Gender, power, and the presidency
Posted by metaphorical on 5 October 2008
It’s impossible to understand John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin in political terms, so we’re forced to turn to psychology – just as we are when trying to understand the presidency of George Bush.
If you think about it, in traditional gender-role terms, the vice presidency is a kind of feminized version of the presidency – its external functions are largely ceremonial, while its only power is internal and domestic – almost literally inside the House. For a misogynist like John McCain, Sarah Palin is the perfect personification of this role – as was Al Gore, who, with his concern for the environment was never manly enough for the American voter; as was the castrated Bush 41, who was bullied into endorsing Reagonomics soon after calling it “voodoo economics”; as was Bush’s own tow-haired boy-toy, Dan Quayle. (One of Dukakis’s many, many problems was that Lloyd Bensen was far more presidential – more masculine – than he was.)
The current Bush’s main failings – the events for which he will go down in history as America’s worst president ever – stem from his own late-to-light feminine submissiveness. In Freudian terms, Bush, like most men, was forced to symbolically kill his father in order to complete his own maturation. He did so only imperfectly, however, in the process replacing Pere Bush with other powerful men who mentored him. These are the men who bailed Bush out of one bad business after another, set him up at the Texas Rangers and then stuffed money into his pockets by subsequently overpaying him for his share. Dick Cheney – the most powerful vice president in history and the most atypical one ever – is the latest in a long line of older, powerful men to whom Bush cannot say no.
Is it a coincidence that Carol McCain is a former model, Cindy McCain a former rodeo queen, and Sarah Palin is a former beauty pageant contestant? It’s a commonplace that womanizers are misogynists, and McCain the womanizer – a man who could dump his first wife, saying that after her car accident she was no longer the woman he had married, a man who could call Wife # 2 a cunt – would obviously feel most comfortable with a vice president modeled after the feminine women he has surrounded himself with his whole life.