Of all of the mysteries surrounding Donald Trump, the fact that he is considered the friend of the working man, when his life has been about stiffing the working man, is the strangest and most inscrutable of all. Trump’s friend, Howard Stern, said it best: “The oddity in all of this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most. The people who are voting for Trump for the most part … He’d be disgusted by them.” Why don’t they get that? Or, if they do get that, why don’t they care? For reasons that are beyond most of us, working class males, who comprise the largest section of Trump’s base, approve of him, even though he flies in the face of all the traditional aspects of masculinity, being a draft dodger who’s gone bankrupt six times. But there is a theory which answers this conundrum of why a large swath of Americans, who would never get along with Trump in real life for five minutes, approve of him and vote for him. Tom Nichols, The Atlantic:
I am not a psychologist, and I cannot adjudicate the theories of male behavior that might explain some of this. Others have tried. Two researchers who looked back at the 2016 presidential election suggested that support for Trump was higher in areas where there were more internet searches for topics such as “erectile dysfunction,” “how to get girls,” and “penis enlargement” than in pro-Hillary areas of the country. (One can only hope that correlation is not causation.) The idea that insecure men support bullies and authoritarians is hardly new; recall that one of George Orwell’s characters in 1984 dismissed all the “marching up and down and cheering and waving flags” as “simply sex gone sour.” To reduce all of this to sexual inadequacy, however, is too facile. It cannot explain why millions of men look the other way when Trump acts in ways they would typically find shameful. Nor is arguing that Trump is a bad person and therefore that the people who support him are either brainwashed or also bad people helpful. He is, and some of them are. But that doesn’t explain why men who would normally ostracize someone like Trump continue to embrace him.
The author goes on to state that Trump is not honorable, he’s a “rich downtown bully, the kind that most working men hate.” As to whether Trump is courageous, another value of traditional masculinity, no, in fact hell no. He’s a known coward. He may have boasted about how he would have run into the school the day of the Parkland shooting, “even without a weapon,” but even the staunchest of Trump’s supporters probably saw that as the hype it was. Then the question was posed in this analysis, “Does Trump accept responsibility and look out for his team?” Here again, the answer would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. Unlike the Ed Harris character in Apollo 13, “failure is not an option,” Trump has given us his memorable line concerning personal accountabillity as a leader, “I take no responsibility at all.” Not my fault, man, China did it. So what in the world do these guys see in Donald Trump? Here it comes, and actually, it’s as obvious as the nose on your face if you stop to think about it.
Trump’s lack of masculinity is about maturity. He is not manly because he is not a man. He is a boy.
To be a man is to be an adult, to willingly decide, as St. Paul wrote, to “put away childish things.” There’s a reason that Peter Pan is a story about a boy, and the syndrome named after it is about men. Not everyone grows up as they age.
It should not be a surprise then, that Trump is a hero to a culture in which so many men are already trapped in perpetual adolescence. And especially for men who feel like life might have passed them by, whose fondest memories are rooted somewhere in their own personal Wonder Years from elementary school until high-school graduation, Trump is a walking permission slip to shrug off the responsibilities of manhood.
The appeal to indulge in such hypocrisy must be enormous. Cheat on your wife? No problem. You can trade her in for a hot foreign model 20 years younger. Is being a father to your children too onerous a burden on your schedule? Let the mothers raise them. Money troubles? Everyone has them; just tell your father to write you another check. Upset that your town or your workplace has become more diverse? Get it off your chest: Rail about women and Mexicans and African Americans at will and dare anyone to contradict you.
Even Melania corroborated this after the Access Hollywood tape scandal broke. “Sometimes I say I have two boys at home,” she said. “I have my young son and I have my husband. But I know how some men talk, and that’s how I saw it.”
Boys will be boys, or so we’re told. So just blow it all off, it’s just youthful hijinx. Except we’re tallking about the White House, not a frat house, and the guy who takes “no responsiblity at all,” is the most powerful man on the planet — again, we are told. After this debacle in American politics, our allies are busy regrouping and making contingency plans, and who knows what the permanent residual of having Trump in the White House will be? It does not speak well for our nation that something this outre happened in the first place. But maybe this is, in fact, who we are as a people. Maybe this is the slum to which the city upon a hill has degenerated.
Female Trump supporters were interviewed on national television and—in a tragic admission about the state of American families—seemed confused about why Trump would be considered any worse than the men around them.
I recall one woman telling a reporter that her son talked that way in front of her all the time. Part of how I was socialized into adult manhood was knowing that if I spoke like that in front of my late mother—an Irish American woman from an impoverished background—she would have made my ears ring with the slap she’d have given me.
So this is what happened, apparently. The GOP put a vulgar Peter Pan at the top of their ticket and then America elected him — with a little help from the electoral college, and Russian bots masquereding as the neighbors. And now we have the angry man-child, toddling around in his shoe lifts, with his remaining strands of hair glued in place and his spray paint tan, watching cable TV and rage tweeting, while America goes unled during a global pandemic and its concommitant economic meltdown. Swell. Just swell.
Please tell me that there are more adults in this country than children in adults’ bodies and that they will cast a ballot November 3 and straighten this mess out. Or, are we too far gone? Has America gone the way of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and although the others look to be adults, they’re really pod-people Trumpites and children, even as he is? Has the Pied Piper won? Because this is the most important election in American history, or at least since 1860. We have to get this under control or we are done.