According to a recently completed study using the 2016 election as a baseline and the 2018 midterms as a confirmation, Trump has literally, not figuratively, but literally, altered the GOP's base. And I don't mean that he's filled it with white nationalists and open racists. It seems that the arrival of Trump has filled the ranks of the Republican Party with men who feel that they, shall we say, come up a bit short:
But our research suggests that Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the “fragile masculinity hypothesis.”
I'm going to admit, as low an opinion as I have of white Republican voters, I was fairly skeptical of the idea that Trump had shifted the Republican base to a place where male insecurity would be a predictive factor. But the evidence is pretty compelling.
People tend to be at their most honest online, particularly with their Google searches. This is why we know that the most deeply religious parts of America (aka, the moral scolds of the Bible Belt) also consume the most pornography. It's also how we know what parts of America are the most jaw-droppingly racist (Hint: It's not just the South).
So when the researchers started looking into which parts of the country were searching for terms that dealt with masculine insecurity, they were fairly confident of the results:
We began by selecting a set of search topics that we believed might be especially common among men concerned about living up to the ideals of manhood: “erectile dysfunction,” “hair loss,” “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement,” “penis size,” “steroids,” “testosterone” and “Viagra.” (With the exception of “how to get girls,” these are Google “topics” rather than individual search terms. For instance, the topic “erectile dysfunction” includes searches for “erectile dysfunction,” “ED” and “impotence.”)
Based on complementary research, the men that use these search terms tend to feel they aren't as masculine as their friends. When the search term prevalence was matched against the electoral map, it was an excellent fit for Trump territory. The researchers also made predictions ahead of the midterms to test their theory (like all good scientists do). The results?
In the more than 390 House elections pitting a Republican candidate against a Democratic candidate, support for the Republican candidate was higher in districts that, based on Google search data, had higher levels of fragile masculinity.
One election might be a fluke. Two is a pattern. But here's the kicker: While the right has long been the party of misogyny, this voting based on fragility is something new:
However, there was no significant relationship between fragile masculinity and voting in the 2014 or 2016 congressional elections. This suggests that fragile masculinity has now become a stronger predictor of voting behavior.
This really does seem to be a Trump phenomenon much like the right's sudden embrace of white nationalism. And while it's hard to say which came first, Trump or the insecurity, taken as a whole, it makes sense. Remember, the entire modus operandi of the right now is to be the ultimate victims. Everyone is out to get them. Muslim terrorists are everywhere. Immigrants are stealing their jobs. Blacks are raping their women. Women are emasculating them. Jews are doing...something nefarious. Transgender men and women are in the bathrooms. Gays are ruining marriage. Everywhere you look, white Christian heterosexual men are being attacked just for being the pinnacle of God's creation. It's White Genocide™, I tell you!
In the face of such a concerted (imaginary) onslaught, is it any wonder white male Republican voters feel that they have to be twice as manly as John Wayne on steroids? They've been told their entire lives that they have to be men, not just men, but Men!, and now they are told 24/7 to be afraid of their own shadow.
With that kind of pressure and imposed pseudo-schizophrenia, you might have trouble getting it up, too. Or you might worry that your average penis won't be enough to satisfy your wife. God help you if you're below average!
If you're not familiar with the cesspool of the alt-right, first, lucky you, but you should know that one of their worst insults is to be called a "Beta" or a "Cuck," meaning a "Beta Male" or a "Cuckold." Both terms have to do with not being a "real" man which suggests that the researchers are definitely on to something. Not for nothing, men who are confident in their manhood don't have to assert it constantly. As Tywin Lannister pointed out, "Any man who must say, 'I am the King' is no true king."
With that kind of insecurity festering in their minds, Trump must seem like a giant blue pill. The only problem for these millions of fragile men (and the country) is what happens after their manly champion is gone. That level of insecurity doesn't just disappear and whoever manages to take up the mantle of Top Manly Man may be infinitely worse than Trump.