Oh, God help us… Bobo has decided to give us his “thoughts” on “The Sexual Politics of 2016.” He breathlessly tells us that Donald Trump has given misogyny a twist. Sigh. In the comments “kaw7” from Manchester had this to say: “Mr. Brooks, As you have made perfectly clear, in column after column, Donald Trump does not represent the version of the Republican Party you espouse. We get it. However, what you have yet to address are the antics of the Republicans who refuse to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Since the death of Antonin Scalia, you’ve penned over a dozen columns, but not one has been about the ongoing intransigence of Senate Republicans and their conservative allies. You have fussed and fumed over Trump’s subversion of the Republican Party, but said nothing about the Republicans’ subversion of the Constitution. Your silence on this matter is all too telling and too typical. Either you are too afraid to chastise your Republican pals, or you agree with their stance and are too embarrassed to admit it. Either way, another column on Donald Trump is merely a distraction. It is past time for you, Mr. Brooks, to address the elephant in the room.” That will happen when pigs fly. Mr. Cohen addresses “Trump’s New World Disorder” and says Trump thinks America is being ripped off and NATO is obsolete, but war in Estonia or the East China Sea could be the biggest rip-off of all. In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say: “Another Roger Cohen paean to the beauty, need and desirability of perpetual war. We don’t need no stinkin’ lead free water in our schools. Who needs smooth roads and safe bridges? Let those commie Chinese build 12,000 miles of high speed rail, we don’t need it. Per Roger Cohen we must garrison the planet in perpetuity.” Here, alas, is Bobo:
In the middle of the Civil War a colonel named Robert McAllister from the 11th Regiment of New Jersey tried to improve the moral fiber of his men. A Presbyterian railroad contractor in private life, he lobbied and preached against profanity, drinking, prostitution and gambling. Some of the line officers in the regiment, from less genteel backgrounds, rebelled.
They formed an organization called the Independent Order of Trumps. In sort of a mischievous, laddie way, the Trumps championed boozing and whoring, cursing and card-playing.
In her book “The Gentlemen and the Roughs,” Lorien Foote notes that this wasn’t just a battle over pleasure. It was a contest between two different ideals of masculinity. McAllister’s was based on gentlemanly chivalry and self-restraint. Trumpian masculinity was based on physical domination and sexual conquest. “Perceptions of manliness were deeply intertwined with perceptions of social status,” Foote writes.
And so it is today.
These days we’re living through another great redefinition of masculinity. Today, both men and women are called upon to live up to the traditional ideals of both genders. So the ideal man, at least in polite society, gracefully achieves a series of balances. He is steady and strong, but also verbal and vulnerable. He is emotionally open and willing to cry, but also restrained and resilient. He is physical, and also intellectual.
Today’s ideal man honors the women in his life in whatever they want to do. He treats them with respect in the workplace and romance in the bedroom. He is successful in the competitive world of the marketplace but enthusiastic in the kitchen and gentle during kids’ bath time.
This new masculine ideal is an unalloyed improvement on all the earlier masculine ideals. It’s a great achievement of our culture. But it is demanding and involves reconciling a difficult series of tensions. And it has sparked a bad-boy protest movement and counterculture, currently led by a group we might once again call the Independent Order of Trumps.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a revolution in manners, a rejection of the civility codes of the educated class. As part of this, he rejects the new and balanced masculine/feminine ideal that has emerged over the past generation. Trump embraces a masculine identity — old in some ways, new in others — built upon unvarnished misogyny.
Trump’s misogyny is not the historical moralistic misogyny. Traditional misogyny blames women for the lustful, licentious and powerful urges that men sometimes feel in their presence. In this misogyny, women are the powerful, disgusting corrupters — the vixens, sirens and monsters. This gynophobic misogyny demands that women be surrounded with taboos and purgation rituals, along with severe restrictions on behavior and dress.
Trump’s misogyny, on the other hand, has a commercial flavor. The central arena of life is male competition. Women are objects men use to win points in that competition. The purpose of a woman’s body is to reflect status on a man. One way to emasculate a rival man is to insult or conquer his woman.
Writing for Slate, Frank Foer has one of the best (and most disgusting) compilations of Donald Trump’s history with women. Most of the episodes are pure dominance display.
For example, A. J. Benza was a writer who confessed that his girlfriend had left him for Trump. Trump called into a radio show he was appearing on to brag: “I’ve been successful with your girlfriend, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said. “While you were getting onto the plane to go to California thinking she was your girlfriend, she was some place that you wouldn’t have been very happy with.”
When the commentator Tucker Carlson criticized him, Trump left voice mail bragging about how much more sex he gets. He told an interviewer that you have to treat women like dirt.
It’s not quite right to say that Trump is a throwback to midcentury sexism. At least in those days negative behavior toward women and family members was restrained by the chivalry code. Political candidates didn’t go attacking their rivals’ wives based on their looks. Trump’s objectification is uncontrolled. It’s pure ego competition with a pornogrified flavor.
In this way, Trump represents the spread of something brutal. He takes economic anxiety and turns it into sexual hostility. He effectively tells men: You may be struggling, but at least you’re better than women, Mexicans and Muslims.
I’ve grappled with determining how much to blame Trump’s supporters for his rise. Many of them are victims of economic dislocation and it is hard to fault them for seeking a change, of course, even if it is simplistic and ignorant.
But in the realm of cultural politics, Trump voters do need to be held to account. They are participating in a descent into darkness. They are supporting a degrading wrong. This is the world your daughters are going to grow up in.
And now we’re faced with Mr. Cohen:
Goodbye to all that. Now we know that Donald Trump would rip up the post-1945 world order, trash an “obsolete” NATO, lean toward a Japan with nukes rather than the “one-sided agreement” that leaves the United States responsible for Japanese defense, tell Saudi Arabia that it “wouldn’t be around for very long” without American protection, and generally make clear that “we cannot be the policeman of the world.”
So much for Pax Americana; it was a bad deal, you see, and in the Trump universe the deal is everything. American power and far-flung American garrisons may have underwritten global security and averted nuclear war for more than seven decades, but they cannot be sustained by the “poor country” the United States has become. Why? Because, he insists, the whole postwar setup is a scam.
That Trump could be the next president of the United States is no longer a fanciful notion. Americans don’t want business as usual; Trump is not business as usual. He’s ranting and schmoozing his way to the White House as the man who, through some alchemy, will make an anxious America proud again. The world — already more combustible than at any time in recent decades — may be about to become a much more dangerous place.
Trump, in interviews with my colleagues Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, said: “We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many, many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher. We were the big bully, but we were not smartly led.” America was “systematically ripped off by everybody. From China to Japan to South Korea to the Middle East, many states in the Middle East, for instance protecting Saudi Arabia and not being properly reimbursed for every penny that we spend.”
Bottom line of Trump foreign policy: “We will not be ripped off anymore” because “we don’t have any money.” He would like to see the United States “really starting to go robust,” as it did around 1900.
A lot of what Trump said was just plain wrong. He declared that he was “all for Ukraine, I have friends that live in Ukraine,” but those friends don’t seem to have explained what’s going on. He is irked because countries like Germany “didn’t seem to be very much involved” when Russia got “very confrontational” (a.k.a. annexed Crimea and started a war in eastern Ukraine), and so the burden fell on the United States.
In fact, Germany has taken a central role in orchestrating sanctions against Russia and, unlike the United States, is at the table in the Minsk peace process for Ukraine. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Trump dismisses Germany’s role in that he believes Europe’s most powerful nation by far is “being destroyed” by “tremendous crime” (presumably on the part of unmentioned Muslim refugees) and by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “naïveté or worse” (presumably in letting said Syrian refugees in). He also believes that the United States is “obsolete in cyber,” a view Iran would not share, and that “our country doesn’t have money” (it does have some).
But that Trump and facts are uneasy partners is already well known. What was not so apparent before these interviews was how radical a President Trump would be in dismantling the architecture of postwar stability — unless, of course, he changed his mind to demonstrate the unpredictability he prizes.
To say NATO is obsolete — a view Moscow has been pressing since the end of the Cold War as a means to get the United States out of Europe — at a time when President Vladimir Putin is determined to assert Russian power is dangerous folly. Ask the Baltic States that have been spared Putin’s aggression only because they are now NATO members. NATO remains the pillar of the trans-Atlantic cooperation that forged a Europe whole and free from the ruins and divisions of 1945.
To countenance a nuclear-armed Japan at a time when China’s rapid rise and designs in the East China Sea have sharpened tensions between the two countries is also to play a high-risk game. The presence of the United States as an Asian power offsetting China’s rise and reassuring smaller nations in the hemisphere is a principal reason that rise has been peaceful.
As for the disintegration of Saudi Arabia, which Trump seems ready to accept if the Saudis don’t step up to the plate financially and militarily, it may well make Syria look like a playground.
Trump is right about one thing. The world of 2016 is not that of 1945 or 1990. The United States is relatively weaker, power is shifting, there are pressing domestic priorities. But his version of “America First” — which interestingly converges with the views of many on the left who are convinced that the United States should stop policing the world — looks like a recipe for cataclysm.
War in Estonia or the East China Sea could end up being a very bad deal indeed, a real rip-off for all humanity.