Monday, September 08, 2008

The Manly Factor

Well, a storm has knocked out power and my cable connection, so I'm sitting in a restaurant with Wi-Fi service, away from my market data, catching up on email and reviewing the day's news. It looks as though the McCain/Palin ticket has caught a bounce from the convention and now leads the Obama/Biden ticket in the polls. In general, I try to steer clear of politics; my general attitude is that the Republicans have managed to do everything possible during their tenure to ensure that they are unelectable; the Democrats are managing to do everything possible to demonstrate that it's never too late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

One conundrum pondered by political writers is why the Democratic ticket is not enjoying greater strength in the polls, given the voters' mood toward the political parties. Is there a hidden race factor at work? Is it nefarious media influence?

I think not. My rule, politically incorrect as it may be, is that America generally elects the candidate who is most manly. Now manly is a dated term; it's an amalgam of youthful energy and tough grit. In the nether reaches of academe--and many parts of society--it is decidedly unacceptable to be an alpha male. That is associated with aggression, not to mention an insensitivity toward the multitude of groups vying for elite victimhood status.

But America likes manly men. They populate action movies; they make great sports heroes; and they are prominent on the best seller lists. They get things done, and they aren't troubled by doubts or nuances. If you've read those novels about Jack Reacher, Bob Lee Swagger, or Mitch Rapp, you know what manly is all about.

Eisenhower vs. Stevenson? The manly guy wins. Truman vs. Dewey? The "give 'em hell" guy upsets the effete Easterner. Kennedy had the vibrancy of youth and the dash of a PT boat commander over Nixon. Reagan was the cowboy over Carter. It's not a Democrat or Republican thing. Look at the vigor of Bill Clinton over a wooden Bob Dole. Bush could talk tough and direct over a Kerry or Gore--not unlike Nixon's realism over McGovern's idealism.

What's more, you don't have to be a man to be manly. Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir: those were tough leaders. That's why the initial take on Sarah Palin has been positive. Does she have any well-formed positions on global economics or foreign affairs? Of course not. But she hunts and she eats moose. Manly.

So that's why the polls have shifted. One guy talks in idealistic platitudes, the other struts out his ordeals as a POW. It's Dewey and Truman all over again. I'm not sure Republicans have earned the right to four more years, but unless Democrats--in the felicitous phrase of my daughter--"grow a pair", we're likely to see another manly man in the White House.