Maureen Dowd / Moving on from white male America: Now it's time for the president to lead, not follow, those who voted for him
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WASHINGTON -- It makes sense that Mitt Romney and his advisers are still gobsmacked by the fact that they're not commandeering the West Wing.
(Though, as "The Daily Show" correspondent John Oliver jested, the White House might have been one of the smaller houses Mr. Romney ever lived in.)
Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.
Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.
Maybe the group can retreat to a man cave in a Whiter House, with mahogany paneling, brown leather Chesterfields, a moose head over the fireplace, an elevator for the presidential limo, and one of those men's club signs on the phone that reads: "Telephone Tips: 'Just Left,' 25 cents; 'On His Way,' 50 cents; 'Not here,' $1; 'Who?' $5."
In its delusional death spiral, the white male patriarchy was so hard core, so redolent of country clubs and Cadillacs, it made little effort not to alienate women. The election had the largest gender gap in the history of the Gallup poll, with Barack Obama winning the vote of single women by 36 percentage points.
As W.'s former aide Karen Hughes put it in Politico on Friday, "If another Republican man says anything about rape other than it is a horrific, violent crime, I want to personally cut out his tongue."
Some Republicans conceded they were "a 'Mad Men' party in a 'Modern Family' world" (although "Mad Men" seems too louche for a candidate who doesn't drink or smoke and who apparently dated only one woman). They also acknowledged that Mr. Romney's strategists ran a 20th-century campaign against David Plouffe's 21st-century one.
But the truth is, Mr. Romney was an unpalatable candidate. And shocking as it may seem, his strategists weren't blowing smoke when they said they were going to win; they were just clueless.
Until now, Republicans and Fox News have excelled at conjuring alternate realities. But this time, they made the mistake of believing their fake world actually existed. As Fox's Megyn Kelly said to Karl Rove on election night, when he argued against calling Ohio for Mr. Obama: "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?"
Mr. Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their "traditional" America. But the more they insulted the president with birther cracks, the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.
The election about the economy also sounded the death knell for the Republican culture wars.
Mr. Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner. But in the real country, many wives were urging husbands not to vote for a Brylcreemed boss out of a '50s boardroom whose party was helping to revive a 50-year-old debate over contraception.
Just like the Bushes before him, Mr. Romney tried to portray himself as more American than his Democratic opponent. But America's gallimaufry wasn't knuckling under to the gentry this time.
If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: "We are the Ones we've been waiting for."
Last time, Mr. Obama lifted up the base with his message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Mr. Obama, with the hope he will change. He has not led the Obama army to leverage power, so now the army is leading Mr. Obama.
When the first African-American president was elected, his supporters expected dramatic changes. But Mr. Obama feared that he was such a huge change for the country to digest, it was better if other things remained status quo. Michelle played Laura Petrie, and the president was dawdling on promises. Having Joe Biden blurt out his support for gay marriage forced Mr. Obama's hand.
The president's record-high rate of deporting illegal immigrants infuriated Latinos. Now, on issues from loosening immigration laws to taxing the rich to gay rights to climate change to legalizing pot, the country has leapt ahead, pulling the sometimes listless and ruminating president by the hand, urging him to hurry up.
More women voted than men. Five women were newly elected to the Senate, and the number of women in the House will increase by at least three. New Hampshire will be the first state to send an all-female delegation to Congress. Live Pink or Dye.
Meanwhile, as Bill Maher said, "all the Republican men who talked about lady parts during the campaign, they all lost."
The voters anointed a lesbian senator, and three new gay congressmen will make a total of five in January. Plus, three states voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, told The Washington Post's Ned Martel that gays, whose donations helped offset the Republican "super PACs," wanted to see an openly gay Cabinet secretary and an openly gay ambassador to a G-20 nation.
Bill O'Reilly said Mr. Obama's voters wanted "stuff." He was right. They want Barry to stop bogarting the change.
First Published November 12, 2012 12:00 am