15 July 2020

The Atlantic: “Donald Trump, the Most Unmanly President”

The best example of women giving him a pass was after the Access Hollywood tape came to light in the fall of 2016. Trump had been caught on audio bragging about being able to grope women because he was famous. Republican leaders panicked; surely this level of vulgarity, they reasoned, would kill Trump’s chances with female voters.

Instead, women showed up at rallies with shirts featuring arrows pointing right to where Trump could grab them.

Melania Trump, for her part, dutifully defended the boyishness of it all. Sometimes I say I have two boys at home, she said at the time. I have my young son and I have my husband. But I know how some men talk, and that’s how I saw it. 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.

Donald Trump is unmanly because he has never chosen to become a man. He has weathered few trials that create an adult of any kind. He is, instead, working-class America’s dysfunctional son, and his supporters, male and female alike, have become the worried parent explaining what a good boy he is to terrorized teachers even while he continues to set fires in the hallway right outside.

Tom Nichols

An interesting observation, although equating the presidency with an expectation of ‘manliness’ seems… problematic. I am obviously no expert in American mentality, but I think a better explanation is that a sizeable portion of the electorate secretly admires this ‘boyishness’, identifies itself with it, wishing on a deeper level that the world around them would be as simple as back when they were kids, that their adult responsibilities would vanish and they could go through life without worrying about consequences – as Trump does every day.

From this perspective, some maybe perceived the 2016 election as a contest between Hilary Clinton, a stern mother that reminded Americans of their duties, and Donald Trump, a fun quirky uncle that rarely visits and brings lots of candy. Problem is, the stern mother will always be there to support you, even long after the uncle has left to chase new frivolous amusements.

Unfortunately, life does not work this way, and sooner or later the problems we chose to ignore return in force. The staunch refusal to wear masks, to abide by simple rules to curb the spread of a virus for the benefit of the community, is I think related to this subconscious rejection of personal responsibility and of outside authority, a childish attitude of wanting to play outside even though the parent warns you about incoming rain, of wanting to eat one more candy even tough it will make you sick. There are likely more factors involved: the fear of sudden change, the insecurity of seeing a relatively stable world unravel in a matter of days, the refusal to accept this massive shift that nobody prepared us for. But the sooner we accept facts and take responsibility for our actions, the sooner we can get through this.

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