Like every conservative, when I saw the recent Obamacare ads featuring the by-this-point infamous “Pajama Boy,” my first reaction was near-instant derision, and not just because of unpleasant flashbacks to my college years. Like my fellow conservatives, I too cackled with glee at the various parodies that sprouted up all over the Internet, and wanted to make one myself.

But now that a day has passed and the meme is old news, I have to admit the whole affair leaves a sour taste in my mouth. While I share a healthy contempt for the sort of smug, self-important, nonfunctional hipster that Pajama Boy clearly is (a contempt that most people in his own generation probably share), what struck me about the ad appears to be different from what struck everyone else. Namely, when you set aside its fundamental cluelessness, it’s actually also deeply disingenuous.

For just a moment, conservatives, drop your hair-trigger contempt for Pajama Boy not conforming to red state cultural ideals of manhood, and remind yourself that the Obama administration needs people like Pajama Boy to sign up for Obamacare’s exchanges in order to avoid a health-care death spiral. That means, whatever else Pajama Boy may be, he’s the guy who’s on the hook to pay for Obamacare while people older, richer and definitely more equipped to function in the economy freeload off him. He’s a dupe who has already been sold the rope that will hang him.

Moreover, because Obamacare has turned out to be such a glitchy, unworkable mess, Pajama Boy can’t play along with this regressive scheme even if he wants to. Indeed, if Pajama Boy really were discussing health care through his mouthfuls of hot chocolate, he’d probably be talking about how he can’t seem to sign up for insurance on the website, or how it’s charging him despite not having actually signed him up for anything. In short, like Julia before him, Pajama Boy is a victim both of the Obama administration’s incompetence and of its ideology. He’s also a victim the administration is trying to convince is someone they’re actually looking out for.

Here’s something else to consider: conservative mockery is letting the administration convince people like Pajama Boy that they’re the hero of this story, rather than unwitting patsies in a war on their own kind.

Fortunately, some – like Nick Gillespie at Reason – get this. Unfortunately, most conservatives, including at least one I deeply respect, don’t. They’re so caught up believing that because they disapprove of the cultural overtones of Pajama Boy, he must therefore be a natural client of the Obama administration. To quote one such take:

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.[….]

The breakdown of marriage and its drift into the 30s mean there are more Julias and Pajama Boys than ever. The growth of government feeds off this trend, and at the margins, augments it. The vision of the Obama Democrats, distilled to its essence, is of a direct relationship between the state and the individual without the mediating institutions of family, church and community that are an inherent check on government power.

The latter point is good small-c conservative theory, but unfortunately it’s wrong in the case of millennials like Pajama Boy. Deferring marriage among millennials isn’t a sign of a lack of responsible adulthood. It’s the logical conclusion of being raised to be responsible above all else. As First Things writer Tristyn Bloom argued about young peoples’ aversion to unplanned pregnancy:

We often hear that a problem with young people today is that we are irresponsible. We don’t have a sense of duty. We don’t have a sense of order. We’re immature. I think that the problem is actually the opposite. I think that we are pathologically terrified of risk and I think that we have this enslavement to our own ideas of respectability, our own ideas of our life plan, our commitments, our existing duties such that something as radically changing as a new life doesn’t fit in with those existing duties.

Pajama Boy is, in his own weird way, a scion of the same instinct. Millennials value security in most realms more than any previous generation, by a long shot. The idea of universal insurance appeals to people like him because it suggests that no matter who you are, whether you work a job or wear footie pajamas, you are protected against the risks of disease and/or catastrophe. Cosmetically, with its allowance for young people to stay on their parents’ insurance longer and supposed greater portability, Obamacare satisfies this wish.

However, because Obamacare is ultimately, like most entitlement programs, a means to redistribute wealth from the young, poor and healthy to the old, rich and sick, while it does offer some security, it’s a poisonous security. It deprives millennials of their savings and sets up yet more barriers to entry in an already-hostile economy, thus trapping them in the perpetual entry-level world that conservative seem to think they inhabit willingly. If one wanted to make the Pajama Boy ad honest about what the law does, all they’d have to do is add one word:

“Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. Forever.”

Conservatives don’t want this. Young people don’t want this. Even the more reasonable liberals don’t want this. Yet only conservatives are serious about fixing it, and saving Pajama Boy and his generation from a lifetime in footie pajamas, or as a barista at Starbucks. In fact, given that Pajama Boy is, like Santa Claus and Jesus, a white male, his demographic realized this fact back in 2012 when it broke for Romney.

So, conservatives, ignore Pajama Boy. He’s not the problem. The administration that is cravenly using him to sell its attempt to perform political necromancy on the corpse of Great Society liberalism is the problem. And the more you attack the messenger, the more you drive his comrades into the arms of their oppressors.

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