The Presidential Debate: a Test of Masculinity

Beyond the electoral challenges of the Presidential Debate, two strikingly different types of men displayed characteristics of anger, but in completely different ways. The contrast was striking; it tells us about men in 2020.

The display of anger by the President of the United States was constantly present: not once did he smile, his adversary’s differences of opinions or criticisms were simply unbearable to him. His first term in office displayed his vision of leadership; he has eliminated any form of opposition in his close circle. Prompt to retaliation and bullying, being exposed to someone questioning his beliefs for ninety minutes was too much for him. The pre-agreed debate rules meant nothing to him, and he fell into his favorite trap: disorderly and impulsive conduct.

The only way he could cope with the situation was to interrupt Joe Biden with an accumulation of untrue statements that have nourished his public meetings. His views were based on ”realities” that he or his advisors distorted for the best part of his Presidency. Behind this appearance, we were facing a narcissist who decided to use force at all costs, preferring chaos to decency. While he used all the noise he had, it didn’t make him look strong.

I never considered the former Vice President as a weak man. However, most people around me entered the debate convinced that he would pale compared to Donald Trump. Behind that belief lies a question about what strong leadership is about.

Some question Biden’s image of masculinity, as the traditional image of a strong man, is often a heavy man, armed to the teeth and speaking louder than others, irrespective of what the law is.

During the debate, Biden used a few disrespectful words in exasperation with someone trying to shut him down constantly. But he mostly followed the rules of the debate.

Joe Biden was what Donald Trump could never be: a Presidential personality addressing his country’s people, showing empathy for their difficulties, caused by the sanitary, economic, employment, and race problems that Trump choses to ignore. Biden (when allowed to do so given the vociferations of Donald Trump) was peacefully projecting an image of his program, trying to emphasize his ambitions on health care, employment, climate change, and inequality.

This is strength without loud force, not weakness. It is decency.

These striking differences reverberate on men differently. In any country there is always a group of men who aspire to this quasi-military leadership, are willing to break the law, and to harm other people they dislike.

However, contrary to some narratives, even if men are physically stronger and often learned in their childhood to oppose forcefully to survive, the majority of them are different. They are sensitive, thoughtful, and caring. We are sons, fathers, brothers, and grandfathers.

Joe Biden is such a man, and his personal life, decency, and care were less loud but much more powerful. Addressing the American people was essential, but he did not need to yell or interrupt to carry it through.

The evolution of the models of masculinity has been bumpy over the past decades, but strong men believe in other values than barking. They treasure peace and peacefulness. But they fight for their values.

Those men also are also respectful of women, are attentive, and recognize that relating to women is not done by harassing them. They want their spouses and daughters to be treated with integrity and equity.

A study published by the Pew Research Center showed that the percentage of white women who voted for Trump was 47%, compared to 45% for Clinton. Among non-college-educated women, the votes were 62% for Trump and 34% for Clinton (see table below). White college-educated women’s votes were 45% for Trump. Since Clinton’s campaign had been articulated on women votes, these were disappointing numbers. Will white women without college degrees torpedo President Trump’s reelection? — the Brookings Institute wrote about it, we will see in November.

Source; Quartz

We have experienced four years of Trump’s treatment of women, through the refusal to admit sexual harassment, and even nominating a Chief Justice to the Supreme Court alleged of rape, the defunding of Planned parenthood, his constant anti-abortion approach with its consequences on the choice of the Supreme Court, etc. There is evidence of a bias that has been denounced. After that, have women’s voting intentions evolved over the past four years? Which political leadership are they looking for?

Seeing the devastating consequences of a narcissistic President threatening the U.S. Constitution, followed by a party that became his flock, do we want more of this man? Aren’t these pointless conflicts, uninformed protectionism, and violence not enough to realize that our election could be threatened by a few fascist and racist militia of white supremacists the President said to “stand by”?

Joe Biden is a true democrat and a decent man. He is not the best in yelling and shouting, but he is articulate and intelligent. He knows what he is talking about, and has proved his courage in working with adversity. He was the only Presidential participant at the debate.

Let’s vote for the man who deserves our respect.

CEO at Galileo Global Advisors and Adjunct professor Columbia Law School.