Masculinity and the Expert Left

A man called Tom Nichols, apparently chiefly famous for a work on the value of expertise, wrote a piece this weekend wondering why American working-class men accept Trump in spite of Trump's failure to live up to the standards of American working-class manhood.

I'll let you read it rather than summarize it. It's not unreasonable to ask "Is Trump honorable?" "Is Trump courageous?" "Is Trump a man who respects women?" Does he keep his word? Can you rely on him?

Rather I'd like to note something else by way of explanation. Along the way, Nichols cites an American Psychological Association piece on the manhood values these men hold, generally built around how these men are failing and dying off, and one section of which is entitled, "Manhood Gets in the Way." It's not just analysis, it's a general attack on the values they hold -- an assertion that the values are a problem, that the whole system needs to be undermined by 'more educated men' and 'men in positions of power.' Psychologists should work against such manhood; the educational resources of the state should work to undermine these traditional values; power and persuasion alike should be used to unmake these men. For their own alleged good, of course: they'll be 'psychologically healthier' once they give up their ideals and conform to the preferred gender norms.

That's really the answer to the question. These men like Donald Trump not because he's one of them -- he's not one of them. He's not working class, he's a billionaire. He's not a manly man, but he's not from their class. He is, however, on their side. He respects them. He wants them to succeed. He wants them to have good jobs at better pay, and to make American workers like them the envy of the world.

By the same token, for all his flaws, Donald Trump genuinely loves America like they do. He really wants America to be great. He is not willing to trade American greatness for personal gain. He's attached to America, and wants to see her flourish. In that, too, he is on the American worker's side.

The picture might be different if others could manage to be on America's side in the same way, and to respect the values of the American working man rather than bending themselves to undermining those values and that way of life. The whole 'expert' class seems to be united against them, though; it seems to have decided that the world is tired of men like those, and would be better off without them. And so these men find in Donald Trump not just a friend, but practically their only friend in all the halls of power.

That's why they accept him in spite of his flaws. He accepts them, respects them, supports them and their way of life the best that he can. Who else does?


ymarsakar said...

Psychics have a better read on Trum.

(Yes, I did just go there)

E Hines said...

There's an evolution in the man and in our (or at least my) perception of the man.

He's not the man today, for instance, of those decades ago talking about grabbing women by the ---.

My view of him during the primaries in '15-'16 was very much Hell No. But I've watched his policies, and in the main I agree with them, and I tend to put results above most other things.

But I've also watched how his family interacts with him (and with how he interacts with them, but the former is much more instructive). His children, from three different mothers, all genuinely like as well as love each other. The women, both daughter and in-laws genuinely like as well as love each other. They all genuinely love him--and their current (step) mother. Such attitudes are heavily influenced, even if not created, by the father.

He's plenty flawed, both personally and politically. But it would take a Reagan, or a Haley, to do much better on the whole.

Eric Hines

David Foster said...

Generally agree with the analysis. And while Trump is himself not a working-class man (a term I don't much like because of its implications of an actual class structure), he has run businesses that they can identify with better than they can identify with a finance guy like Mitt Romney or a software guy or a lifelong politician.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think you are right that the difference is that he respects them. They sense that a lot of liberals want to fix them or change them, and are telling them they've got it all wrong. It is so tribal. You have to stop cracking your eggs on this end, you have to start cracking them on the opposite end. You must no longer be a man of the mountain, because they are not real men. Only the men of the valley are real men. You must become a man of the sea, not a man of the river. If you boil it down to its basic evolutionary point, they want to get laid, but you're in the way, so you must be undermined. They pretend to honor. I have lived among them all my life.

Trump is fairly obnoxious, but he has the advantage of being fairly simple. He likes to have attention and win, and he is a hyperpatriot who wants the America he recognises to win as well. He is not especially greedy, mean, stupid, or any of the other criticisms leveled against him. He is all on the surface and his opponents try to explain him by mind-reading that says more about themselves than about him. He can be obnoxious and shoot off his mouth, as he did this week. I don't much mind. Only the people who live by words alone care about that.

douglas said...

I said somewhere else today for other reasons that all heroes are flawed, and it could hardly be more true than with Trump.
You said "Does he keep his word?"- He made few, but very clear promises in the election campaign, and we've watched as he either fulfilled his promises, or did literally everything within his power to do so. I'd say yes, he's kept his word better than almost any politician in my lifetime. Maybe even Reagan.