Trump’s Version of Masculinity is Poisoning our Democracy

We need all men and women of good will to stand up to a bully trying to cling to power

This article is co-authored by Dr. Ed Adams, my coauthor on our new book Reinventing Masculinity: The Liberating Power of Compassion and Connection.

“Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Abe Lincoln is spinning in his grave. So is George Washington.

These revered male leaders would be appalled by what Donald Trump is doing right now in the wake of his defeat in the presidential election.

Donald Trump isn’t just asking that votes be counted carefully. He is harming Americans’ faith in our voting system, with baseless lie after bogus claim about a “stolen” election. His actions are fueled by his version of manhood — a might-makes-right, self-absorbed, unhealthy masculinity. And it is poisoning our democracy.

It’s critical that we prevent him from fomenting even more distrust and taking us down a path to tyranny. That’s going to require men and women of good will — Republicans and Democrats — to stand up to this this bully who is trying to cling to power in an illegitimate, un-American way.

***

When elections are close, recounts are in order. Georgia’s votes are being recounted by hand, for example. And there are rules for candidates to request a recount.

But Donald Trump, like most bullies, isn’t playing by the rules. He is attacking democracy itself.

Despite no credible evidence of electoral fraud, Trump has been claiming the election is a scam. “The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election,” he Tweeted Monday.

Trump sowed seeds of doubt about a rigged election months ago when polls showed he was trailing Biden. The polls underestimated Trump’s support. Still, Biden won convincingly in the electoral college and beat Trump in the popular vote by more than 5 million votes.

As others have noted, our democratic republic depends on the losers of elections respecting the results and conceding to the victors. With his claims that he’s being cheated, Trump is not only himself cheating but sickening our society.

Understanding Trump’s brand of manhood helps explain why.

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Trump represents an extreme version of what we call “confined masculinity.” This is a manhood that strictly adheres to conventional notions of manliness, including that to be a man means you display rugged independence, aggressive strength, and dominance over others. There’s little room for compassion or self-reflection — such as becoming aware of the needs of others, of higher ideals and of the privileges men, especially white men, have benefitted from.

It’s a masculinity that often leads to toxic, dangerous behaviors.

And that’s in part because winning is everything.

“Losing is never easy. Not for me it’s not,” Trump said on election day.

To lose is to reveal vulnerability, and it requires humility to concede defeat. Trump’s distorted, confined view of manhood rejects these traits. Yet vulnerability and humility are some of the features that men are being called to demonstrate in the 21st century. A willingness to admit imperfection, to express emotions such as sadness or disappointment, to be willing to learn from others and to pursue virtue are behaviors that enable closer relationships, better teamwork, greater adaptability and the ability to help solve global problems.

These capabilities, along with compassion, connection, curiosity and emotional courage, are central to an emerging way of being a man we call “liberating masculinity.” It’s a male ethos that frees men and all those around them to live fuller, more satisfying lives at home, at work and in the world.

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It’s also the kind masculinity Joe Biden demonstrates.

America chose Biden, and this contemporary, inclusive version of manliness, in our recent presidential election.

But a peaceful transfer of power is now in jeopardy. Senate leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican officials are either echoing Trump’s lies or enabling his corrosive behavior by refusing to recognize Biden as president-elect.

But this is a moment of truth. Literally so, because if Americans in general and Republicans in particular do not stand up for truth over lies, for decency and honor over partisan warfare, our democracy is headed for dark days.

We are calling on good men and women of all political stripes to do the right thing in this moment.

Will you muster the courage to defy a would-be tyrant? Will you honor the ultimate sacrifice of veterans who protected our democratic way of life?

Will you risk scorn and abuse to preserve the republic, as Abe Lincoln did? Will you tell the truth and put country over ego, as George Washington did?

Will you let those patriots lie peacefully in their graves?

I write about work, culture and masculinity. Concerned about the present but hopeful about the future.

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