Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Objections to Julia ad show GOP out of touch

By Ilyse Hogue, Special to CNN
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Mon May 14, 2012
The GOP tries to take away opportunities and liberties of women like Julia, says Ilyse Hogue.
The GOP tries to take away opportunities and liberties of women like Julia, says Ilyse Hogue.
  • Conservatives criticize Obama campaign's ad, "The Life of Julia," as big government
  • Ilyse Hogue: GOP continues to wage a war on women's health and economic parity
  • She says women are at a competitive disadvantage if not for government programs
  • Hogue: Republicans claim to stand for individual liberty and opportunity, but it's false

Editor's note: Ilyse Hogue is the former director of political advocacy and communications for She has been a senior strategist to a number of Democratic and progressive groups, including Media Matters for America, Public Campaign and Rebuild the Dream. She is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine.

(CNN) -- In his recent CNN column, Bill Bennett lambasts Obama campaign's slide show ad, "The Life of Julia," as the epitome of government reliance propaganda.

The conservative commentator protests that nothing less than our very liberty is at stake when a cartoon woman is depicted being aided at points in her life by the president's policies, and the cries of outrage emanating from Fox News indicate that many a right-wing pundit have heeded his call.

But when Bennett zeros in on his concerns that Julia is depicted with no man and no church in her life, his true agenda starts to come clearly into focus, and along with it, the core contradiction of the conservative ideology. The Republican Party claims to stand for individual liberty and opportunity, but it actually believes that only some individuals are worthy of those fundamental rights.

Ilyse Hogue
Ilyse Hogue

As the slide show depicts Julia using the opportunities provided to her through government programs to excel in school, in parenting and in starting a small business, Bennett quakes with frustration that she is doing so without a man. At one point, he bellows, "Instead, the state has taken their place and is her primary relationship."

But his core charge is ludicrous. Just because the story doesn't introduce a male character does not mean that Julia's life is bereft of relationships. With or without a man, the truth is that any woman will face most of the situations shown in the slide show at some point in her lifetime and will be at a competitive disadvantage without programs that offer equal opportunity to succeed personally and professionally.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and

Conservatives who continue to wage a war on women's health and economic parity willfully ignore the basic facts facing American women today.

Seventy years after Rosie the Riveter popularized the idea of women in the workplace -- or at least as factory line workers while the men were at war -- women still only make 77 cents on the dollar compared with men for doing the same job.

Innovative and entrepreneurial women fare no better. Male-founded start-ups receive four times more venture capital funding over female-founded start-ups. Women-led companies are twice as likely to get debt versus equity capital, requiring that women shoulder more of the risk on their own. Despite research showing that gender diversity within senior ranks of organizations translates into financial value, especially when innovation is part of the equation, women have not gained much footing. Moreover, according to the 2010 census, four million more women than men live in poverty in the United States.

And what about that government with which Bennett is so concerned? It must be rife with women who want to bilk the system for women like Julia, right? Wrong.

The number of women representing Americans in Congress fell in 2010 for the first time in 30 years. Women went from 93 seats in the House and the Senate to 90 combined. Women represent less than 17% of leadership at the federal level, a number that qualifies the U.S. for a rank of 73 in the world for female representation in government. We're tied with Turkmenistan.

Women like Julia have systematically watched the right wing try to take away their opportunities and liberties. Republicans have repeatedly voted against fair pay provisions, parental leave, job training and other proposals that allow women to obtain and pursue opportunity through their lives at the same rate as their male counterparts.

The budget of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, slashes nutritional assistance that would disproportionately affect women and children, while providing billions in tax cuts for already wealthy individuals, the vast majority of whom are men or couples where the primary wage earner is male.

It is no longer shocking that Republicans continue to fight against equality; their actions have been consistent and focused on eroding women's rights and economic security.

The only shocking fact is that Bennett and other conservatives believe they can claim the mantle of "liberty" and "opportunity." Julia and millions of other American women will secure their own liberty and opportunity only when the GOP stops trying to prevent our democracy from doing what it was designed to do: Offer all Americans an equal chance at success.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ilyse Hogue.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.