Saturday, March 16, 2013

Political party based upon an idea of manliness?

The Republican Party is grappling with their identity as a result of their electoral failures in 2012.  They lost the presidential election by 4 percentage points when the president was mired in an economic slump, lost 2 net seats in the Senate during an election when many more Dems than Reps were up for re-election, and kept a majority of seats in the House of Representatives despite getting 1.4 million fewer votes for Republican House candidates (gerrymandering of districts resulted in more Republican House victories).

So, they got beaten at the polls pretty decisively.  And some are thinking that their ideas still won out.  Not a very astute idea, in my opinion.

What occurs to me is that the Movement Conservatives, in their continuing efforts to take over the Republican Party, might be best understood as people who are trying to base their party on a kind of odd definition of manliness.  To be a member of good standing in the core conservative movement is to express a deep commitment to what they think it means to be a True Man.

To be a True Republican Man apparently means:

  • Not needing any help from anyone, especially the government
  • Owning and using rapid fire weapons with huge ammunition capacities
  • Refusing to compromise on any issues for any reason
  • Keeping America safe from inferior men, i.e. gay men
  • A right to control women, especially their reproductive and sexual lives
  • A strong appetite for war
  • A fierce belief in independence to the exclusion of any sense of community responsibilities
It is not surprising that the main constituency of the Republican Party, especially of the Movement Conservatives, is older white men.  Women, gays, and minorities are not really all that welcomed by the core movement men, regardless of whatever lip service they feel obliged to give at any given time.  And, indeed, women, gays, youth, and minorities don't see much in the Movement Conservative agenda that speaks to their lives or their concerns.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has moved into more extreme territory this year by excluding the most popular Republican in the country, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, and Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell among other Republican governors.  Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are not exactly messengers of flexibility and new thinking for a party in trouble.

It has been said that the Democrats are the "mommy party" and Republicans are the "daddy party", Dems more focused on nurturing and caring, Reps more focused on finances and defense.  And I think that has long been true, and a good thing to have both energies strongly voiced in our political parties.   

But, today's Republican "daddy party" seems to be on the verge of being taken over by caricatures of Clint Eastwood and superhero cartoon versions of what it is to be manly.  Not only are they not "nurturing mommy types" I'm not sure they are really very good representatives of manliness either - movie guy toughness is a poor substitute for the true complexity and authentic courage of actual men.