- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Republicans used to claim to favor the rule of law.
Yet what happened when a Republican candidate for Congress in Montana was accused of body-slamming a reporter and cited for misdemeanor assault?
The conservative commentator Laura Ingraham wanted to know why he went crying to the police.
“Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?” she tweeted.
Of course, this is what the police are for: They investigate crimes and enforce laws, so we don’t have to get into physical altercations with Republican candidates who really don’t want to discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s score for the Republican healthcare bill.
Calling the police when a man grabs you by the throat and slams you to the floor, as witnesses have described – while you and he are both at work and he is a candidate for Congress – is what an adult does in a civilized society.
Yet, as Kevin Glass notes, “conservatives” in the Trump era tend to think not like adults, but high-school boys, vaunting the sort of ideal of masculinity that might be imagined by a socially maladjusted 15-year-old and tolerating in our political leaders the sort of behavior that a guidance counselor would never accept.
Republicans are a party that now celebrates the bully who steals lunch money because, hey, at least he’s not the nerd who gets his lunch money stolen.
A party for the sort of men who call themselves “alpha males” without irony or accuracy. A party for the sort of women who think it’s cool and strong when men get into bar fights.
A party that celebrates not just cruelty, but juvenile cruelty.
This is even worse than a regression to the old, sexist ways. There was a time when chauvinistic ideas about masculinity were, at least among adults, supposed to be paired with ideas about men’s duties and responsibilities.
Yet here we are, with a Republican president who calls himself “the most militaristic person” despite avoiding the Vietnam War on account of bone spurs. A Republican president who takes credit for others’ successes and no blame for his failures. A Republican president who fires the FBI director because of an investigation into any wrongdoing of his associates and then blames his press secretary for people getting mad about it.
A Republican president who is twice divorced and gleefully recounted his philandering to the press, posing as his own spokesman. A Republican president who boasted to a casual acquaintance about his history of sexual assault – “when you’re a star, they let you do it” – and then excused those comments as “locker-room talk,” as though it were normal for a grown man who wished to be president to display the maturity and respect for women you’d expect from a caricature of a junior-varsity high-school football player.
This is not the behavior of a man. It is the behavior of a man-child. Donald Trump surrounds himself with fellow man-children who behave in a similar manner. And a great many American voters eat it up.
Why? Well, one reason is that many men in America right now have little to offer women. They do not live up to either to the old, chauvinistic standards for adult men or the new, egalitarian ones. They want what Trump has – the women, the money, the brass-plated apartment – without having to do better or be better to get it.
They think they’d be better off under a return to high-school norms, where men could “be men” but really be boys, and gain status through cruel dominance plays without bearing any real-life responsibilities.
This approach to life worked for Trump because he inherited hundreds of millions of dollars. But it is no way to run a country or a society – or a political party.