Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Caveman Politics

It’s not about their gender, Niall Ferguson assures us. It’s not the number of women leaders that is redefining our politics, but their way of exercising leadership.

In the past, women leaders were “iron ladies.” They were tougher than tough. When IRA terrorist Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher chose not to force feed him. When he died, she had this to say:

Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims.

As I say, Thatcher was tough.

Ferguson compares the old style iron ladies to the new breed of female leaders, women who have a more feminine, more motherly style:

But it’s not the fact of their being female that is important, so much as the feminine style today’s female leaders have brought to politics. The powerful women of the 1970s and 1980s — Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher — were iron ladies, famous (metaphorically speaking) for having more cojones than the average male politician. By contrast, the female leaders of our time are not just female; they are also feminine. The archetype is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose political style combines the gift of the gab, multi-tasking, never losing her cool, and emotional intelligence.

Didn’t feminists tell us that all we really need is a softer side to leadership, a kinder, gentler side? Didn’t they tell us that women would contribute to the bottom line and do wonders for their nations and the world by showing a more caring and compassionate side? Perhaps not as compassionate as John Kasich, but still.

Of course, as has often been noted on this blog, the more feminine and motherly leaders of Germany and Sweden, among other places, have given Europe the current refugee crisis. Women are more caring, more emotional, less cold hearted and rational. They are also softer, weaker and thus invite aggression. Thus, Germany and Europe are collapsing from the overflow of Muslim refugees. And, let’s not forget, these Muslim refugees have made Sweden the rape culture capital of the Western world. About which the feminist prime minister of Sweden has little to say. After all, the feministically correct approach to rape culture is more sex education.

Ferguson shows how Mama Merkel’s motherly instinct flooded Germany with refugees:

On German television last July, Merkel reduced a young Palestinian refugee to tears by explaining that her family might have to face deportation. “There are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps,” she explained. “If we now say ‘you can all come’ … we just cannot manage that.” The waterworks worked. Six weeks later, Merkel had opened the gates of Germany and was declaring: “We can manage that.” All kinds of historical explanations have been offered for her epoch-making change of mind, but to me it was the essence of feminine politics. Faced with Reem Sahwil’s tears, the chancellor’s reaction was an impulsive attempt to comfort her, followed by a massive and unilateral U-turn.

Even the childless Merkel has a fully functioning maternal instinct. We ought briefly to point out the contradiction in feminist thinking. On the one hand feminists assure us that women will bring something new and invaluable to leadership. On the other they tell us that the differences between the sexes are social constructions, not biological realities. Curious then that women who insist on ruling as women, on doing things that a man would not do, seem so clearly to be following their maternal instincts.

Were we to want to resolve this contradiction, we would have to say that the new women rulers are ruling as feminists. They are driven by an ideological construction that seeks to undermine the patriarchy and the values it represents.

Given that women are gaining more and more political power, in the West, in particular, it makes some sense that there would be a reaction. Ferguson calls it “caveman politics,” and declares that its most prominent practitioner has been Donald Trump:

He is just the latest standard-bearer of a world-wide revolt against feminine politics. Leave aside terms like populism and fascism: this is caveman politics — not just male, but aggressively, crassly masculine. Vladimir Putin is the Russian version. Narendra Modi is the Indian version. Xi Jinping is China’s macho man. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Turkey’s. They talk tough. They strike tough poses. They would never, ever comfort a crying girl.

One might question some of the names on the list, but, at least as far as the Western world is concerned, the point is well taken. I have made it myself on numerous occasions, so it must have some validity.

Ferguson continues:

You cannot imagine anyone throwing a sucker punch during a Merkel speech. Nor can you imagine Clinton threatening “riots” if she is denied the Democratic nomination. She wants to “Make America Whole Again” — a classic feminine slogan — not to punch a hole in America.

Of course, Ferguson adds, caveman politicians show a special contempt for “girlie men.”

Note, too, that the caveman politicians are repudiating not just female leaders but also the “girlie-men” leaders of the post-Cold War era, who were young, went to the gym, sipped Pinot Noir, and had metrosexual policies to match. Politics, like the German language, has masculine, feminine, and neuter.

But, before you start thumping your chest, Ferguson explains that something is off about today’s caveman politicians, something too showy, lacking in substance. As I have mentioned, with Donald Trump we are not dealing with Eisenhower, McArthur or Marshall. Today’s macho politicians are more about posturing than leading effectively:

The irony is that, compared with the male politicians of an earlier generation, today’s macho politicians are not truly manly at all.

True, Trump was sent to a military school (after all other educational options had failed). But he has never seen action. Indeed, he has served his country less to date than the lowliest grunt. In that sense, there is something deeply phony about his machismo. A man who has to reassure the world about the size of his genitals is not macho; he is just insecure.

I have often discussed this concept on the blog. According to Michael Carroll, machismo characterizes men who live in a female dominant culture, a culture that had cults to the Virgin Mother. These men are ineffective and ineffectual as men. They have not succeeded at protecting their families or providing for them and thus the only way they can assert masculinity is through a caricature, through machismo. Note that the word comes to us from a romance language, not from English.

Donald Trump does not quite fit the mold, because he is running for the presidency on the basis of his ability to make money, to succeed at business.

And yet, when it comes to the experience, temperament and knowledge required of someone who wants to be president, he does not have them. He is woefully unqualified to assume or to conduct the office of the president. Thus, he is forced to indulge in macho posturing, in caveman politics, to cover up his inadequacy.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: [Trump] is woefully unqualified to assume or to conduct the office of the president. Thus, he is forced to indulge in macho posturing, in caveman politics, to cover up his inadequacy.

No argument from me. David Brooks agrees:
Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.

Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.
He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12. He surrounds himself with sycophants. “You can always tell when the king is here,” Trump’s butler told Jason Horowitz in a recent Times profile. He brags incessantly about his alleged prowess, like how far he can hit a golf ball. “Do I hit it long? Is Trump strong?” he asks.

In some rare cases, political victors do not deserve our respect. George Wallace won elections, but to endorse those outcomes would be a moral failure.

And so it is with Trump.
Trump’s supporters deserve respect. They are left out of this economy. But Trump himself? No, not Trump, not ever.

And Elizabeth Warren, the new Indian Iron Feminist, while still refraining from an endorsement got in the game via Twitter against Trump on Monday:
Let’s be honest - @realDonaldTrump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he cheated people w/ scams like Trump U.

See how @realDonaldTrump kept his father’s empire afloat using strategic corporate bankruptcies to skip out on debt.

Listen to experts who say @realDonaldTrump might have more money today if he’d put his inheritance in an index fund & left it alone.

@RealDonaldTrump knows he’s a loser. His insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, flagrant narcissism.

But just because @realDonaldTrump is a loser everywhere else doesn’t mean he’ll lose this election.

@RealDonaldTrump stands ready to tear apart an America that was built on values like decency, community, and concern for our neighbors.

Many of history’s worst authoritarians started out as losers – and @realDonaldTrump is a serious threat.

The way I see it, it’s our job to make sure @realDonaldTrump ends this campaign every bit the loser that he started it.

Its a good thing that Trump has a bigger heart than all of us, or he might start getting mean in return.

Marsh said...

You're still complaining about his style? Don't you notice how Cruz is running to try to catch Trump by upping his toughness game? It looks terrible on him though. He's a beta trying to act an alpha, and its not working.

Ted, a first term senator, who has never hired anyone, or lead anyone is more qualified than Trump, a proven executive? GMAB.

David Foster said...

Ares...David Brooks decided Obama would made a great president based on the perfect crease of his trousers.

Most likely, whoever did Obama's ironing would have made a much better president than Obama himself.

Who could possibly take DB's opinions about anything seriously at this point?

David Foster said...

Is Merkel's position on refugees really motivated by a maternal instinct?...or is it about asserting moral superiority and seeking the approval of the caste of people she cares about? Wouldn't a *real* maternal instinct be reflected in special concern for the people of her own country?

Ferguson: "You cannot imagine anyone throwing a sucker punch during a Merkel speech. Nor can you imagine Clinton threatening “riots” if she is denied the Democratic nomination."

WTF? Isn't it Clinton and Sanders supporters who *are* starting riots in an attempt to shut down Trump rallies?

Ares Olympus said...

David Foster, I can only hope the history books will show the closest Trump ever got to the presidency is getting Obama to show his birth certificate.

It is interesting that Trump's paranoia may have strengthened Obama's popularity.

And at least unlike liberal Romney, while Trump doesn't believe in universal health care, but he's admitting that allowing for-profit companies to exclude coverage by preexisting conditions isn't a good idea. So at least President Trump can veto the 2017 republicans House repeal of ACA until they get that part right.

Plus Trump doesn't want to destroy Planned Parenthood. We can perhaps blame his wife or daughter on that one.

sestamibi said...

The earlier "iron ladies" succeeded because they were elected in a culture that still valued masculine characteristics (add Benazir Bhutto to the list, for example). But as feminists began to fill the ranks of lower level elected officials, "compassionate" thinking attained a critical mass, and is now securely within the Overton Window.

Stuart, you may think Trump is a loose cannon unfit for office. I won't dispute that, but anyone who says we have to empathize with our enemies is dangerous and also unfit for office, but for different reasons.

Feminism today can be summed up in one concise principle: that life must be all bliss, all the time, and government must step in to make it so. Hence infantile calls for free tampons, safe spaces, taking offense at "microagressions", etc.

Hillary delenda est.

Marsh said...

Watch Cruz literally lift the words from Michael Douglous, in the movie, The American President!!!

Talk about macho posturing in caveman politics, to cover up his inadequacy...


Sam L. said...

I am unable to believe David Brooks and Elizabeth (the 132nd fastest Indian, in the east--h/t, Frank Gallop).

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: When IRA terrorist Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher chose not to force feed him. When he died, she had this to say: "Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims."

I notice Thatcher didn't say Sands' victims, so it is guilt by political association.

Trump would raise the "guilt by association" and kill the family of terrorists, along with advocating torture for the sake of torture, so we're getting closer to moving in the direction of savagery.

Probably refusing to "force feed him" was an act of dignity, while refusing to negotiate was the real iron will.
The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners. In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to "slop out", the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash and covered the walls of their cells with excrement. In 1980, seven prisoners participated in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days.

The second hunger strike took place in 1981 and was a showdown between the prisoners and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. One hunger striker, Bobby Sands, was elected as a Member of Parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world. The strike was called off after ten prisoners had starved themselves to death—including Sands, whose funeral was attended by 100,000 people.

I admit I don't know what the proper difference between political prisoners and criminals, and what special rights political prisoners might try to demand, or how this status can be gained.

Its definite something to look into as we move towards "Trump's America."

I wonder who current considers themselves political prisoners now in America? Ah, a list. Bradley (Chelsea) Manning leads the list. And the Guantanamo hunger strikers are listed - and being held for years and decades without charges is certainly worthy of a hunger strike, and force feeding is problematic.

Manning's whistleblowing is a tricky position. If there's a coverup against abuse of power, it makes sense someone of conscious might be willing to expose it, but it might be best to focus the leak on specific crimes like this video:,_2007_Baghdad_airstrike

Along with a restoration of civics classes in high school, it would seem good to discuss political prisoners, so we have informed citizens ready to stand up to the next American Dictator.

I guess its the Militia movement that will be testing their right to arms to their right to be shot dead for taking over Park buildings. I think I'd rather do a hunger strike than be shot for threating police with my guns.

Anonymous said...

In peacetime, you deal with misconduct on an individual basis and through the criminal justice system.

In wartime, you don't have this luxury any longer, you deal with enemy collectives (even though there are gradations within them), and you deal with them collectively.

Is the West's conflict with Islam and its guerillas, the Muslims, a peacetime conflict or does it transcend this, is it a (new sort of) war?

Anonymous said...

I agree, Trump is intemperate. He's brash, ad hoc's his speeches, and says some incendiary things. Probably knows as much about Islam & ME as GWB. He's so frenetic and sleep-deprived, he fell asleep during a live interview.

He's angry about US corruption & incompetence, Elite disdain for ordinary people, crumbling infrastructure and the social fabric. Parlous National Security.

He reminds me of TR. TR was in politics, he's a businessman & builder of things.

TR was "that cowboy in the White House"; "warmonger" (TR did admire war). He's a "demagogue", "fascist", "racist", "dictator", even elicits Godwin's Law.

Both Great Communicators. Both hated by the Elites. Both popular with the hoi polloi.

What were Mr. O's credentials? Accomplishments? Hillary - puh-leeze.

I know we disagree. But I hope amicably. -- Rich Lara

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @

"I notice Thatcher didn't say Sands' victims, so it is guilt by political association."

Do you know what you're talking about? Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike to protest the government's withdrawal of political status for Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners. This made them criminals in the eyes of the government. This new designation was a political act. The hunger strikes were political acts in response. They were carried out by a succession of IRA prisoners at the HMP Maze Prison, and Sands was their commanding officer. The whole purpose of the hunger strikes was steeped in political association, as it was an IRA operation. It was a war. In war, you seek to defeat your enemy, not call them a "JV team" and do nothing. One doesn't claim heady psychobabble like "guilt by association" when talking about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. The Japanese did bomb Pearl Harbor!

The hunger strikes represented a showdown between the IRA and the British government, and the means was soaked with Irish cultural metaphors. It was all about despair, and using desperate, morbid means to political ends. Margaret Thatcher wasn't going to cave to IRA demands, and said so all along. Why should she have negotiated? She held all the cards! Sands was in her prison. Should she have given the IRA political legitimacy they craved because she's gracious and magnanimous? Nonsense. The IRA blew up property and people to achieve political ends. She stepped in to settle the score and show the IRA who ruled Northern Ireland. She did the same thing economically years later when she broke the coal miners and showed them who ruled Britain. And she defended the British Empire by contesting the Argentinian capture of the Falkland Islands. She was tough as nails, and her choices carried great political risk. Any one of those events could've brought her government down. Instead, she chose to fight. Even though I disagree with her about the hunger strikes, I respect her for how she handled it. If she wanted to win, she had to play it that way. The IRA certainly wasn't going to back down.

It was a political contest between two indomitable wills. In the end, Bobby Sands lost his life, which was his currency in the negotiation. Thatcher called his bluff, and she had the benefit of passing time. Sands lost.

And your distinction between USA political prisoners and criminals is preposterous. The equivalency is laughable.

Once again, Ares, you are a critic who will not enter the arena and consider the real choices and real consequences of those choices. You have nothing at stake, yet condescendingly criticize people who do. You claim yesterday to not comprehend either-or thinking, while your own view of the world is stark black-and-white.

The hunger strikes were a very human event. You can't learn humanity from Wikipedia... there's no wisdom there.

Dennis said...


Nicely stated. Without straw men, Wikipedia and non-sequiturs Ares would be lost.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Lost? He'd spontaneously combust!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Obama speaking to a youth group in Argentina yesterday:

"So often in the past there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate,” Obama said.

“Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it really fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works,” he added.

Who's the caveman? This guy is an ignorant troglodyte!

I wonder if this is a lesson in the Common Core curriculum. We can call it "Kommie Kore." And have a lesson saying Stalin's Soviet industrialization effort was great because it worked... we just won't talk about the gulag labor, because that's complicated and might trigger a student's fears of an authoritarian figure. Yeah, so we'll just leave that part out. It's not nice.

If we're just going to go off what works -- whether it's communism or capitalism or barbarism or colonialism or authoritarianism or Wahhabism or whatever -- please explain why Obama jetsets around the globe apologizing for the USA. Shouldn't he just ask "Did it work? Are your lives better off materially today than when the USA came into the picture?" With that standard, we won't have to listen to hie moralizing drivel anymore. We can just say Obama's legacy is "whatever works." What does that mean for his signature legislation, ObamaCare? Who does that work for? People who want to sign up for "health insurance" when they're in the ambulance after a broken leg? What a joke. It works, if you don't care about freeloading.

Obama fancies himself a pragmatist. He just forgets to look at the results. How convenient.