The Masculinity Crisis and the Gender Gap: Why White Men Vote Republican

My latest at Role/Reboot revisits a ninety year-old story: The Roots of the Modern Gender Gap.

Excerpt:

Conservative Republican appeals to men are filled with nostalgia for an era when women could not afford to be as choosy as they seem to be today. The historian-turned-gadfly-candidate Newt Gingrich rarely misses an opportunity to point out that, since the 1960s, liberals have carefully substituted the state for the husband in the lives of American women. Strong public institutions (as well as contraception and access to abortion) reduced women’s dependency on men. As women gained greater autonomy, they no longer felt as compelled to settle for unhappy or abusive marriages. In the traditionalist imagination, this liberation led to abortion, divorce, and promiscuity.

The end result of women’s emancipation has been, as conservatives like Charles Murray and Mary Eberstadt have argued, the psychological dislocation of American men. Raised to be “good providers,” young men cannot possibly compete with a “Leviathan” state that provides far more to women and children. The much-exaggerated contemporary masculinity crisis is the inevitable consequence of robbing men of their natural and primary source of self-esteem, the ability to provide for their families.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that more men than women vote Republican in this country for this very reason. Whether they are able to articulate it or not, I suspect a great many men sense that the weaker the state, the more dependent women become upon them. The fewer publicly-provided alternatives to getting married exist, the more likely women are to put up with unhappy marriages, and the less likely they are to have any heft with which to demand that men make necessary changes. The stronger the social safety net, the more options women have for raising children without men; those women who do choose to raise children with men will do so by choice rather than necessity. And when you have a choice, you can begin to demand a degree of mutuality and accountability from a partner that you could not otherwise demand. No wonder so many angry men vote Republican, and sing the praises of the “free enterprise” system. No wonder so many more women vote Democratic, or failing that, for the least reactionary Republican available.

Read the whole thing.

4 thoughts on “The Masculinity Crisis and the Gender Gap: Why White Men Vote Republican

  1. If feminism hadn’t systematically attacked masculinity for the last 40 years, and if progressive and liberal groups had done something — anything — to advocate on behalf of male issues and interests, then perhaps they would not have alienated the thousands of progressive or liberal men who sit on their hands and don’t vote, or the thousands more who would be happy to be considered Democrats, liberals or progressives if it didn’t feel so much like giving support to the enemy. When the liberal side of the Force decided it didn’t want or need men who weren’t feminists, it gave those guys no place else to go.

    This isn’t rocket-science. And it isn’t “pining for lost privilege”. White men vote for the GOP because the GOP values them. The Democratic Party and the progressive movement decidedly do not.

  2. “When you have a choice [to be supported by the state, as opposed to a husband, you are free to] demand a degree of mutuality and accountability from a partner [husband] that you could not otherwise demand”.

    Point one: The choice doesn’t exist the other way ’round. In most marriages the husband is the main breadwinner, and the main tax-payer. In the event of a split, he remains…the main breadwinner and the main tax-payer. Married (or co-habiting) women with children have three choices:

    1. Stay married + work full-time, with all the mutual financial, economic and emotional support that implies, benefiting from the potential of 2x incomes.
    2. Get divorced + work full-time, benefit from the potential of 2x incomes [if you have children] + 50% of marital assets.
    3. Stay married + work part-time, with all the mutual financial, economic and emotional support that implies, benefting from the potential of 1.5x income.

    Men have three choices too:
    1. Stay married, work full-time, with all the mutual financial, economic and emotional support that implies.
    2. Get divorced. Lose 0.5x income. Lose 0.5x martial assets.
    3. Work part-time. Lose 0.5x income.

    I’m not even including the enormous emotional cost of access (or lack of access to) children. What I am making clear is that men are clearly disadvantaged. For them to politically seek to address that clear disadvantage is nothing more than enlightened self-interest. Even the most socially-liberal man would be acting in his own interest to be economically-conservative.

    Point Two: there is no such thing as ‘the state’. Sorry, but there just isn’t. Just as there’s no such thing as ‘public money’. There’s only ‘taxpayers’ money’ – your money and mine. The choice here isn’t whether women are supported by their husbands or the state, it’s whether they are supported by their husbands directly (through income) or indirectly (through taxpayer-provided benefits). Men pay 84% of all tax-recipts (an aside – women controll 87% of all consumer expenditure, which in turn accounts for 74% of the total economy – source: Proctor & Gamble).

    If women want more ‘heft’ then there is a simple, ethical, moral, honest and honourable way to obtain it: earn it. Go out and earn a living. Marriages where both partners work full-time are 6x less likely to end in divorce than marriages where the male partner works full-time, and the female does not work outside the home, they are 4.2% less likely to end in divorce than marriages where the female partner works part-time . Why? Because when a woman commutes to work, and endures the pressure of work (wages aren’t called ‘compensation’ for nothing) she is much more likely to appreciate rather than find fault in her husband.

  3. Although I agree with results of this concept, I don’t think men think it through like that. Republicans have been able to frame the story around men in general. Men vote Republican because they have bought into this idea of the rugged individual. Men want to appear tough and masculine. Think the Marlboro Man. Chevy pick-ups, Dodge Ram, the new Acura tagline, “Aggression in its most elegant form” all frame the modern American male story. It’s an anti-intellectual, anti-environment stance as well. Anyone who advocates doing anything counter to those male characteristics of running roughshod over everything in their path is seen (and promoted by Republicans) as being weak, browbeaten, effeminate and suspect.

  4. I think Nathan’s comment got it right. What appeals to men who vote Republican is the rugged individual ethos that the GOP pays homage to. At a very primal level, what will appeal more to a very primal male?
    1) Keeping a woman subjugated in a marriage even if it’s miserable
    2) Feeling strong, crushing the world in your monster truck, etc. etc.

    Number 2 will just “connect” more.

    I have to point out that the assertion in the excerpt about what is a man’s primary source of self-esteem doesn’t right true at all. I have to wonder, was the person who originally penned that a woman? I think most any fellow or boy could tell you, the primary source of self-esteem for a male human is being good at some useful work, and having the value of that skill acknowledged and respected. Without a scientific survey it’s hard to prove but I think the vast majority of men of any political persuasion would say it’s far better to be a man without a a female partner who is doing valuable work and is admired for it, than to be an underemployed con man who has some female in tow.

    Peter’s arguments about marriage are spot on by the way. If the Democrats decided to champion fairness for married men (such as campaigning against permanent alimony) I honestly think the GOP would see its numbers cut in half in less than a decade. A lot of women would grumble about losing the marriage gravy train of money, but I think the sheer joy of men being liberated would more than make up for that. The Dems would have a platform with whole-spectrum appeal to every type of person (other than the extremely rich, and the ultra religious).

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