Opinion Hawley is right that there’s a masculinity crisis. It’s inside the GOP.


HR King
May 29, 2001
Cartoonish appeals to toxic masculinity is as much a feature of the MAGA movement as White grievance-mongering. Republicans whine about an emasculated, “woke” military. They insist on reducing women to second-class citizens without personal agency. They revel in Trumpian cruelty (e.g., manipulating unwary asylum seekers). It is a party consumed with “the thrill of cruelty and a juvenile boorishness meant largely to enrage others,” as the Atlantic’s Tom Nichols put it.

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has made a cottage industry in bemoaning the loss of masculinity. As David French explained in an interview with Vox in January, “It’s the logic of a movement centered around aggression divorced from virtue that indulges in apocalyptic rhetoric.” This “flipping upside down of morality, turning bullying into strength, turning restraint into vice,” he explains, “enables the Trumpists and the Trumpist world.” Bizarrely, the test of manliness is now measured in one’s subservience to a cult of personality.
Ironically, the loudest of the bully-boys displays none of the virtues typically characterized as “masculine”: courage, strength and self-discipline. Former president Donald Trump avoided military service, and his followers have been cowed into parroting his lies.

The strongest, most courageous and most honorable Republican — by a mile — is Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who refuses to knuckle under to Trump and his mob. She’s a singular truth-teller, whereas House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the image of a cowering careerist who days after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection was back to kissing Trump’s ring.

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Cheney has repeatedly slammed McCarthy for his weakness, dinging him for failing to stand up for the Constitution. She mocked him for going to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump after the attack on the Capitol. Indeed, she has publicly lectured her party for sacrificing their honor. As she put it during one hearing for the House Jan. 6 select committee, “There will come a day when President Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” She also contrasted the bravery of female witnesses such as former White House official Cassidy Hutchinson with the mealy-mouthed “50-, 60- and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege.” She has underscored that GOP leaders are cowering, “childish” flunkies — far from honorable, courageous and stalwart men.
The Republicans’ manliness deficit has been glaring in the recent midterm debates. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee in Ohio’s Senate contest, went after his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, in their first debate for letting Trump take away his dignity at a recent rally. “I don’t know anybody I grew up with, I don’t know anybody I went to high school with, that would allow someone to take their dignity like that and then get back up onstage,” he declared. “We need leaders who have courage to take on their own party. And I’ve proven that. And he was called an a--kisser by the former president.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic nominee for Florida’s Senate seat, was the image of strength in her debate against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who seemed to personify the “Little Marco” put-down that Trump invented during the 2016 campaign. Demings declared, “Marco Rubio hasn’t run anything but his mouth.” She exuded pity for the man who twisted himself in knots to please the MAGA base. “I’m really disappointed in you, Marco Rubio, because I think there was a time when you did not lie in order to win,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to you.”
Put differently, far from displaying the masculine virtues they imagine are endangered, Republicans have become the party of fearful men afraid to stand on principle. By contrast, Democrats, who have long been accused of weakness or timidity, have seized the moment. Despite their historical wariness of talking about values, they have managed to do two things quite effectively.
First, Democrats in many cases have backed culturally appropriate candidates who sound and look like working-class voters (e.g., Ryan, John Fetterman in Pennsylvania) or who have proved their courage under fire (e.g., Demings, who served as Orlando police chief). And in backing independent Evan McMullin for Utah’s Senate seat, Democrats also found someone who risked his life for his country — a stark contrast to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who violated his oath and dishonored his office by assisting Trump’s coup attempt.

Second, Democrats figured out that the “big lie” is not simply a constitutional outrage, but a sign of fear of telling the truth. They show real zeal in skewering opponents not only for policy positions but also for weak character. Republicans have certainly made themselves into easy targets. As Never Trumper Mona Charen observed in the Bulwark, in demanding that Republicans debase themselves, “Trump has emasculated every other Republican. He may look strong, but he demands that every other Republican become weak in his service.” None of their hysterical warnings about “woke-ism” or their bullying of pregnant women can conceal that.
Any voter not trapped in the right-wing media bubble can see that Republican politicians have sacrificed their manliness at the altar of Trump idolatry. Perhaps Hawley’s panic over lost masculinity isn’t so far-fetched.