July 21st, 2024

National Affairs: Social conservatives just love a ‘real man’

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 2, 2017.

This week we learned that the White House isn’t really the white house. It’s a frat house with a manicured lawn. How else can you describe a place where a guy who goes by the nickname “The Mooch” (a.k.a. recently appointed and sacked White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci) reportedly misses the birth of his child so that he can hang with his buddy, a guy called “The Donald”? (a.k.a. the President of the United States, Donald Trump.)

I understand that nobody’s perfect. I will never know the intimate details of Scaramucci’s family life, and therefore I probably shouldn’t judge that life — especially considering the fact that though he gained a son, Scaramucci just lost his job.

Trump removed Scaramucci from the position of communications director Monday only 10 days after “The Mooch” took on the role; last week, he made an expletive-laden phone call to a New Yorker reporter, ranting about other senior White House staff. But it’s so hard not to judge the man when, despite his previously socially liberal attitudes, he chose to align himself with an anti-abortion administration that recently announced a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. In other words, he made it very clear that he was happy to do the bidding of social conservatives, a demographic obsessed with the private lives of other people, thereby opening up his own private life to similar scrutiny.

But such scrutiny was apparently in short supply during his brief term as one of the most powerful men in the free world. Even the National Review, the flagship conservative magazine in the United States, appeared optimistic about Scaramucci’s appointment to one of the highest positions in the nation, before his surprise removal from the post this week: “The Mooch could be exactly what we need” is how one editorial writer put it.

You’d think social conservatives, a group that cares so deeply about positive role models for kids (and routinely protests the presence of LGBTQ characters and abortion plot lines on TV) might take issue with a commander-in-chief who is an alleged groper and a White House communications director who unloaded expletives about his colleagues on the telephone. You’d think social conservatives, who routinely campaign for role models with Christian values on TV and in music, might be mildly concerned that their party’s policy hawks have been replaced by policy jocks. But they aren’t.

Why not?

My best guess is that for a lot of modern American conservatives, manliness — or the traditional idea of what it means to be a man (brash, bold and in control, a la Trump and “The Mooch”) — wins out against everything else. They’ve lionized overconfident, arrogant characters for so long (see the mass conservative fan followings of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “American Psycho” and, of course, Trump’s “The Apprentice”) that these traits are no longer what they expect to find in their villains, but rather, in their heroes. This admiration for moneyed male meanness is at the heart of the ethos of the Proud Boys, the white nationalist group founded by media entrepreneur Gavin McInnes, whose uniform is a Fred Perry polo, a shirt that typically goes for about a hundred dollars Canadian.

It follows then that an absence of manners and humility is acceptable in a leader, so long as he makes up for that deficiency with an abundance of macho traits.

Therefore: macho and mean is OK. But meek and kind is not. Of course, Macho and kind, a la Jon Snow of “Game of Thrones” or Coach Taylor on “Friday Night Lights,” is OK, too. But macho-ness is a non-negotiable precondition for respect. And decency will always play second fiddle to manliness because social conservatives are so nostalgic for the myth of the “man’s man” in public life, they’re willing to entertain a semblance of that man in any variety — even the variety that skips the birth of his son while he spits in the face of the truth.

They will expect no less and no more in Trump’s next hire. And, knowing the president, he will deliver.

Emma Teitel is a national affairs writer for Torstar Syndication Services.

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