Machismo Is Poisoning Politics [Op-Ed]

Mark Levin, Republican Party, GOP, Democrat Party, John Boehner, John McCain, Tea Party, Capitol Hill, U.S. Congress,

In politics today, compromise has become a synonym for weakness. Macho attitudes are standing in the way of progress.

“We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude.”—Mark Levin

It’s no secret that politics has degraded into hopeless deadlock. The 112th Congress was, by some standards, the most divided since 1860 (and we know how that cluster worked out). In a manner similar to pirates, a powerful minority has taken control of the majority through fear and nihilism. “If I don’t get my way, then no one does” happens to be an effective policy position.

I would love to blame all of this on the Tea Party (seriously, I would love it). Their hyper-partisan ‘us or them’ rhetoric, their demands for ideological purity under threat of being primaried, their nihilistic brinkmanship politics. The list goes on, but I don’t think they are all of the problem.

I think machismo is part of what is poisoning politics. Rigid ideology and a refusal to compromise have become virtues. Some on the Right have even turned against Speaker Boehner (R-OH), because he stated that he wouldn’t risk a government shutdown in another debt ceiling fight. He’s being described as weak because of this move. That’s the kind of macho, all-or-nothing politics I’m talking about.

Boys are taught to “stand up” for themselves, to be strong, to squash emotions, and that training is hard to shake. That kind of stoicism can be hard to unlearn, but it translates easily into all parts of life. With that in mind, the Senate floor isn’t much different from a school playground; there are bullies, pushovers, nerds, and jocks. I want to discuss the bullies, though.

These young right-wing congressmen swaggering around are the bullies on the Capitol Hill playground. Their policy position seems to be, “I’ll just take my ball and go.” ‘Compromise’ and ‘being compromised’ have become conflated these days, and I believe that is in large part because no one wants to be seen as weak. Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act thirty-seven times (costing roughly $52m). The incoming Republican congressmen wanted to cast their symbolic votes, because it has become a point of honor to show how uncompromising you can be.

John Boehner is known for a propensity to tear up, and there’s no end to the ridicule on political blogs. Why? He’s past the age that it’s acceptable for a male to cry (that age, by the way, is about 15 minutes old). This is then combined with his perceived willingness to agree to fund the United States government (though, he’s started running back to obstinance). Pair those two together, and John Boehner is dubbed ‘weak’. To return to the playground conceit for a second, he’s the kid who’s afraid to go down the slide, so some bullies push him. Then, he goes down the slide a few more times, even though he’s no less terrified, to prove himself to the big kids. The slide in this metaphor is unyielding obstructionism.

Lately, John McCain has been receiving a similar treatment. He compromised on some minor issues, such as, funding the government and ending a war, so his critics demanded that his metaphorical head roll. How did he respond? He flew to Syria and did his best to snare the United States in another war; trading one war for another to show how manly his politics are.

Compromise is not weakness. What’s weak about actually getting something done?

Photo— Flickr/Cliff

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman studies poetry at the University of New Orleans. He makes life decisions by asking himself 'What Would Batman Do?'


  1. AnonymousDog says:

    Things ‘get done’ when one party has overwhelming control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. The Democrats had mostly unchallenged control of Congress except for brief periods, from the ’30s until the mid ’90s. When the two parties are more evenly matched they are less likely to compromise.

  2. man, you don’t agree with me — you’re either not understanding my point or willfully refusing to engage with it while using these comments as your own personal soapbox. Which, I mean, soapbox away, but basically nothing you’re saying has any basis in fact, so I won’t be listening.

    Jed, I’m with you on needing a new story. One of the problems in the two party system is how it encourages competition and oneupmanship rather than cooperation and progress.

    • Mary, One-party systems often become dangerously close to dictatorship, fascism, or communism, etc. If you review the principles behind the two-party system and checks and balances, you’ll understand where I am coming from. Jed sounds like the new world order described in the book of Revelations.

  3. Jed, keen observation. Government is not a machismo contrivance or a masculine-feminine issue. This is about immovable governments on the verge. Socialized healthcare? Government bailouts? Homeless programs? Unemployment extentions? Policing programs? Debt forgiveness? How do they plan on supporting the entire country on free healthcare?

    DEMs are BLOCKING progress and the little guy is taking it in the shorts. There’s nothing machismo about bankruptcy, foreclosure, or unemployment. The idealistic college kids took their problems to Wall Street and blamed business, but that’s where the solution is in healthy commerce. It’s great kids want to smoke pot and be social activists, but who is bearing the responsibility and paying taxes?
    GOP is demanding fiscal conservatism, accountability, and scaling back government.

    • Christian Coleman says:

      I think you are making my point, ‘man’. Rigid ideology does not produce good governance in a republic. Some on The Right aren’t demanding “fiscal conservatism, accountability, and scaling back government’; it is holding the United States hostage until we do acquiesce to their demands. That’s not governing. That’s purposefully refusing to govern.

      Would the country not be better served if the House Republicans had voted on 37 measures to improve Obamacare as opposed to 37 symbolic votes just to prove how much they don’t like him?

      • Christian, we’re on the same page about cooperation, both sides have recently been mandated to work together to lower our debt and prioritize issues. Republicans were strongly opposed to socialized healthcare in the first place. Improving or expanding socialized health care, welfare, social programs, etc is not fiscally sound, especially with a government indebted to the world. Basically, more debt will not lower our debt.

        Think about it on an individual level. If you were in debt, taking out more debt to pay down your past debts is irresponsible. DEMs are by nature a bureacracy and fund programs, schools, welfare, unemployment, make up strict corporate and personal regulations, etc through taxes and indebtedness. Some is necessary, we all know that, but much of it is pork. You and I are paying for pork and will be for years.

        I’m not suggesting that politicians are immune to lobbists and often let pet projects stand in the way of real progress. Real progress, by my definition, is moving toward a thriving economy, for everyone’s best interest. For example new pot laws, do nothing to improve the economy and it’s irresponsible governance to waste taxpayer’s money on special interests.

  4. Christian, Good article. I think you touch on some good points. From my perspective its more than Machismo we’re dealing with. This is a kind of hyper-masculine, take no prisoners, I’m right, you’re wrong, fear-based reaction that is a reflection of our shift in the world. Old systems (Empires) are going under and new ones (Earth Communities such as the Occupy Movement and the Transition Town Movement) are emerging. Gridlock is one of the indicators of a system (culture, country, or empire) in collapse. We saw it in Mexico when the Mayan civilization went under, Rome, in the Soviet Union. Rebecca Costa in her book The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction, says “Gridlock occurs when civilizations become unable to comprehend or resolve large, complex problems, despite acknowledging beforehand that these issues may lead to their demise.”

    Another way to say it is we need a new story, one that isn’t based on the domination and exploitation of the earth (and hence ourselves, other people, other countries, other political parties).

    I continue write about the end of the Civilization of Empire and the emergence of a new way of being on the planet.

  5. Mary, couldn’t have said better myself my dear. The current adminstration refuses to accept reform and blocked representational participation in large issues such as socialized healthcare, taxation, and free speech, which is unconstitutional. He’s already expanding coverage in his plan. This is still a representational country, or at least it used to be. Some DEMs have been compromising on the issues state-by-state, Feinstein recently backed down on key issue, teachers and airline unions have conceded, government furloughs, but people are questioning the administration. We’ve become dangerously close to a one-party system led by the DEMs. DEMs keep expanding and fast and there is no revenue generated in social programs and socialized healthcare.

  6. There’s a difference between standing up for your beliefs and stubbornly refusing to work with anyone whose beliefs differ even the slightest bit from yours. The government isn’t run by refusing to work with everyone with whom you disagree — it’s run by compromise, by finding common ground and mutual goals. People who equate compromise with betraying their beliefs are non-functional politicians and are not only not doing their jobs but also actively preventing everyone else from doing theirs.

  7. Not clear why standing up for your political beliefs is equivalent to machismo. The Republicans want less government and the Democrats (by function are a bureaucracy) want to expand government. I can see why there is a large resistance from the right, since the current administration continues to expand government programs on $700B bailout programs and socialized healthcare which is crushing small businesses across the nation. It’s a stale economy, more government sponsored programs will never increase GDP. Where do DEMs intend to find this revenue?

Speak Your Mind