Bush v. Kerry: Round One
Large Stupid Men Tee Shirts - LSM
Americans by a margin of more than 2 to 1 believe that Kerry won last night's debate on Iraq, terrorism and homeland security, but the polls haven't changed and the majority still believe that Bush would do better on Iraq, terrorism and homeland security than Kerry.
Is this consistent?
Yes, if you assume that the ability to speak articulately about the issues and win arguments has no bearing on performance. This is indeed what a significant number of Americans believe and it is why Kerry's performance in the debates, even if it were stellar, would make little difference. Bush's supporters view debating skill as nothing more than a clever trick and take Bush's inarticulate grunts, repetition, and posturing as signs of strength.
The source of this extraordinary view is lower class sexual dimorphism. Both Republican and Democratic campaigns feature elite women in suits doing the same jobs as their male counterparts and behaving in much the same way as elite males. But further down the social scale, sexual dimorphism becomes salient.
Working class men do the grunt work; working class women do the paperwork. Even in pink-collar clerical and service work women need to be literate, articulate and socially presentable. Working class males just need to lift heavy things. They regard fluency, social finesse and even intelligence as womanish-- signs of weakness that disqualify man from leadership.
Prima facie the Republican Campaign was insane to make military leadership an issue when Kerry was a decorated war veteran and Bush was a National Guard drop-out. But they knew their base constituency--dumb white men. It didn't matter that Kerry served in combat, that he was 5 inches taller than Bush or even he was a booming bass to Bush's reedy tenor: the mere fact that Kerry spoke French made him, in the eyes of working class males, a wimp.
Bush gets macho points for being inarticulate, simple-minded and dogmatic: working class machismo isn't a matter of what you can do but a matter of what you cannot or will not do. Heavy lifting is optional, so long as you're not very smart.