But the fundamental dynamic coursing through these political misrepresentations and exploitations is the conservatives’ deep fear that the version of masculinity on which their political and cultural power has rested for generations is evaporating. If Cold War-era fear mongering, our-stockpile-has-to-be-bigger-than-their-stockpile machismo and plain “might is right” male insistence as a path to unquestioned power is no longer the accepted in the living rooms and bedrooms and boardrooms and classrooms across America, let alone in the war room, what do Republicans have left? Put another way, through eras of women’s liberation and racial equality movements and calls for peace and justice over war and tyranny, the patriarchy has remained intact increasingly not because of its popularity nor long list of great achievements for society but out of sheer will—its tight grip not yet fully dislodged by the simple passage of time that plainly advantages these forces of change.
But when masculinity itself starts to transform, to acknowledge the problems and even shackles of such strict gender norms and embrace a more open and experimental version of itself, traditional masculinity is defeated from within. When masculinity transforms to become a tall, athletic, African-American liberal who achieves peace and prosperity through words rather than weapons, when the new generation of billionaires are not muscle-y factory men but geeky and somewhat effeminate tech entrepreneurs, and when there are strong and powerful women increasingly comfortably and populously mingled within and sometimes hard to distinguish from the back because both have buns on the tops of their heads … well, who the hell is going to vote for a political party not just predicated on but deeply invested in exactly the opposite, let alone embrace any of their machismo-fueled militaristic ideas?