January 3, 2014
Pajama Boy’s place in Internet infamy was secured as soon as the insufferable man-child was tweeted out by Organizing for America.
He is the face of a Web ad that is the latest effort by the Obama team to leverage the holidays for conversation about Obamacare. “Wear pajamas,” the ad reads. “Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. #GetTalking.”
And, sure enough, Pajama Boy is wearing pajamas — a zip-up onesie in classic Lamar Alexander plaid — and drinking hot chocolate. He is in his 20s, sporting hipster glasses he could have bought at Warby Parker and an expression of self-satisfied ironic amusement.
Pajama Boy is about as threatening as Michael Cera and so nerdy he could guest-host on an unwatched MSNBC show. He is probably reading “The Bell Jar” and looking forward to a hearty Christmas meal of stuffed tofurkey. If he has anything to say about it, Obamacare enrollments will spike in the next few weeks in Williamsburg and Ann Arbor.
Perhaps the goal of OFA was to create a readily mockable image to draw attention to its message, in which case Pajama Boy was a brilliantly successful troll. The right immediately Photoshopped him into the Mandela funeral selfie and emblazoned his photo with derisive lines like “Hey girl, I live with my parents” and “How did you know I went to Oberlin?”
But it’s hard not to see Pajama Boy as an expression of the Obama vision, just like his forbear Julia, the Internet cartoon from the 2012 campaign. Pajama Boy is Julia’s little brother. She progressed through life without any significant family or community connections. He is the picture of perpetual adolescence. Neither is a symbol of self-reliant, responsible adulthood.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote long ago of the infantilizing tendency of all-encompassing government. “It would be like the authority of a parent,” he wrote in a famous passage, “if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood.” If you wanted to illustrate what Tocqueville was getting at in one meme, Pajama Boy would be good way to do it.
Pajama Boy’s mom probably still tucks him in at night, and when she isn’t there for him, Obamacare will be. A less nurturing reaction is, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it in a counter tweet, “Get out of your pajamas.” There’s a reason President Barack Obama is underwater by a 2-1 margin among men in the latest Quinnipiac poll.
For all the ridicule directed at Julia during last year’s campaign, she got at something important: Single women do look to government as a cushion against their economic insecurities. Pajama Boy isn’t so apt. 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, but most young people will presumably consider Obamacare more rationally and realize it’s a scheme to get them to subsidize insurance costs for older people.
Good luck, Pajama Boy, if you hope to talk them out of that.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.