The politics of Draperizing

Politico published a long look at the Hilary Rosen debacle on Friday the Thirteenth, but somehow writers Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman decided to entitle the article “The Draperization of Mitt Romney.”  It begins with a side-by-side photo of Don Draper and Mitt Romney.

Don Draper, for those who don’t recognize the name, is a fictional character, played by Jon Hamm on the popular TV series Mad Men.  The show is set in the mid-1960s, and chronicles the adventures of hard-drinking, chain-smoking, womanizing Madison Avenue advertising executives. 

There has been a rather… curious level of political synergy building between the Obama 2012 campaign and the show.  For no reason whatsoever, one of the minor characters saw fit to insult Mitt Romney’s father George in an episode a couple of weeks ago.  George Romney, who was the governor of Michigan at the time, has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the show.

Shortly after this episode aired, top Obama hatchet man David Axelrod gave a CBS News interview in which he accused Mitt Romney of watching the world through “the rear view mirror” and said, “I think he must watch Mad Men and think it’s the evening news.  He’s just in a time warp.  You have a guy who wants to go back to the same policies that got us into this disaster. He wants to cut taxes for the very wealthy, cut Wall Street loose to write its own rules and he thinks that this somehow is going to produce broad prosperity for Americans. We’ve tested that. It’s failed.”

Ah yes, we wouldn’t want to live in the bleak pre-Obama past, when people had jobs, the economy was growing, the national debt was $5 trillion smaller, gas cost less than half what it does now, and a whole lot of Obama’s top contributors had less taxpayer money stuffed in their pockets.  Even a failed President can talk about “morning in America,” provided he can convince everyone to forget about last night.

Even though Axelrod is one of the terrified Democrat operatives who found himself compelled to shove Hilary Rosen under the bus, during Thursday’s mad scramble to run away from her attack on stay-at-home mothers, Politico thought it would be a good idea to use Axelrod’s dopey Mad Men narrative to kick off its post-mortem.  Here’s how the article begins:

The Draperizing of Mitt Romney is under way.

He may not drink or cheat, and he lacks the fictional ad-maker’s charisma, but Democrats, despite the potential perils of such a strategy, remain determined to paint Romney as a throwback to the “Mad Men” era — a hopelessly retro figure who, on policy and in his personal life, is living in the past.

President Barack Obama has noted the presumptive GOP nominee uses archaic turns of phrase such as “marvelous” and warned in an email to donors Thursday that his rival would usher in “a social agenda from the 1950s.”

Don Draper is pretty much defined by his drinking, cheating, and charisma.  They couldn’t wait to throw in an insult by noting that Romney doesn’t have Draper’s charisma, and everyone knows he doesn’t drink or cheat, so Martin and Haberman begin by completely destroying the silly premise of their own article.  If this was a high-school term paper, it would have been returned covered in more red ink than Obama’s last budget proposal.

The reason they’re nattering on about “Draperizing,” in an article otherwise devoted to Hilary Rosen making utter fools of the entire Democrat Party, is that these “Mad Men politics” are a serious component of the Obama 2012 campaign strategy.  Ann Romney just left the “War on Women” narrative stretched out on the canvas with a broken jaw, so it’s time for the Left’s media helpers to try salvaging some other narrative, to get their party back into the fight.

The Left is so besotted with “progressive politics” that they think even the most labored suggestion that Mitt Romney is a time traveler from the Happy Days era will automatically turn off voters.  Why, as Politico notes, even House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan says Romney “reminds me of a lot of people I grew up with, a lot of people I know, who have that Midwest earnestness.  He’s kind of a throwback to the 50s.”

Mad Men is set in the 1960s, not the 1950s, but whatever.  It’s the past, and therefore it’s bad.  Even though anyone familiar with the murky opacity of the scandal-plagued Obama Administration should be hungry for a little “Midwest earnestness” right about now.  In our more honorable past, when higher standards were expected of public officials, the man responsible for Solyndra, the “stimulus” heist, and Operation Fast and Furious would have long ago resigned in disgrace, rather than running for re-election on a hyper-divisive platform of class and social warfare.  People with a bit of Midwest earnestness might actually respond to subpoenas.

After spending a little time on the Democrat political disaster that, you know, actually happened yesterday, instead of talking up an entirely unrelated – if equally lunkheaded – campaign strategy that’s still rolling off David Axelrod’s word processor, Politico delivers another whopper of a self-refuting paragraph:

Yet while the Rosen comments may cause Democrats short-term discomfort, some in the party are happy to have a longer conversation on the topic. While none would say so publicly, a number are glad to have such an explosive subject introduced, believing that Romney’s views on reproductive rights and pay equity can be reinforced by reminding female voters where the GOP hopeful is getting his counsel.

Even before the Rosen flap, some prominent activists argued that there are limits to Ann Romney’s ability to appeal to women — despite her acknowledged strengths as a surrogate — based on a potential lack of common experiences.

So the Democrats are “happy to have a longer conversation” on Rosen’s suicide bombing run against traditional motherhood, but “none would say so publicly.”  Oh, brother.

Also the entire point of Thursday’s Rosen meltdown – prepared and staged by comments from her very close associate Barack Hussein Obama, who mused on Friday that keeping his wife home to raise the kids was a “luxury” he “couldn’t afford,” even though he was making $162,000 at the time – was to “remind female voters where the GOP hopeful is getting his council.”  Specifically, Ann Romney. 

Far from being eager to continue this conversation, the Democrats are frantically tearing Hilary Rosen out of their Rolodexes and claiming there are lots of people named “Hilary Rosen” in the world, so maybe the one who attacked Ann Romney isn’t the same one who visited the White House 35 times.  Any “activist” who still doubts Ann Romney’s “ability to appeal to women” after the events of this week is going to find themselves under the bus next to Rosen.

So will any Democrat strategist who thinks the “War on Women” is going to fly again.  It was a stupid narrative to begin with, and it crashed harder than a North Korean rocket.  One of the reasons is that Barack Obama really, really, really doesn’t want anyone comparing his direct treatment of women to Mitt Romney’s, a point Politico concedes in another thesis-refuting paragraph:

To be fair, Romney’s governmental record, as well as his campaign, generally reflect gender inclusion. His gubernatorial chief of staff and campaign senior adviser, Beth Myers, is female, as are his deputy campaign manager and communications director. In 2003, Romney’s first year as governor, Massachusetts ranked number one among all states for the highest ratio of women policy leaders appointed by governors, according to a 2004 study by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. The suggestion that Romney’s world is cloistered from women is not a fair one.

What this all boils down to is a political strategy based on “dog whistles” about racism – just look at the way black people are getting treated in the current season of Mad Men! – coupled with the primitive mythology of progressivism: progress = good, bigger government = progress, restoring liberty = living in the past, the past = bad. 

Of course, it’s also heavily predicated on the willingness of voters to completely forget about the recent past on command – say, everything Obama said in 2008, and everything that happened between 2009 and 2012.  But the pop-culture-besotted electorate is also expected to remember any era in which gentlemen wore hats as a time of brutal horror, from which they should flee in blind panic.

I’ll tell you what all these analysts are missing: it is contrary to human nature to assume that every aspect of the past is inherently bad.  They are naturally suspicious of claims that everything described as “progress” is either wise, inevitable, or irrevocable.  A lot of women stay home to raise their kids, and many who can’t would love to do so.  They don’t deserve to be mocked as out-of-touch housepets who don’t have anything interesting to say about current events. 

And when we hear of women who do find a way to make motherhood their full-time job, despite modest means – as Ann Romney’s means were modest, when she first became a mother – we find it inspirational.  Our inclination is to respect such women, and their husbands… and, most dangerously for the people who brought us our bloated government, high taxes, and dizzying national debt, wonder how they were so much more common in an earlier, supposedly benighted era.  Why, according to Obama’s rhetoric, America didn’t even have cops, firefighters, or accurate weather reports before he started running trillion-dollar deficits, because he says we’ll lose all these things if we cut his deficits in half.  How did people even survive back then, never mind raise families on a single income?

To say that the present is inherently better than the past, in every possible way, is to assert that no one ever made a mistake.  That’s so foolish that no one but a hard-core leftist ideologue really believes it.  And if either Don Draper or Mitt Romney did, they wouldn’t be successful businessmen.