Politics has been rightly called a blood sport, a manly game, but seldom have we seen more hyper-masculine bravura and blood-letting than in the most recent Republican debates.
The Institute for the Prevention and Treatment of Mascupathy is not a political organization; we do not side with one party or the other. However, calling out mascupathic behavior is an essential part of our mission, and the qualities of mascupathy—intimidation, falsification, aggression, misogyny, posturing, and binary thinking—dominated the debates. Deliberate, informed, and moderating reflection were in conspicuously short supply. Policy statements and program development were virtually absent.
Here are some of the qualities of mascupathic behavior that characterized the performances of both the men and woman(!) on stage.
Real guys win with domination.
The winners in the debate were the best head-butters, the brassier combatants, the biggest bullies. Maybe it’s always that way, but it seemed that the candidates had learned a lesson from Donald Trump, who has lowered the bar and moved up in the polls for brashly interrupting other candidates and noisily proclaiming his talking points. Jeb Bush certainly got the message: Unlike the first debate, where his comments were more tempered, Bush made points in this debate by aggressively countering Trump’s statements, defending his family, and deflecting Trump’s criticism.
For hyper-masculine guys, winning is everything: the hell with reality.
A New York Times editorial (9/17/15) points out: “Peel back the boasting and insults, the lies and exaggerations common to any presidential campaign. What remains is a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre, that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns. It felt at times as if the speakers were no longer living in a fact-based world where actions have consequences, programs take money and money has to come from somewhere. Where basic laws — like physics and the Constitution — constrain wishes. Where Congress and the public, allies and enemies, markets and militaries don’t just do what you want them to, just because you say they will.”
Tough guys don’t endorse talk; they fight.
Lindsey Graham typified the bellicosity of the debates when he bragged, “I have an uncompromising determination to win this war…. I’m most qualified to be Commander-in-Chief on day one—33 years in the Air Force, 35 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan….” Other candidates overwhelmingly demanded expanding the military—more ships, more fighter planes, more boots on the ground–and disparaged diplomacy and negotiation with Iran, Russia, and China. Like the cowboys of the old west, they’d choose to shoot first and ask questions later.
It’s OK to objectify women, and for other men to collude in misogyny.
Trump continues to see women as things, not people. In an errant attempt to right his previous comment that Carly Fiorina didn’t have an attractive face by saying she was beautiful, Trump exposed his bewildering obtuseness of the fact that the problem was not the content of his comment, but that he chose to focus on a woman’s appearance rather than her ideas and statements. In some ways even worse, not a single male candidate called Trump out on his comment.
Men with balls lead with grandiosity.
The candidates brought their resumes with them, and, at every opportunity, boasted of their big jobs, successes as capitalists, and ability to attract large audiences. Even Chris Christie—pretty narcissistic himself—announced: “While I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth … for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I’ve got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs … Let’s start talking about that on this stage and stop playing… games.”*
Mascupathic folks see the world in black and white.
These guys think binarily, and they love superlatives. In their desperate climb to be king-o-the-hill, truthfulness and accuracy are unimportant. Candidates repeatedly stated that they’d rip up the nuclear agreement with Iran on “day one” and immediately scrap the Affordable Care Act; all without acknowledging Constitutional restraints and the role of Congress. They wrongly asserted that the country has completely lost its international standing and influence and continued to promote fear of immigrants by invoking images of terrorism.
The media’s collusion.
The media plays its own damaging role in promoting mascupathy in the election, colluding with the cynics in its fondness for giving points for toughness instead of reporting on differing points of view or agendas; endlessly showing clips on TV of attack and counter-attack; highlighting the incendiary over the illuminating. If the candidates are guilty of pandering to their base, the media should be shamed for playing to the baser instincts in human beings.
Infants or adolescents?
Totally unaware, Trump has voiced the pitiable truth about himself. In Michael D’Antonio’s book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success, he’s quoted as saying ” “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.” No kidding.
A good friend recently wrote me that she once “met an Argentinian man who said that South American nations view the U.S. as a giant infant, grasping at any shiny object, such as another nation or resource, like a toy. They grab it up, shake it, slam it until it breaks, then drop and forget it, and move on to the next thing that catches their attention. So with our current greed, cruelty, and self-absorption, in what stage of childhood are we now?”
It’s unclear whether mascupathy is a disorder of infancy or adolescence, and perhaps it doesn’t matter. But it’s certainly an ominous portent that the men and woman on the debate stage, among other unsettling things, exhibited the nastiness and name-calling of elementary school children and bravura of hormone-driven crazed teenage guys. Trump has brought the primary season of venom and vacuousness to a new low; it unfortunately follows that he or one of the other candidates would quite probably do that to the presidency as well.
*Specific candidate quotes taken from the Washington Post annotated transcript of September 16, 2015.