Saturday, September 27, 2008
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 10 Comments
The counterculture for some time has championed a definition of masculinity that uproots the old heroic paradigms, what they produced was generations of selfish, lazy, inept, irresponsible males dedicated to no higher virtues than Carpe Diem and Questioning Authority, which in turn produced broken homes, illegitimate children, swollen welfare rolls and a new kind of culture war.
There are few clearer places to see the erosion of masculinity than Hollywood with its focus on putting forward the manchild as the new action star, ushering in the likes of DiCaprio and Matt Damon into action hero parts, baffled by the shock to the system that happens when a film of traditional masculine virtues such as 300 takes off and becomes wildly popular.
And the 2008 President election pits these definitions of masculinity against one another in stark fashion, the seasoned tough war hero against the polished skinny metrosexual, the bluff packaging of the McCain campaign against the shiny polish of the Obama campaign, the hard jabs of the McCain campaign against the dirty tricks and crybaby tactics of the Obama campaign.
It isn't race that divides McCain from Obama. Black voters may come out for Obama but few identify with him and most black leaders continue to resent him. It is not black voters that identify most with Obama but his own kind, the blow dried TV anchors and reporters, Hollywood actors and the left coast elites because Obama does not simply represent them politically, he represents their type as well-- the smugness, the arrogance, the effeminate mannerisms and the weakness of character overlaid by shiny packaging.
Similarly Obama has to work hard to crack working class male populations who do not identify with him and do not recognize what he's selling as leadership. His immaturity does not charm them and his flippancy does not appeal to them. To win them over Obama brought in Joe Biden, but such a statement of weakness only further worsens his position. Obama cannot succeed where Hillary did, because what he is selling is not the old fashioned brand of hardworking leadership but postmodern escapism through rhetoric and wishful thinking. And that makes for a poor brand in parts of the country where people have to work for a living and raise families.
McCain does not have to work hard to sell himself to working class voters, only to assure them that his policies will help them. Obama must work twice as hard, expending most of his effort on selling himself, not because as the media would like you to believe, American working class voters are racist, but because to them he does not represent a commanding presence.
When Obama supporters mock McCain as old, that holds a double meaning, both in reference to age and to the outmoded figure he represents. Similarly when McCain supporters ridicule Obama's flippancy, arrogance and drama queen poses, they are knowingly or unknowingly ridiculing the modern male.
Obama gained his credibility from opposing the war, both the War in Iraq and the War on Terror, both struggles that revived the idea of the old fashioned male whether it was the NYPD officer and Firefighter rushing into the burning towers or the soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is the classic masculine virtues of heroism against which McCain like Bush runs his campaign. By contrast Obama emphasizes the modern male as diplomat and appeaser, eager to get down to work making everyone love him.
McCain's book gave his story as the making of a man through endurance, suffering and faith. Obama cannot tell a similar story because he has never become a man and never will. Prototypical of the modern male, Obama's book that introduced him to a generation of college students was a fixation on his own identity and lack of self-esteem, both consuming preoccupations for the modern male.
Where McCain is trafficking in the much derided virtues of patriotism and masculinity, all that Obama really has to sell is his own angst and his journey of overcoming self-consciousness and self-esteem deficits. A perfect fit for Oprah, which is why little wonder that aside from the racial issues, Oprah so fiercely campaigned for Obama. He is a product of the same weak willed self-help culture that she promotes.
Also fittingly Obama's campaign for public office embroiled him in fights with two women as the postmodern male's inadequacies cause him to compete with and resent women. It is also inevitable that Obama's supporters have unleashed their ugliest tactics against women as the inadequacies of the modern male has fueled a torrent of ugly rage and resentment against women that bobs to the surface whether in frat boy humor or Judd Apatow movies or a culture that mainstreams and legitimizes pornography and the abuse of women. As a tradition man McCan can be comfortable around women, Obama cannot unless he is exploiting them as with Obama girl, or unless he is in an assigned subsidiary role to them as with his wife.
For the past month McCain has managed to put Obama on the defensive simply by showing initiative, taking daring risks and forging ahead. It is a strategy that Obama is unable to embrace because his postmodern campaign lacks a central command structure capable of quickly reaching decisions. With the McCain campaign the buck stops at the top, with Obama the buck stops at a committee.
At the heart of the leadership question between two men is the question of the masculine virtues they represent. For decades the liberal shapers of our culture and counter-culture have sought to put forward a new man, painfully sensitive to a fault, self-conscious, irresponsible, magnetic in personality but hollow in character, morally degenerate but personally charming. Obama fits that profile perfectly down to the drug use and the constant lying and the inability to take responsibility for his actions, instead of tap dancing around them with verbal theatrics.
It is a striking contrast, the warrior against the messiah, leadership against worship. McCain's slogan "Country First" is all the more devastating to Obama and his supporters who reject the very idea of country because it requires putting something beyond their own ego first, yet it is the slogan embraced by those who truly care about America and are therefore capable of setting aside their own egos, their need for self-esteem affirmation and their theatrics to take action.
In this election voters will not choose simply between candidates, they will choose between the new model of the inept vacillating male and the classic strong male role model. They'll choose between the kind of male who would rush into a burning building to save the people side or the kind of male who would make self-depracating jokes about being unable to rush into buildings. And in doing so they will choose which is truly best for this country's ethos.