Comparing Democrats and Republicans on any measure of masculinity says the obvious. Compared to Democrats, Republicans are dripping with testosterone. It’s not new. The heavily masculine persona preceded Donald Trump but was and is amplified and codified by the former president.
Extreme stereotypical masculine or macho behavior is knee-jerk and blunt. Power is dominant. It’s extremely overt, with a high degree of aggression lingering behind its language. It is intolerant of accepting blame but highly prone to blaming others. Vulnerability is absent. Compromise is considered a weakness. Image and outward appearance take precedence over attention to detail and work.
Macho behavior has long been a pillar of politicians in general, a reflection of our male-dominated society. George W. Bush felt a need to wear military garb on an aircraft carrier. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis attempted the same in a tank but appeared too childlike and paid the consequences for appearing to have less than adequate testosterone. These singular episodes, however, were small incidents in contrast to the wholesale inclusion of macho dominant behavior in the Republican Party of 2021.
Here are a few of the most obvious examples:
Outrage is now the defining characteristic of the Republican image. The hard work of legislation is now secondary. Republicans in the news are more often raging about what they are against, be it purported censorship or cancel culture, than proposing solutions. Discussion of policies and goals has taken a back seat to anger and accusations. Emotions that are most comfortably aligned with machismo.
Concern over any societal effort to redefine gender is another sign of an extreme masculine attitude. In the past decade, the Republican Party has almost hysterically protested against gay people in the military and gender-neutral bathrooms. Their current iteration focuses upon the transgender population: Republican legislators have proposed bills to restrict the rights of trans kids in 27 states. A macho viewpoint doesn’t brook any deviation from the all-or-nothing gender divide. In the world of machismo, there are only two genders—or at least there should be. There can be no variation.
Two highly visible Republican women prove that extreme macho behavior is not limited by biology. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert are seen in widely publicized videos either harassing a gay man or touting the freedom to carry a hip-hugging Glock. It would be hard to find more stereotypical ultra-masculine behavior.
Such behavior might please the Republican base but sends an unsavory message to the less aggressive public. Working to legislate and cooperating with others is far down their list of duties. Gaining attention, especially on Fox News, is at the top of their list.
Ultra-masculine behavior might have been an asset in our society in the past. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the United States is no longer an ultra-masculine society. It is a society in transition. The traditional world of Ozzie and Harriet, or even a 1990s version, is gone. The United States of 2021 includes a greater acceptance of women in the workplace, women in positions of power and gender fluidity. Men are no longer dominant at home or in the workforce.
In the short run, it might make sense that the Republican Party maintains a strong macho persona. It reflects the characteristics of the 45th president who garnered 74 million votes. It also reflects a style more evident in rural America where the Republican Party is most dominant. However, evidence that our society is moving steadily toward a more gender-egalitarian attitude is undeniable. That women’s voices and influence will grow are indisputable. These forces will make it difficult for Republican machismo behavior to flourish.
Many pundits and scholars have pointed to the expanding popularity of the Democratic Party to the country’s changing demographics. There is merit in that assessment. The same experts often argue that the prospect of a majority-minority population is a strong motivator driving the Republican base. Again, they might be correct. The experts will be remiss, however, if they leave out that the hyper-masculinity of the Republican Party might well do as much damage as the other influences.
The Republican Party is not only Trump’s party, it has also come to model his macho behavior. In the long run, it will likely pay heavily for doing so.