Wimpiness and Character

Michael Tomasky (and, following him, Kevin Drum, comment that Republicans vote on character, whereas Democrats vote on issues. Their point is good, but what is “character”?

It means a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean niceness. It means a bit of macho and above all, decisiveness. (Think Captain Kirk and John Wayne.) What it excludes is sitting around agonizing, “What do we do now?”. (Think Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis.) Republicans want somebody who will get the job done in a time of crisis – as do we all.

This definition of character accounts for a supposed paradox in the Republican attitude toward personal defects. Macho, decisive guys are actually very high risk for wild and crazy youthful episodes. Republicans only ask that the guys quit doing those things, and repent. That’s why it won’t really hurt Bush much if Kitty Kelly has evidence that, back in the day, he occasionally did lines of coke off whores’ chests. Because in the end, he cleaned up his act and found Jesus.

Many voters, perhaps subconsciously, take the Presidential campaign as an indicator of a candidate’s effectiveness in dealing with America’s enemies. A candidate needs to know when to respond reasonably to a reasonable proposal, and when to respond aggressively to a hostile act.

Dukakis failed that test when his wife’s hypothetical rape was brought up. He responded hypothetically, whereas he should have said something like, “God damn you, you piece of shit, leave my wife out of this!”

All these years, The DLC has been giving us the wrong advice. They’ve been encouraging us to accomodate ourselves to the Republicans by being more moderate, whereas what the voters really want is for the Democrats to be tougher and less weeny. No one in the world is afraid of Joe Lieberman, and Republicans just plain love him. Democrats can’t gain the voters’ respect by submitting to the alpha male

I’m a relatively wimpy guy, but I’ve spent much of my life in macho environments and have learned to survive there. Pretty much any time in the last 20 years, I’ve been able to go from being the wimpiest guy in the room to the most macho guy in the room with a ten-minute bus ride. This isn’t really a “blue-collar” thing, because a lot of macho guys are middle class. It isn’t even a sexual-politics thing. There are lots of macho gays in history (Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar) and a lot of macho women (Elizabeth I, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Queen Christina). It’s a character thing.

Bartcop has been saying this for years: “How can the Democrats protect the American people when they can’t even protect themselves?” We do not need a warlike president, but we do need a decisive one, and Kerry has to show that he’s decisive. (After all, President Bunnypants really isn’t very intimidating if you look at him closely, as the “My Pet Goat” episode shows.)

The place for Kerry to start is by treating the lying, terrorist Republican shits the way they deserve to be treated.

And always remember — if Bush is re-elected, the terrorists win.