07 January, 2007

Macho, Macho, Men...

Forget the political sides in this NYT article. Rather, I find it interesting to discover what the reporter and those quoted in the story think is "manly." Under the headline "The Invasion of the Alpha Male Democrat," we read:

The members of this new [congressional] faction, which helped the Democrats expand into majority status, stand out not for their ideology or racial background but for their carefully cultivated masculinity.

“As much as the policy positions is the background and character of these Democrats,” says John Lapp, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who helped recruit this new breed of candidate. “So we went to CIA agents, FBI agents, N.F.L. quarterbacks, sheriffs, Iraq war vets. These are red-blooded Americans who are tough.”

Mr. Lapp even coined a term to describe these manly — and they are all men — pols: “the Macho Dems.”

It's the conscious aspect of this that makes it interesting. And check out how the reporter describes Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer, who conceived this "Macho Dem" approach:

He [Emmanuel] is missing half of one finger — his aides refer to him as “nine point five” — and swears enough to make a Soprano blush. Senator Schumer is so aggressive and demanding that he has a reputation as one of the most difficult people in the Senate to work for. Both men, who have been elevated to leadership positions in the new Congress, are throwbacks to the era when tough-guy Democrats were urban ethnic politicians, like Dan Rostenkowski and Tip O’Neill.

When Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Schumer set out to find candidates to run in the red states and districts of the 2006 electoral battleground they sought their own rural and exurban doppelgängers.

So, being a man is epitomized by scars, a level of swearing that would make the above-average swearer blush, and being so aggressive and demanding that people don't like to work for you. Oooh, now that's the way to attract an alpha-male-loving woman like me. I like my men rude, disrespectful and overpowering of subordinates. [/sarcasm]

“Joe Sestak — that guy’s muscular!” says Mr. Lapp. “He’s a vice admiral. I’ve told him to spend a lot of time going on the national talk shows. He can really do a service changing the mold and the way the Democratic Party is viewed.”

Yup, it's all in the muscles (setting aside the fact that muscles don't top the list of equipment necessary for good admirals). We'll ignore the fact that Sestak is, by most reports of those who knew him as a commanding officer before the new CNO fired him, an overbearing, unreasonable, narcissistic and ineffective leader. Yup, that really floats my boat, too.

Other House members include Minnesota’s Tim Walz, an Army national guardsman; Brad Ellsworth, an Indiana sheriff; and Heath Shuler, a former N.F.L. quarterback from North Carolina.

Biography, it can be argued, counts more than substance....

At least he got that part right...

In the Senate, Mr. Schumer’s tough-guy caucus includes...Jim Webb the former marine from Virginia who turned his son’s combat boots into an effective electoral prop. Upon arriving in Washington, he promptly picked a fight with President Bush at a White House reception.

There's more of that sexy man-behavior: picking self-serving fights with people who could help you better serve those who hired you had you been civil to them (in other words, gratuitiously insulting President Bush is going to make enemies of the very people who could provide access and influence that would make Webb a more effective representative of his constituents as a new senator).

I call this kind of behavior the worst side of masculinity, but that's apparently not how Democrats' political strategists see it:

“Presidential politics, but also the rest of national political leadership, has a lot to do with the understandable desire of voters for leadership, strength, clarity and sureness,” says Jim Jordan, John Kerry's first presidential campaign manager. “Frankly, in the post-Vietnam era, Democrats have come up short by those measures too frequently.”.

The Democrats' strategists call bullying subordinates, valuing biography more than substance, picking fights, and being known for excessively vulgar language "leadership, strength, clarity and sureness?"

Boy, that explains a lot. John Kerry, anyone?