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“The GOP Presidential Primary Is Fraught With Male Anxiety”: A Phase Of The Campaign That Is Turning Positively Comical

As Chris Matthews memorably put it many years ago, Democrats are the “mommy party,” handling things like education and health care, while Republicans are the “daddy party,” concerned with things like crime and foreign threats. It’s an oversimplification, of course, but there’s some truth there, and it helps explain the persistent gender gap, with Democrats usually winning female voters and Republicans usually winning male voters.

But in this year’s presidential primary, we’ve entered a phase of the campaign that is turning positively comical in its expressions of male anxiety.

Just consider some of the things that have happened of late. Yesterday at a Donald Trump rally, a woman in the audience responded to Trump’s criticism of Ted Cruz for being insufficiently enthusiastic about torturing prisoners by shouting, “He’s a pussy!” Almost bursting with glee, Trump pretended to scold the woman, first telling her to repeat it, and then repeating it himself to the explosive delight of the audience.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz is trying to make an issue out of the fact that when his opponents were asked if women should register for the draft since they will now be serving in combat positions, they said Yes. Said Cruz:

“I’m the father of two little girls. I love those girls with all of my heart. They are capable of doing anything in their heart’s desire, but the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn’t make any sense at all.”

What actually doesn’t make sense is why Cruz thinks the military would be putting any soldier, male or female, in a foxhole with another soldier who is a psychopath trying to kill them, but in any case, Cruz is here to stand tall. As the National Review put it in an editorial today, “Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters.”

This comes after Marco Rubio got ridiculed for wearing fancy boots (“A Vote for Marco Rubio Is a Vote for Men’s High-Heeled Booties,” tweeted a Cruz staffer). And after Donald Trump spent weeks mocking Jeb Bush for being “low energy.”

In other words, this race is sounding like a bunch of elementary-school boys on the playground shouting “You’re a girl! No, you’re a girl! Girly girl! Girly girl!” I’m beginning to think the whole thing should be narrated by David Attenborough, whispering from behind a bush as we watch the candidates in action: “Here, we see the males bellowing and stomping their feet in a classic dominance display, each one more puffed up than the next, until one lucky silverback, his chest heaving with exertion and a rush of testosterone, forces his competitor to slink off in shame, his genes never to be passed on.”

Obviously, much of this festival of male anxiety is driven by Trump, whose entire life at times appears to be an extended attempt to prove he’s a Real Man. But this is an old story in presidential politics; indeed, in almost every election of the last few decades there are times when Republicans have implied or said directly that the Democratic candidate is effeminate and weak, whether it was Ronald Reagan challenging Walter Mondale to arm-wrestle, George H.W. Bush saying Michael Dukakis hailed from the “Harvard Yard’s boutique,” or Republicans mocking John Kerry for supposedly “looking French” (you know what that means).

The message all this is supposed to communicate is that real men vote Republican, and if you vote for the wrong candidate then your own masculinity might be in question. In a primary campaign where all the candidates fetishize “strength” and have equally belligerent foreign policy ideas, distinguishing yourself on this score requires getting increasingly personal.

Looming in the background is the fact that whoever gets the GOP nomination will probably be running against an actual woman, not a man who can be mocked as effeminate. This complicates matters, to say the least. The sexual politics around Hillary Clinton have always been fraught with ideas about proper gender roles; indeed the most common joke late-night writers made about Clinton throughout her career was that she is in fact not a woman at all, but a man (they were particularly fond of jokes about Clinton having balls).

So it wasn’t a surprise that when a reporter for Mic.com tracked down the woman who shouted out at the Trump rally, she was happy to go on an extended riff about the size of the various candidates’ testicles and which fruits they most closely resemble. But the real target here is male voters, the ones who want to make sure nobody calls their own virility into question. To appeal to them, the candidates are turning that attack on each other. Every American male knows from a young age that the worst thing your peers can call you is a girl; some people just never get over it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 - Posted by | Donald Trump, Gender Gap, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I personally do not buy into the GOP being the party best equipped to handle crime and foreign threats. We are in a more precarious position due to actions taken by the previous president and his advisors.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | February 10, 2016 | Reply

    • Too many unseemly, provocative and secretive events involving both domestic and foreign policies occur under GOP Presidencies.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by raemd95 | February 10, 2016 | Reply

      • Agreed. Iran-Contra comes to mind, which was an impeachable offense and may have been so, except Oliver North fell on his sword.

        Like

        Comment by Keith | February 10, 2016


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