Echoes of Orwell

Posted: May 15, 2012

The calendar says 2012. The propaganda screams Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Obama brain trust in Chicago recently rolled out its new campaign slogan: “Forward.” If the president’s most extreme detractors had wanted to give him a rallying cry more freighted with leftist baggage, they could not have done better.

Forward was the name of the socialist rag for which Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky wrote. Forward was the name of the newspaper Vladimir Lenin founded, and it was at the heart of one of his most famous political slogans: “When one makes a revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward — or go back.” Stalin used the motto “Forward to communism!” Mao led the “Great Leap Forward.”

The Obama campaign geniuses seem unfamiliar not only with modern political history, but also with George Orwell. Visit the campaign’s website and you’re invited to join the heroic work of the Truth Team, “a network of supporters of President Obama who are committed to responding to unfounded attacks and defending the president’s record.” Mitt Romney’s strategists couldn’t have created a title more reminiscent of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

Then there is Julia. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, she is an enthusiastic propagandist for the Party, an eager participant in the daily “Two Minutes Hate” of its enemies and eventually a victim of Big Brother’s totalitarian cult of personality. In the Obama campaign’s “The Life of Julia,” she is the faceless protagonist of an interactive story demonstrating “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime — and how Mitt Romney would change her story.”

From preschool to retirement, Obama is there for Julia. As a 3-year-old, she can enroll in a Head Start program because of Obama’s valiant fight against the “Romney/Ryan budget.” She can take the classes she needs in high school, go to college, receive a Pell Grant, have insurance coverage for surgery, get a job, receive a fair wage, pay off her student loans, and obtain birth control — all thanks to Obama and in spite of the evil machinations of Romney.

Julia’s two acts of creation — a child and a business — are impossible without Obama. She has a son, evidently without the assistance of a father, but with the essential prenatal care and free screenings provided by the president’s health-care reform, which Romney would repeal. And she starts a Web business with help from a Small Business Administration program and Obama tax cuts that Romney would eliminate.

Julia eventually retires at 67 to a life of volunteerism at a community garden and lives off the fruits of Medicare and Social Security, which Obama has courageously saved from Romney — never mind that both programs are headed toward insolvency long before Julia would ever be eligible to use them.

Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, “The Life of Julia” presents a disturbing vision of a society where, aside from the benevolent oversight of Big Brother, people live an atomized existence. Obama’s Julia has no relationships — not with the parents and child who are mentioned in passing or the spouse and friends who are not. For both Julias, no institutions exist outside those supported by the Party and the state.

The only constant in Julia’s life, Big Brother-like from cradle to grave, is Obama. Assuming she is born in 2012, the story suggests Obama’s preeminence and struggle against the reactionary forces of Romneyism will continue at least through 2079.

The Obama campaign presents “The Life of Julia” as a utopian fairy tale about a statist future. Others may recognize it as a dystopian horror story that breaks sharply from America’s individualist past.

“Who controls the past controls the future,” Orwell wrote. “Who controls the present controls the past.”

Jonathan Gurwitz writes for the San Antonio Express-News.

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