early and awkward

What’s With All the Emasculating Campaign Rhetoric?

If you’ve been paying close attention to how politicians make fun of one another, you may have noticed a disturbing trend these past few months: Male politicians are being told by their rivals that in addition to lacking male genitalia, they aren’t behaving like men, talking like men, or dressing like men. For example:

• Carl Paladino, in a very impolite letter this week — seriously, political adversaries used to be so cordial to one another — wondered whether Andrew Cuomo had “the cojones” to debate him. Paladino further implored Cuomo, “for the first time in your life be a man.”

• In August, Sarah Palin said that female Arizona governor Jan Brewer “has the cojones that our President does not have to look out for all Americans, not just Arizonans, but all Americans.” (She also slammed reporters who use anonymous sources, like Michael Joseph Gross in his Vanity Fair profile of her, as “impotent and limp and gutless.”)

• In July, Jane Norton, a Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, mocked her (eventually victorious) primary opponent, Ken Buck, for not being “man enough” to attack her without help from special-interest groups.

• After her former campaign spokesman questioned whether primary opponent Mike Castle was having a gay affair, Christine O’Donnell responded thusly to a complaint filed with the FEC by the Delaware Republican Party over her alleged illegal campaign coordination with the Tea Party Express: “You know, these are the kind of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we’ve come to expect from Obama’s favorite Republican, Mike Castle. You know, I released a statement today, saying Mike this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”

• Responding to his Democratic opponent Ron Klein’s contention that the violent and threatening rhetoric he uses — such “we’re going to take Ron Klein out behind the … woodshed and we’ll whoop him — is “offensive,” Republican Allen West, a retired Army colonel running for Congress in Florida’s 22nd district, responded, “That’s how men talk,” and told Klein to “man up.”

So what’s behind the surge in emasculating rhetoric (if it’s really a surge and not just something we just started paying attention to this year)? It probably has less to do with an actual decline in the manliness of candidates than with the violent overtones of the current political climate, one in which angry voters want to “revolt” and “take back government.” Who’s going to do that for you, voters, a bunch of meek, effeminate wusses? No! Such actions require, if not men specifically, then politicians of either gender who exhibit traditionally macho qualities. People who act like they have testicles, talk like men, and wear the proper kind of pants as they do non-baking activities. Those are the kind of representatives we need. And if they also happen to be a little insane, too, well, so be it.

What’s With All the Emasculating Campaign Rhetoric?