Author Tom Nichols points out the dissonance between Donald Trump and the masculine virtues of the Greatest Generation that he ostensibly admires so greatly. While I too find President Trump’s behavior repugnant, I think that concluding that his behavior is only possible because of some kind of flaw in modern culture is an example of falling prey to the same (in manner if not degree) misunderstanding of the past that affects Donald Trump and his supporters.
American history is replete with similarly loathsome figures who managed to deceive large swaths of the public despite obvious falsehoods and character flaws.
Senator Joseph McCarthy, for example, inflated his World War 2 record to qualify for a medal, and spoke of his war wound (which was actually a broken leg suffered during a party on his ship). The Senate press corps actually named him “the worst U.S. Senator” *before* he began making false accusations of communist influence.
Ironically enough, there is a lesson that President Trump could learn from McCarthy’s example–McCarthy destroyed his own popularity and reputation when Americans got to see him, at length, in the Army-McCarthy hearings. When actually confronted with facts, McCarthy revealed himself to be a lying bully, and the more America saw of the real McCarthy, the less they liked it.
My parents are loyal Republicans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (largely out of an intense dislike of Hillary Clinton), but are fervently rooting for him to lose in 2020. As my mother said to me, “What kind of President says that he doesn’t take responsibility for anything?”
McCarthy was facing off against the U.S. Army in a Senate hearing about his conduct; Donald Trump managed to start turning off voters like my parents with his own daily press conferences.
I’ll conclude with two paragraphs from the conclusion of Nichols’ article:
“In the end, Trump will continue to act like a little boy, and his base, the voters who will stay with him to the end, will excuse him. When a grown man brags about being brave, it is unmanly and distasteful; when a little boy pulls out a cardboard sword and ties a towel around his neck like a cape, it’s endearing. When a rich and powerful old man whines about how unfairly he is being treated, we scowl and judge; when a little boy snuffles in his tears and says that he was bullied—treated worse than Abraham Lincoln, even—we comfort.
Donald Trump is unmanly because he has never chosen to become a man. He has weathered few trials that create an adult of any kind. He is, instead, working-class America’s dysfunctional son, and his supporters, male and female alike, have become the worried parent explaining what a good boy he is to terrorized teachers even while he continues to set fires in the hallway right outside.”