Opinion

How Trump’s Primitive Masculinity Tempted and Confused American Conservatives

You, the traditional, the conservatives, the religious, you voted for Trump because he promised to make America manly again. But you voted for a primitivism that betrays your own beliefs.

President-elect Donald Trump arrives for his election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown, November 9, 2016.
Andrew Kelly/Reuters

So, you think Trump is a man. The man.

He represents a masculinity you feel has been missing from the White House.  You are angry at the weak-kneed policies of the last eight years. You want to get back to the basics of what it means to be a real leader: manliness.

So you voted for Trump because he promised to make America manly again. He promised we’d go back to the good old days.

And some of you claim to be traditional, to be conservatives, to even be religious. You claim that it is part of your beliefs to vote for men in leadership positions. After all, for the last few years, your beliefs feel like they’ve been under attack: Gays can marry. Transsexuals are trying to get into your bathrooms. A woman ran for president.

"Enough!" you declare. It’s time to get back to where we started, to get back to those good old days.

There’s a problem, though: You didn't notice, but you betrayed your own beliefs by voting for this particular male of our species.

In this April 15, 2016, file photo, a Donald Trump supporter flexes his muscles with the words "Build The Wall" written on them as Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Elise Amendola/AP

You didn’t vote for any man. You voted for the alpha male. Not the kind of ruler that projects true masculinity, but the strong-arm power of the leader that we know from studying primates.

It's a tempting confusion for traditionalists: the idea that what is old must be right, that what was before must be better than what is now. It is the reason you think you are at war with progressives.

But a true traditionalist understands that something is traditional because it is timeless. Because it is neither old nor new: it is true.

And if you had followed that construct, you would have been able to understand what a real man is.

Look at Pirkei Avot, the Jewish text which translates to “Ethics of the Fathers.” A timeless guide on what it means to be a man. (Or, more accurately, what it means to be a mensch

A selection:

Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As it is written, "Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."

Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated: "If you eat of the toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.

The first thing you’ll notice is that neither of these describe Trump. The second thing you’ll notice is that Trump displays the opposite of these qualities: he thinks that he is strong when he gives his inclinations free rein, when he bullies others. He thinks that ruling a city is greater than ruling his spirit. He thinks that being rich is living in a gold house, and he is never satisfied with his lot.

Pirkei Avot is laying out a definition of what it means to be a truly “traditional” man, a definition that is far beyond the definition you’ve chosen, one that is timeless.

What kind of man have you chosen? Let’s turn to Pirkei Avot again:

There are seven things that characterize a boor, and seven that characterize a wise man. A wise man does not speak before one who is greater than him in wisdom or age. He does not interrupt his fellow's words. He does not hasten to answer. His questions are on the subject and his answers to the point. He responds to first things first and to latter things later. Concerning what he did not hear, he says "I did not hear." He concedes to the truth. With the boor, the reverse of all these is the case.

You only need to watch one interview, or one debate, with Trump to know that he is the boor described here. He constantly interrupts, he hastens to answer, he never concedes being wrong and he constantly prizes his own "intelligence" above anyone else's.

In other words, your definition of manliness is not traditional, it is not conservative, and it is certainly not based in religion: it is primitive. It is so primitive that it is, in fact, the masculinity of those primates who gave us the concept of the alpha male.

In an article about bullying in the ape world, the BBC described the leaders of many ape groups this way: “Alpha males are defined by their ability to outcompete others in any fight.”

And how do they prove and then establish this "strength"?  

“An unfortunate monkey at the bottom of the hierarchy is repeatedly attacked and picked upon by those higher up in the group. They are sometimes beaten up every day ”

In other words, the definition of the alpha-male ape world leader is that they beat up those weaker than themselves to prove their own strength. The term they use for this action? “Scapegoating.”

There is perhaps no better description of Trump’s “leadership” style, one that is based purely on attacking others, on providing none of his own substance, on literally talking about how impressive the size of his manhood is. On bragging about grabbing women’s pussies, who “let” him because he is so powerful. To Trump, having power automatically confers their agreement.

Trump is not a man. Certainly not the man of conservatives, nor of religious tradition. His behavior resembles far more the primitivism of the ape world.

And so when you say you support Trump because he is "more manly" than Obama, because he will bring America back to a greater time, you should know what you’re really saying: you don’t want America to be great, or traditional, or religious. You want it to be primitive. You want the weak to be dominated by the strong. You want power to mean outer power, not inner power.

But tradition tells us what distinguishes true men from apes: a strength that lies within the man - that is not dependent on his outer strength. A "real" man would rather die than even hint at forcing himself on a woman or anyone else. A man does not need to hurt others to prove his strength to himself because he is strong enough within that any outer proof is unnecessary.

In contrast Trump is like a peacock, showing you his plumage and distracting you from the power you actually crave.

You are not at war with progressives. You are not at war with Obama.  You are not at war with the present or the future. The past is not your friend.

Timelessness, depth, going beyond surface definitions, that is what your tradition calls on you to embrace. A definition of reality that is based on what happens in our souls rather than our bodies.

In ignoring all of this, you have supported a primate for president. And although the alpha males may be leaders of their tribe, they will live and die as apes.   

Elad Nehorai is the founder and editor-in-chief of Hevria, a publication for creative Jews, and the blogger behind Pop Chassid. Follow him on Twitter: @PopChassid