With Trump’s large polling lead in the upcoming primaries, I think this is a good time to specifically discuss Trump’s “masculine appeal” to his base. I put “masculine appeal” in quotes, because for me, and I am certain as well for the great majority of non-Trump voters, he has no “masculine appeal” whatsoever. However, much like the odd topic of “charisma” – which is also in the “eye of the beholder” – for his base, it has become apparent that he does come off as some kind of masculine, super-powerful person, as well as being a person with “charisma” to them, although not in the slightest to me, nor I presume, the large majority of non-Trump voters (including never-Trumper Republicans and former Republicans).
Watching clips of videos showing parts of Trump rallies, I am struck by a few observations. One is that he comes off as kind of a stand-up comic, who incorporates political commentary in the most possible self-serving way throughout the speech. He thinks that everything that he says is funny, insightful, and entertaining. In fact, the content of his speeches tends to be appalling to objective observers, or people who already despise Trump, such as myself.
The other observation is that Trump talks in a sort of hypnotic, sing-songy way. The sound of his voice seems to enrapture his supporters and keep them attuned to him, no matter what nonsense he is spewing.
You may wonder what these observations have to do with Trump’s macho persona. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that Trump’s “humor,” which is apparently loved by his audience, is mostly wicked, mean-spirited stuff (with some attempts to be “nice” mixed in), that has a very masculine tone to it. For example, he likes to mock people as lacking in capability of some sort. Much of his “humor” is of this kind. Another major type of “humor” that he engages in is of a self-aggrandizing nature. Thus, he derogates his opponents and boasts of his supposed accomplishments and abilities (such as being a “very stable genius”). To an objective observer, Trump seems to be acting very childish for a man in his 70s. In fact, most of his communications have a quality more akin to temper tantrums than serious discussions.
However, to those who buy into the idea that Trump is some kind of political maverick who “knows what he is doing” and is here to “fix our problems,” his childishness and claims of victimhood seem like valid complaints, and he appears as some kind of masculine, beleaguered hero. The sing-songy voice also conveys a sense of confidence and masculinity to his followers, which helps to solidify the cohesiveness of his political cult.
These are aspects of Trump’s persona that no other candidates can compete with, even if they wanted to, as this article by Amelia Thomson DeVeaux and Meredith Conroy in 538 discusses (Trump’s Rivals Can’t Compete With His Version Of Masculinity | FiveThirtyEight)
Although none of his more traditional Republican rivals is particularly apt to be truthful or unbiased, none of them have Trump’s penchant for making ludicrous, unhinged, ignorant statements and then doubling down on them. Moreover, the one female rival, Nikki Haley, comes off as a “hawk” regarding foreign policy, which seems to be a common trait in women politicians who seek the presidency. (I noticed the same thing in Hillary.) It’s as though women think they need to compete with men as supporters of militarism in order to be taken seriously) whether that is actually true or not). Hopefully, that is something that will change in the near future. In any case, Trump’s aggressive language, condoning of and even encouragement of violence is frequently on display.
While there are no studies that I know of which directly link support to Trump with his “macho” demeanor (which I would characterize as “pseudo-masculine,” although his supporters perceive it as truly masculine and masterful), the 538 article cites some interesting, relevant data. One finding is that most Republican men think that “Society seems to punish men just for acting like men.” In 2020, 68% of Republican men in one survey agreed with that statement. By 2022, that percentage had increased to 82%. Even more disturbing, more Republican men felt that men were discriminated against (49%), than that women were discriminated against (44%) in a different survey. Presumably, these are the kind of men that support Donald Trump politically. In fact, Donald Trump gives them license to act on their worst masculine impulses.
The article goes on to mention surveys which found that 75% of Republican men and 60% of Republican women agree that “White men are too often blamed for problems in American society.” Additionally, 78% of Republican men and 65% of Republican women think that American society has become “too soft and feminine.” Finally, “a recent poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Politico Magazine found that 65 percent of Republicans think the #MeToo movement has “made it harder for men to feel like they can speak freely at work,” and 52 percent of Republicans agree that “traditional family structures, with a wage-earning father and a homemaking mother, best equip children to succeed.”
It is easy to see where Trump’s Republican base comes from, based upon these polls, even if these attitudes have not been directly linked to Trump voters. The Republican Party has become one of toxic masculinity, with Donald Trump leading the way. Perhaps the cure for this situation, would be to have a successful woman president, as well as greater successful representation of women in government and other positions of authority in the coming years. I have often found it striking that many nations have had women leaders, but not the United States, although we have come very close, and currently have a woman vice president, Kamala Harris – who also happens to be a “woman of color.”
However, I suspect that it will take at least another generation for this macho side of politics, which is so successful within the Republican Party, and perhaps to a lessor extent even among Democrats, to recede into history. The good news is that the traditional, masculine-biased attitudes of the older generation, appear to steadily if gradually, be fading. Also, I think that younger citizens are better equipped to recognize true courage and honesty than the older voter population, most of whom have been conditioned by conservative media to mistake their alternative reality for the real thing.