‘Macho, macho man,’ &c.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro after a meeting at the Ministry of Defense in Brasilia, May 29 2020 (Adriano Machado / Reuters)
On false manliness and true; our post-election atmosphere; the 2020 Masters; and more

In a column last week, I drew up a list — a wish list. I was hoping for some Republican rediscoveries, in the post-Trump era. Like what? Well, like this:

Fiscal responsibility. Personal responsibility. The need for entitlement reform. The benefits of international trade. The need for democratic alliances. The importance of U.S. leadership in the world. Realism about the Kremlin. Disapproval of dictators. The crucial importance of character in office. Virtue in general.

I would like to bring up kind of an offbeat one: manliness, or manhood. A solid understanding of manliness. In recent years, people on the right have had some screwy ideas of manliness, equating it with belligerence and vulgarity.

It’s amazing how quickly political discussion can get sexualized. Express disapproval of Donald Trump and Trumpism, and you’ll get “Grow a pair!” etc. Many of us can testify on this score.

I said earlier this year that right-wing politics can seem an endless round of “Quién es más macho?” (Who is more macho?) This was a sketch that Saturday Night Live had, eons ago.

At the dawn of the Trump administration, a leading personality on the right said, “The alpha males are back.” Other people are called “beta.” Donald Trump is a real man, you see — an “alpha.” John McCain, Mitt Romney, and others are girly men, or “betas.”

Concerning this year’s vice-presidential debate, another leading personality on the right tweeted this: “Let’s just say it… Suburban women sense that Pence knows how to lay pipe.” Okay. I’m not sure that was polled (so to speak).

In a post-election editorial, the Claremont Institute said that “all weak sisters on the right must be called out.”

According to President Trump, mask-wearing is “politically correct.” He has said that again and again. Trump reflects what I call “coronavirus machismo.” So does Jair Bolsonaro, his counterpart in Brazil.

Early in the pandemic, Bolsonaro said, “The Brazilian needs to be studied. He doesn’t catch anything. You see a guy jumping into sewage, diving in, right? Nothing happens to him.”

Brazilians themselves may beg to differ.

In recent days, Bolsonaro has said, “I am sorry about the deaths,” meaning COVID deaths. But “we are all going to die someday.” And “we have to stop being a country of maricas” — that last being a derogatory word for homosexuals.

Cool, huh? Tough? Manly? Well, it depends on your point of view.

In 2006, Harvey Mansfield published an extraordinary book, Manliness. Mansfield is the Harvard political scientist who is one of the outstanding conservatives of our time. His idea of manliness is a long way from Trump and Bolsonaro.

Both men have legions — ten of millions — of fans, obviously. Last week, a leading personality on the right — another one — tweeted, “Man, Bolsonaro is such a badass.” Followed by, “*Googles how to immigrate to Brazil*.”

It is not only men who exhibit coronavirus machismo. Have you met Marjorie Taylor Greene, the incoming congresswoman from Georgia?

Our first session of New Member Orientation covered COVID in Congress.

Masks, masks, masks….

I proudly told my freshman class that masks are oppressive.

In GA, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work, and school without masks.

My body, my choice.


Would you call this conservatism? “Qonservatism”? (Ms. Greene is one of our Q-friendly politicians.) Once upon a time, a hallmark of American conservatism was consideration for others — and such consideration is especially critical in a pandemic.

Bill Buckley preached consideration, and exemplified it. He slipped up now and then — as we all do — but he was damn good. The brutish types of his day despised him, of course: Among their words were “effete,” “elitist,” and “cosmopolitan.” (There were worse ones.)

But he was a man to admire, as were his friend Ronald Reagan and many others.

Yes, on my wish list for the post-Trump Right is a rediscovery of manliness: the legitimate kind, not the distortion.

• You don’t mind if I get Biblical, do you? That’s permissible in National Review every now and then. I think of many verses, but will lay just two on you, one from the Old, one from the New:

From Numbers: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”

From Matthew: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

There, done it. If anyone is triggered, maybe the college administration can provide a safe space . . .

• The Department of Homeland Security has said, “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” Quite simply, “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” This should reassure all Americans. Of course, it doesn’t — it ticks off a good portion of them, because it runs against the Trump storyline.

“I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT,” tweeted the president.

Jeff Jacoby, the conservative columnist of the Boston Globe, wrote,

This is not how you make America great again. It is how you increase rancor and chaos — how you poison our political culture for years to come. No American has ever behaved so recklessly after losing a presidential election. No patriot ever would.

Very well stated.

Trump tweeted,

People are not going to stand for having this Election stolen from them by a privately owned Radical Left company, Dominion, and many other reasons!

His behavior is going to have repercussions in our country for years to come. As a colleague of mine says, millions are going to go their graves — whenever they do — thinking that the 2020 election was stolen from them.

The president tweeted,

He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!

Here is a problem I have with my anti-anti-Trump friends: They know that Trump is BS-ing (lying). “Blowing off steam.” “Just being Trump.” What I think they forget or ignore is: Millions upon millions of people believe him. (I know many of them.) And that has a deleterious effect on our country.

• In the old days — through 1996 — we Republicans said, “Republicans have won five out of the last six presidential elections.” This rubbed Democrats the wrong way. They’d respond, “Yeah, you like to start with 1968. Why not start with 1960?”

Today, Democrats point out that Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. That is annoying to Republicans, obviously. But it’s at least a little significant, isn’t it?

Republicans can be resigned to losing the popular vote, hoping to finesse the Electoral College — or they can buff up their appeal.

• From the Associated Press, there was a very good report on the next California senator: the senator to replace Kamala Harris, who will become vice president. The depressing thing about the report, to me? It was all about race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation. “Well, this one’s this, and that one’s that,” etc.

Like the potential senators were mere pieces on some demographic chess board.

• It is hard to focus on masses or movements, including democracy movements. But we can focus on one person, can’t we? Digest the name Roman Bondarenko. He was a Belarusian: 31 years old, a former soldier, an artist, a democracy protester. Beaten to death by the authorities. (For a related news story, go here.)

• It’s hard to segue from that. If you care for a little music, here is a review of Julian Bliss, the British clarinetist, in a Wigmore Hall livestream.

• A little language now? When I was young, I heard southerners say “intended on.” (We had a lot of southerners in Michigan, where I grew up: both black and white. They had come to work in the auto factories, mainly.) You’d hear, “We intended on having a cook-out, but it rained.” Has “intended on” — instead of “intended to” — gone mainstream?

Speaking of Michigan, here is an excerpt from an article about football:

Had things gone as planned and had the Big Ten not originally postponed the season back in August, Collins would be wearing a winged helmet this fall, something he intended on doing all along.

Okay, how about “on accident”? I first heard this about five, seven years ago, and I am hearing it increasingly. Can you say “on accident” instead of “by accident”? Well, people do . . .

• A little golf? I want to give you three quick blurts about last week’s Masters tournament.

The first Tour player I ever laid eyes on was Bernhard Langer. He was pulling into the parking lot in his Mercedes at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich. This was the late 1980s, and Bernhard was in his early thirties. I could not have told you, then, that he’d be playing on the weekend at the Masters in 2020. Amazing.

Tiger Woods proved that he was human — a human golfer — when he made a ten on No. 12. (This is seven over par. We don’t even have a word for that.) It was the first time he ever scored double digits on a hole in his 25 or so years of professional golf.

After he made this ten, he almost birdied in: He birdied five of the six remaining holes. That confirmed that he is a beyond-human golfer. It was a mental feat, most of all — not to collapse, or further collapse. To rebound like that, when he was totally, and humiliatingly, out of the picture. I find this more impressive than some victories Woods has posted.

Dustin Johnson won the tournament. He is No. 1 in the world rankings. His father-in-law is Wayne Gretzky. I have to ask: Are they the most talented combination of father-in-law and son-in-law in the world?

Thanks for joining me today, my dear friends, and have a great week.

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