The Republican Party’s well-documented problem with women has been exacerbated by recent events and the GOP’s lack of leadership when it comes to the words and actions of its presidential nominee.
And looming close by is the GOP’s man problem. In particular, conservative men, married men, men of faith and young men across the country are reassessing their association with a party that not only doesn’t represent them but actually casts them into the abyss of the dumbed-down American male.
I have had conversations over the past few months with men from every region of America and from a wide array of professional backgrounds, faiths and political leanings. When I ask them about the GOP and its presidential nominee, they overflow with disgust and disdain for the abhorrent words and actions of Donald Trump. They are dismayed that such repugnant behavior can be passed off as “boys being boys,” or “locker room talk.”
These men reject that argument; they take offense that they are being lumped in with a group they see not as “boys being boys” but as men being far less than decent.
Then their conversation would immediately and without fail shift to the great, noble and virtuous men who made a difference in their lives — dads, brothers, uncles, bosses, mentors, coaches and friends. They spoke fondly of men who taught them by word and deed what it means to be a real man and how they should treat every man, woman or child they meet. They described men who recognize women as equals, who worked hard, coached Little League, attended school concerts, served in the community and took time to demonstrate what real men are and what real men do.
They told of men who would never condone, let alone participate in, such lewd and lowly conversations about women. Those I spoke with would then say something to the effect that “we aren’t alone, you know — there are tens of millions of men who are appalled at Mr. Trump and his attitude toward women — and appalled at the party that is now justifying him as the possible leader of the free world.”
Many men are now saying that they have had enough of the dumbing down of the American male. They observe that some of them, especially young men, have lowered their expectations of themselves and each other — due at least in part to the constant beatdown from TV sitcoms, advertising and social media sources that incessantly tell them they are nothing but sex-obsessed, video-game-addicted, sports-infatuated, simple-minded, childish narcissists who must regularly be saved from their idiocy and knuckleheaded-ness by others. These guys are saying, “If the GOP is buying and promoting that kind of male, then I’m out.”
The Deseret News recently wrote an insightful editorial emphasizing how struggling men may be a major factor in the presidential race. The paper also published an article by Chandra Johnson about why some men are opting out of life and escaping into digital media. Both pieces highlight what happens when we expect and accept less of men in today’s society.
We should never settle for men being less than noble, and we should never underestimate the existence, importance and power of good men who do good things. I know my life has been blessed by many of them and I am certain yours has, too.
One man standing against behavior that demeans and standing for that which is good and right can change the course of a family, community or country. Edmund Burke reminded us that the opposite is also true when he observed, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The Republican Party must ensure it has a place for good men — not perfect men, to be sure, but decent, well-intentioned men, standing alongside good women — to do something good. If the party fails to create such a place, then conservative men, married men, men of faith and also young men will leave, joining the many women who have left the GOP, feeling that the GOP first left them.
Then the GOP will have become exactly what its opponents on the left have declared it to be for decades — a party of out-of-touch, entitled, despicable males who don’t respect or have compassion for women, children, the poor or the little guy.
It is time for the good men of this country to stand up and speak out. There are tens of millions of such men. It is important to point out that, in a country of 324 million people, Mr. Trump received the vote of only about 6-8 million men in the primaries. And there are likely several million of those primary voters who now also question whether Mr. Trump and the GOP represent them and their values.
In other words, there is an army of good and great men who — when combined with good and great women — can change the trajectory of our nation. We must do something. It is time for good people everywhere to expect more and do more to elevate what it means to be a man in America.
Boyd C. Matheson is president of the Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based think tank advancing free markets, civil society and community-driven solutions.