Donald Trump: Alpha Male or Mean Girl?
(Originally published in March 2016)
As I have previously noted, one of the most common and most absurd defenses of Donald Trump is the claim that he is a so-called “alpha male.” Critics (this one included) have noted that he resembles a junior high school bully more than he does any dominant pack animal. Today, however, we can officially dismiss the alpha male claim once and for all, and correct our re-categorization as well. He is not, in fact, a junior high school bully. He is a junior high school girl.
A super PAC (not the Ted Cruz campaign) ran an ad in Utah reminding voters that Trump’s wife had been a soft porn model and asking whether that’s what they wanted in a potential First Lady. The ad’s factual (and pictorial) content was true, and its accompanying question legitimate. Still, one could make the case, as both Trump and Cruz have, that such an ad was dirty pool and uncalled for. Voters have every right to take such aspects of a candidate’s life into consideration if, unlike Trump supporters, they believe that morality matters. But that is something they ought to discuss privately, or within their own hearts, not something that ought to be splashed sensationally across TV screens.
Trump exploited this off-color ad, however, as an opportunity to take a cheap shot at Cruz, implying (without evidence or just cause) that Cruz himself had something to do with it, and then warning that he might, as payback, “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz. This was typical Trump: the misdirected, careless, mean-spirited personal attack of a thin-skinned, irrational blusterer.
Cruz condemned the offending ad, but warned Trump to leave the wives out of the heated battle between the two men.
Many hours later—that is, having had plenty of time to think it over and let cooler heads prevail—Trump chose, as is his wont, to lower the tone even further. He also chose to do it in his preferred, and eminently presidential manner, namely on Twitter, where he retweeted the infamous “comparison” shots (which I will not reproduce here) of Mrs. Cruz and Mrs. Trump tweeted to him by a wonderfully artistic and tasteful fan, accompanied by the comment, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Yes, Donald, in this case a picture is worth a thousand words. To briefly summarize the thousand words that I hear from the picture in question:
“Donald Trump is the most embarrassing pansy-a** ever to run for president of anything, anywhere.”
To elaborate, this tweeted picture, and its implied message, smacked of thirteen-year-old girl cattiness. “Never talk to my boyfriend again, Suzy! He would hate you anyway, because you’re so ugly!”
Why then, to be perfectly clear, have I flipped my previous assessment of Trump’s character from thirteen-year-old boy to thirteen-year-old girl? Because thirteen-year-old boys don’t attack other boys by telling them their girlfriends are ugly. Even by that pubescent stage of development, a normal boy has learned, by hormonal intuition if not by the influence of a decent father figure, that getting at a rival by insulting his girl is just about the most unmanly thing a male of the species can do. (Note that the original ad about Melania Trump was posted by a woman, not a man.)
As for the alpha male nonsense—which I qualify by noting that I believe the whole notion is a crock, born of the modern pseudoscientific reduction of humans to irrational pack animals—let’s consider a few questions about the world of genuine “alpha maledom.”
Do you remember a John Wayne hero ever calling out the town bandits, or a village-threatening Indian tribe, by putting up unflattering posters of their womenfolk? Did Shane challenge Rufus Ryker by saying, “Hey Ryker, I heard your wife’s a dog!” What would we think of a Wild West hero who demeaned his rivals’ wives as a way of striking out at those rivals?
Remember the men of the Titanic who, as a matter of honor and good breeding, filled the lifeboats according to the “Women and children first” rule? What do we think of the men who tried to violate that rule and sneak onto a boat ahead of the women?
More importantly, why do we think that about them? Isn’t it because we still know what every half decent excuse for a man used to know, namely that, all things being equal, men don’t deliberately harm women? (By “deliberately,” I mean purposefully, e.g., “Look at that face!”)
A “real man” would know this instinctively. Even if he was still fluid until this year about whether Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel; even if he encouraged supporters to beat up protesters for him; even if he thought the only objectionable thing about Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba was the ego bruise of his not being personally greeted at the airport by the dictator himself; even if, after boasting about his desire to confront Cruz in a two-man contest, he then ran away from the first opportunity to test his mettle in a genuine debate with Cruz; even if he showed himself unfit in all these other regards, he would certainly know this—a real man doesn’t belittle another man’s wife.
But forget about real men. As I reflect upon my own childhood, I remember that the thirteen-year-old boy I knew who was cruelest toward the girls—relentlessly teasing the unpopular, homely, or chronically ill ones, mocking their looks, laughing at them in front of others until they cried—was by far the most effeminate of all the boys in my class. I suppose this was his way of overcompensating for his effeminacy, or masking it. The effect was exactly the opposite, but, lacking the normal masculine instinct to feel protective of females, he was probably unaware of how his mean and pitiless behavior toward girls only highlighted his deficient maleness.
In other words, that boy did not even realize he was acting like a girl.
And how will Trump’s most boisterous supporters defend their hero’s girlish attack on Cruz’ wife? They will say, as they already are saying, “But he started it!” Behavior and sensibility learned from The Donald himself, I daresay.
The most amusing element of the alpha male fantasy version of Trump that his devotees have created is how they use it as a bludgeon against his critics. One frequently finds them in readers’ comment sections (and even, occasionally, in featured articles) accusing Trump’s critics of being “limp-wristed Nancy Boys” who are just “afraid of an alpha male.” (I pulled those from actual online comments on a recent article by a highly respected American conservative commentator.)
But wait a moment—let’s get our pack animal categories straight here. Who stands up against the pack and challenges the alpha male? Another alpha male, of course. Who, on the other hand, bow deferentially before the alpha male at all costs, refuse to find any fault with him or to question him, and gather behind him as a mob to attack the challenging outsider? All together now, starts with “B”….
Not to worry, though, since Trump is no alpha male. He’s just a pathetically vain “mean girl.”