As a white male, I should have insights into this minority, particularly the subset consisting of white males of a certain age. I don't. My thoughts may be muddled by the memoir I'm reading, Life, by Keith Richards, whose credentials as a white male of a certain age are very much in order. As a boy, Richards was a Boy Scout. An ardent Boy Scout. "I had badges all over the place, unbelievable!" he writes. The best evidence of his ardor is an anecdote Richards relates from years later:
I was in my hotel room in Saint Petersburg, on tour with the Stones, when I found myself watching the ceremony commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Boy Scouts. It was at Brownsea Island, where Baden-Powell started his first camp. All alone in my room, I stood up, made the three-fingered salute and said, 'Patrol leader, Beaver Patrol, Seventh Dartford Scouts, sir.' I felt I had to report.
A Boy Scout, in case you don't know, is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That's a lot to remember, but when you know it you know it for life. This week I'm sure millions of men ever ready, willing, and able to snap off the Boy Scout salute and rattle off the Boy Scout virtues gave Romney their support, for what it was worth. Which wasn't enough, obviously, and in 2016 will be worth even less.
Even as a Scout, Richards was obsessed with the music coming over to London from America. "I didn't know Chuck Berry was black for two years after I first heard his music . . ." Richards tells us. "And for ages I didn't know Jerry Lee Lewis was white . . . It was hardly important. It was the sound that was important." Richards didn't grow up to be a white male. He grew up to be a Rolling Stone.
And it might be simply because I'm reading Life that I think of white males as a subset of white males, the subset of guys for whom being white and being male is pretty much what defines them. The 2012 electorate has been sliced and diced a thousand different ways, and if I broke ranks as a white male I voted predictably as an urbanite and as someone who goes to church less than once a week. (According to a scrawl I spotted on one of the TV stations, the less often someone went to church the more likely he or she was to vote for Obama. Weekly churchgoers were firmly in the Romney camp.)
In a postmortem in Thursday's New York Times, a former Republican congressman from Virginia ponders demographic reality: "It is time to sit down practically and say where are we going to add pieces to our coalition," says Tom Davis. "There just are not enough middle-aged white guys that we can scrape together to win. There's just not enough of them."
To make matters even worse for the Republicans, middle-aged white guys are some of the touchiest people on earth. Offer one your seat on a bus and you'll see what I mean. If they ever suspect Republicans take their vote for granted because—well, because they're such predictable old duffers—the next thing you know they'll be joining the Greens.