Bring on the Pajama Bashing

BarackObama.com

Just as we understand the world through stories, our political narratives often revolve around characters, ordinary people who become momentarily famous as supposedly representative of some policy issue or cultural trend. Sometimes they're fictional, and sometimes they're people who have chosen to push themselves into a political debate. But often it's someone who dips a toe into the political waters, then finds the cameras swinging on to them in what surely is a bracing lesson in the contemporary media's appetites.

What ensues is a debate about just what this person is supposed to represent. Is she the embodiment of a problem conservatives refuse to solve? Is he the truest of Americans, held down by liberal meddling? Or is this person, down to his or her very soul, everything we want the public to hate about the other side?

I've written before about the standard media practice of offering "exemplars," or ordinary people used as the vehicle through which to tell the story of a policy issue or an event. The kind of political exemplars pushed by the parties aren't as common, but each one gets much more attention. Last week saw another episode of these exemplar controversies, and certainly one of the oddest ones yet. Despite some of the weird details, it was familiar in the way it wound up: with conservatives showing the worst of themselves. They haven't seemed to realize that no matter who starts these arguments, the right almost always loses them. That isn't because liberals are so brilliant at choosing these exemplars, or because liberals control the media in which the argument plays out. It's because once things get going, conservatives can't help but give vent to their ugliest impulses and anxieties, driven on by the mistaken belief that all Americans will see things the way they do.

Last week, the pro-Obama group Organizing for America put up a web ad with a photo of a 20-something man wearing pajamas and drinking hot chocolate in what looked like a Christmas-morning scene, to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance. Immediately, many in the conservative media reacted as though just looking at this young fellow had transported them back to the junior high schoolyard where the class bully had called them sissies. The only way to restore their manhood, apparently, was to go after some random kid in a web ad by saying he's kinda gay.

The National Review's Rich Lowry kicked things off with a column imputing to this fictional character, now named "Pajama Boy," an entire history and a series of character flaws. "He might be glad to pay more for his health insurance to include maternity benefits he doesn't need as a blow against gender stereotyping," Lowry wrote. But that was one of the more restrained assaults on Pajama Boy's masculinity. A writer for the popular conservative site Pajamas Media (so named as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the belief that bloggers are just people sitting in their pajamas spouting off, though by now they seem to have changed their stance on pajamas), wrote a piece beginning, "Whatever horrifying condition deprived Pajama Boy of his genitals, I suppose we must be thankful he can't pass it along to future generations." He went on to assert cleverly that left-wing academics also "have no genitals" and concluded, "Side with the left long enough, and your genitals fall off. As well they should." Lowry's National Review colleague Mark Steyn wrote, "Obamacare pajama models, if not yet mandatorily gay, can only be dressed in tartan onesies and accessorized with hot chocolate so as to communicate to the Republic's maidenhood what a thankless endeavor heterosexuality is in contemporary America." Don't even ask what happened on Twitter.

It should go without saying that if you see a photo of a somewhat nerdy-looking young man and your first impulse is to shout, "Gay! Gay! That guy's gay!" then maybe you should do some hard thinking about where this powerful sexual anxiety comes from.

So what happens when this is all said and done? Democrats put up a web ad, then conservatives blow a gasket and end up looking shrill and homophobic. This kind of pattern has repeated itself many times. Recall Sandra Fluke, the activist who became briefly famous when she testified before Congress about a controversy over insurance coverage for birth control at the university where she was a law student. Though she said nothing about her personal life, conservatives immediately attacked her for believing that women should have the right to a sex life. Rush Limbaugh, the most powerful conservative media figure in America, called called her a "slut" and a "prostitute," and said, "if we're going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." And they wonder why there's a gender gap.

It isn't that Democrats aren't willing to criticize the exemplars Republicans elevate. You remember Joe the Plumber, whom John McCain loved so dearly he brought him up in a debate with Obama, praised him in stump speeches, and even produced an ad with salt-of-the-earth Americans proclaiming "I'm Joe the Plumber" as though he was Spartacus. Liberals certainly chuckled when Joe turned out to not actually be a licensed plumber, and took some satisfaction when he failed to turn his celebrity into a career as a lawmaker, losing his 2012 campaign for an Ohio congressional seat by a razor-thin 49-point margin. Liberals were happy to note that the small business owner who starred in a Mitt Romney ad attacking Barack Obama for "you didn't build that" actually got nearly a million dollars in government loans and contracts.

But there's a particular venom that characterizes the approach many conservatives take to the liberal exemplars. For example, it's hard to imagine a prominent liberal columnist driving to Baltimore to poke around the home and business of the family of a 12-year-old boy who advocated for the S-CHIP funding that helped his family afford medical treatment for him and his sister after a serious car accident. But that's what conservative celebrity Michelle Malkin did in 2007, in an attempt to prove that the boy's family didn't deserve the help. It certainly seems as though whenever we meet a new ordinary citizen liberals are touting, the first thought some conservatives have is, "This person must be destroyed."

There's also often a disconnect between the attempt to undermine the exemplar and the policy argument conservatives are making. Let's say Malkin had succeeded in uncovering some dirt on that young boy's family. What would that have shown—that poor children shouldn't get health coverage? It was reminiscent of something we learned more about this week, one of the most well-known exemplars in American political history: the "welfare queen" whose bilking of the system Ronald Reagan touted as proof that poor people didn't deserve help from the government. While liberals believed for many years that Reagan had simply made up the tale (like so many others), Slate has the fascinating backstory of Linda Taylor, who not only defrauded welfare in the 1960s and 70s but may have also committed multiple acts of murder and kidnapping. The problem with Reagan's use of her story is that he wasn't arguing that it showed that we needed to do more to crack down on fraud so con artists couldn't take advantage of the system. Reagan was arguing that this career criminal was actually a typical welfare recipient, and her story showed that benefits should be cut for everyone.

Reagan's "welfare queen" story had real political potency. These days though, conservatives are more likely to get worked up over some individual liberal (or the photo of someone they presume is a liberal) and eventually find that the public doesn't share their excitement. Just like they thought Joe the Plumber was going to win them the 2008 election, I guess they think a photo of a guy wearing pajamas is going to get Americans mad at Barack Obama and make them not want to get health insurance. To which liberals should probably respond: Go ahead. Keep telling us about how liberal men aren't as manly and strong as you are, and how single women are a bunch of sluts, and how racial minorities are ungrateful moochers. How's that been working out for you lately?

Comments

How's that working out for them?

Have you looked at the House of Representatives lately?

You don't need to control the Presidency if you control one house of the Congress.

Good point. He should have brought up gerrymandering, as that clearly is relevant to the reaction to Pajama Boy. (You did know more people voted for Democrats than Republicans in House elections in 2012, right? The Republican majority in the House is only due to the distribution of those votes, largely due to gerrymandering.)

Young people, if you unfortunately get into a bad accident or contract a severe illness, you won't care about what some frightwing fanatics might say about you. Trust. So get insured.

If I read the healthcare law in between the lines correctly, such a person can be taken to the ER, get treated, and might not have to pay. Or then be able to get insurance to cover it because injuries from an accident or a disease are a pre-existing condition. But who knows? I grant you that.

Meanwhile, many young men are learning this:

Young, healthy men will see higher premium increases than their female counterparts. This is true despite these facts:

Young men go to the doctor far less and cost their insurers far less than do young women, even factoring out women's reproductive-related visits.

Young women will have more nonreproductive-related preventive services than young men. Check that out at healthcare.gov/what-are-my-preventive-care-benefits/#part=1 (I wonder how gay men will like that maternity coverage.)

In short, men will get fewer benefits than women after being forced to pay a bigger premium increase. That's how Obama will uphold his promise to eliminate "premium discrimination against women."

The crafters of Obamacare saw real discrimination against men as the safest way (because "men don't protest and they don't matter anyway") to pay for their healthcare program. See "Why so few men protest anti-male sexism (Or: Why men fear women)"
malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/why-so-few-men-protest-anti-male-sexism-or-why-men-fear-women/

If a law required women to pay the same as men for auto insurance, the streets would be over-run with angry protesters of both sexes.

Democrats always know which gender of the ox to gore.

"Two takes on Obamacare’s discrimination against men"
malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/does-obamacare-discriminate-against-men/

"Men Likely to Put Off the Doctor (Male Matters: Or: why men are charged less for health insurance)"
malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/men-likely-to-put-off-the-doctor-male-matters-or-why-men-are-charged-less-for-health-insurance/

"Who will pay more? Gender discrimination in health insurance costs"
malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/a-brief-note-on-gender-discrimination-in-health-insurance-costs/

Yeah, run right out and pay way more than you should because this libtard says so. Trust? Not a strong suit of the democrat party. Deception is more apt. Think of this guy as the grinning Cheshire cat in the tree. Run from whatever he's pushing.

Mr. Waldman, I sincerely hope Santa brings you a sense of humor for Christmas. It is sad to think you have to go through life without one.

The pajamaboy ephitomizes the lala land of the obama supporters. The president is now as cool as the image of the pahamaboy dringking chocolate flavor koolaid....I guess thats working for Libs

I suppose you sleep in camo with your full Duck beard and Dynasty tattoos on display because every conservative, male or female, is Duck Dynasty macho?

Mulp, we don't parade around like we can't get through college because we have so much sex we need free birth control and then sit around in our fruity zip up pj's looking like were waiting on Liberace to show up. Bring on Duck Dynasty at least they will not back down from the liberal here's how you should live bullsh-t. Got that mulp..

Mulp, we don't parade around like we can't get through college because we have so much sex we need free birth control and then sit around in our fruity zip up pj's looking like were waiting on Liberace to show up. Bring on Duck Dynasty at least they will not back down from the liberal here's how you should live bullsh-t. Got that mulp..

"Conservatives get a bad case of bullying whenever liberals find . . ."

Hmm. Bullying.

For ages, it seems, liberals reflexively attacked conservatives with the charge, "Raaaaaaacist!" But now I sense that liberals have found a new arrow for their quiver: "Bully!"

Between race cards and bully cards flying about, the air around the liberal chattering class will look like a ticker tape parade.

Exactly; they've worn the race card completely out in five short years. The word "racist" has absolutely no meaning anymore.

One good thing to come out of the Obama administration though, is that people finally see that there is more racism among minorities in America than among white people.

Look, Pajama Boy looks pretty ridiculous. I live in a working class neighborhood, it he showed up anywhere near he would be laughed out if it. As far as being used to promote health insurance he is a bad example. He reminds me of a spoiled child grown up but not grown out of childhood.

Pajama Boy and Sandra Fluke and Julia are 'creations' of the Left which are blatantly demeaning to men and women alike.

Women don't need government paying for their birth control and carrying them from cradle to grave and men don't need to be presented as footie-pajama wearing baby-men, drinking hot cocoa and living in their parents basement. The images the Left uses to make their case on every issue is insulting and I'm guessing becoming somewhat irritating to their target audience.

And if the Left needs to defend it this kind of messaging it REALLY shows how out of touch they are. The blowback is growing.

This isn't about anything other than the infantalizing of America and the Left's overweening need to portray government as the only Mommy and Daddy anyone will ever need.

Obama and his minions have been exposed as the hustlers and charlatans they are…once credibility is gone (and it is) good luck trying to win it back.

Yeah, they don't seem to see the disconnect. This guy is supposed to be a responsible adult who needs to buy health insurance, but there he sits in a flannel onesie. Doesn't compute.

As a heterosexual female, I do find the never-ending parade of highly effeminate males put forth by democrats totally bizarre - Pajama Boy being a perfect example.

Indypendent-I'm with you sister. Give me a Tom Selleck or a Marlboro Man any day over Pajama Boy. Good grief, you don't need to be a conservative to find him laughable…he simply is.

Indypendent-I'm with you sister. Give me a Tom Selleck or a Marlboro Man any day over Pajama Boy. Good grief, you don't need to be a conservative to find him laughable…he simply is.

there's never a shortage of writer anxious to defend the messiah, pajama boy or not.

When I was his age, I was wearing Navy dungarees on a Sturgeon class submarine sucking down lukewarm coffee while on engine room watch. And the only "healthcare" discussion were about minimizing the hazards of serving on a nuclear powered war vessel. I am sure his mother tells him he is a special snowflake that can live at home forever. My mother gave me a kiss on the check and a box lunch and told me to make her and my country proud. So, I don't have a lot of sympathy for poor little pj boy.

But there's a particular venom that characterizes the approach many conservatives take to the liberal exemplars. For example, it's hard to imagine a prominent liberal columnist driving to Baltimore to poke around the home and business of the family of a 12-year-old boy who advocated for the S-CHIP funding that helped his family afford medical treatment for him and his sister after a serious car accident. But that's what conservative celebrity Michelle Malkin did in 2007, in an attempt to prove that the boy's family didn't deserve the help. It certainly seems as though whenever we meet a new ordinary citizen liberals are touting, the first thought some conservatives have is, "This person must be destroyed."

You're kidding right? This is hardly a sole character trait from the right- You cite some underwhelming example of Michelle Malkin, totally ignoring the obvious and highly publicized seek and destroy missions from the left that brought teams of 'journalists' flocking to Alaska acting as de facto op-researchers on Sarah Palin. Because the of the left wing hate mob seething over her, her email was hacked, she was stalked, and one guy writing a book was so obsessed he even MOVED IN NEXT DOOR. But sure, liberals never go after their enemies with any "venom" right? Spare me.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/sarah-palin-stalker

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sarah-palin-builds-fence-as-joe-mcginniss-son-denies-stalker-claim/

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2008/09/investigative-reporters-head-alaskaand-when-will-sarah-palin-meet-press

If Palin stalking isnt proof enough that liberals are just as, if not more venomous toward their political opponents, I submit to you the term 'swatting'- and then take note that EVERY SINGLE political victim of the abhorrent practice recently has been conservative, which would mean it was perpetrated by liberals committing reprehensible crimes in order to intimidate and/or harm their political opponents.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77292.html

The fact that you would even insinuate that trying to destroy your opponent is just a conservative "venom" is not only wrong, but shows how little you care about getting your facts straight. This article wasnt about being accurate, it was written solely to make liberals not feel so ashamed by how pathetic the pajama boy ad was...so congrats- you may have succeeded in having them swallow your kool-aid in one big gulp, but you have wholly invalidated any good argument you could have made by making claims that are easily proven false. So thanks for ceding any high ground you may have had here by lying- we on the right appreciate it.

Don't forget the relentless attacks on anyone who had the audacity to voice disagreement with Obama. John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) was bashed non-stop, boycotted and ended up demoted all because he rightfully stated there were better ways to insure the uninsured.

Then there were a couple of business owners who corrected some of Obama's blatant LIES in the campaign about Romney - they were viciously attacked. So was that one donor (Vandersloot) who was targeted by the administration: http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/14/frank-vandersloot-im-not-the-only-major-mitt-romney-donor-audited/

Oh yeah, then there was the dozens of Tea Party groups who were slandered by the liberal media for years and then violated by the federal government to beat.

Liberals are, without a doubt, the biggest hypocrites on the planet.

Oh good grief!! Spare me the self-righteousness and high dudgeon. The left would certainly not want to pass up an opportunity to make a mountain out of a mole hill. The guy looked ridiculous in a loud, zip up onesie and people made fun of him. Get a life!

Other than just a rather disjointed extreme left wing attack on conservatives I really didn't see the purpose of this article? I think most on the left or right would say that Obama's propaganda efforts on behalf of Obamacare are about as lame as they get. I thought Pajama boy was a perfect example of the Obama age. You have some 25 something sitting, likely in his parents home, in his Pajamas drinking hot chocolate because he doesn't have a job or anything useful to do. If the hot chocolate wasn't paid for by his parents he likely bought it with Obamastamps courtesy of the taxpayers. After 5 years of Obama the under 30 crowd is living with their parents. The Obamacare conversation should be short because he doesn't need insurance as he's still on his parents policy. Now they may well have lost their policy because of Obamacare, and they may have to discuss getting a new policy as a family that will certainly cost far more than the policy that Obama promised them they could keep, but since Pajama boy doesn't have a job and won't be paying I doubt he'll care much. Personally I like the Obamacare propaganda ad I saw last night where Obama has a bunch of stereotypical young gay men, very good looking young gay men, prancing around nearly nude. Now the bulges of young men in speedos, courtesy of Obama, is something the family can discuss with their young children around Christmas dinner as Michelle encouraged them to do. That at least will be a more interesting discussion than the tears and rage of families whose Christmas is ruined because they have to pay 3 or 4x more for an Obamacare policy they Don't Want. Obamacare was built on LIES and FRAUD by Obama and the Democrats in Congress. This lame propaganda campaign is just more of the same from a President and Party who have LIED and DEFRAUDED all of us. This is what they do folks. Be outraged or amused it makes no difference, but we deserve far better that this silly left wing nonsense.

It's not bashing when we're commenting on something as ridiculous as Sandra Fluke or the wimpy little pajama boy. Too bad you liberal idiots don't call your bashing bashing. Too bad your double standard is sooooo prevalent. It's OK to thing what I want to as long as it what you agree with it. Reminds me of kindergarten. Whenever you think you're on the right path, just remember Detroit, Chicago, Californistan and other places that your regressive policies have taken down the tubes. LONG LIVE PHIL ROBERTSON.!!!!!!!

Is the American Prospect a for profit entity? How much money does it lose a year I wonder? I also wonder if the author is paid for articles like this? I think he should change his name at least to be something more apropos, like Jamelle Bouie-Harrup-Van-something. Paul Waldman sounds so normal.

Oh, and nice rendition of the WH talking points. Maybe fifth on the day to others like Juan Williams. Equally facile, tiresome, and tendentious, but still, likely fifth on the day. And, really kind of needless. The enrollments just aren't going to happen despite all these desperate articles. But not to worry. When no one signs up, Obama will just say 2.3 million Americans signed up and those 6+ million plans that were cancelled were reinstated. Not that either would be true, but clearly the White House is comfortable with its Plan B: just lie.

I mean after all there is only one single person that speaks for the federal government. There is only one person who tells us what is going on. Obama. And we all know how honest the man is.

How can you believe he's a guy? The way this administration lies and covers up stories what can you believe. This train wreck needs to be stopped and figure out how we can cover the people not covered. Do you think he can continue to change the law and the next republican cannot put the whole law on timeout forever. Do you think you are the only party that can change rules laws, that's the only thing this worthless president has done well. If you're not cheating you're only cheating yourself. Just wait libs your time in hell is coming.

not sure how I feel about this article. on balance, I think I'm bad for Paul Waldman, who apparently has no sense of humor. he also doesn't seem to actually know any 20-somethings, or he'd understand why this ad has been mocked so relentlessly--and not only by conservatives.

as for this hurting Republicans, I say: yeah sure, Paul. that's right. the mean old conservatives who hurt Pajama Boy's feelings are really likely to pay for it at the polls. in fact, I think you Dems should bring up PJ Boy AND Obamacare as often as possible during the 2014 elections.

d'oh--"I think I FEEL bad for Paul Waldman." am I bad for Paul Waldman? that's another question entirely!

Your post is spot on. Mocking pajama boy isn't going to make a difference one way or another for conservatives chances at the ballot box. Much of Democratic electoral success is due to most of the mainstream media itself leaning left, and pretty much being in the tank for Obama.

" I guess they think a photo of a guy wearing pajamas is going to get Americans mad at Barack Obama"

Perhaps the author is a bit slow on the uptake and doesn't realize that Americans are already mad at Obama and it isn't because of some effeminate guy in pajamas.

Huh. I take it some conservative site linked to this post. It is funny reading all these comments that do nothing other than demonstrate the point of the article was correct.

Please conservatives, keep on typing.

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