Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, a common complaint was that he wasn’t being “tough” enough. Not tough enough on foreign policy, on ISIS, on Russia, not tough enough on the Republicans who were stonewalling his agenda in Washington. What those people thought they wanted was a president who would get in there and knock some skulls together, like Harrison Ford fist-fighting at 30,000 feet in Air Force One or Macho Man Randy Savage breaking the fourth wall to proclaim that his opponent will be lucky to escape with his life, much less the championship belt. (Donald Trump, by the way, was on hand to witness Savage man up and claim the WWF’s fictitious belt). We wanted yelling and podium pounding and action movie one-liners. We’re America, goddamn it! Give me toxicity or give me death!
But Trump has proven that having an actual belligerent “tough guy” president sucks. We’re knotted up in a dozen unprecedented crises, and the people who are supposed to be managing them are too focused on making the president feel like he’s doing a good job to actually solve the problems that are supposed to be solved. We can’t post-match monologue our way out of this. We can’t knock out a pandemic with a folding chair.
It wasn’t long ago that domineering masculinity was something mainstream American culture lauded, but as Trump’s failures mount, and as his acolytes and bootlickers follow their god-king’s example, there’s never been a time when self-described manly men have looked more ridiculous.