Perspective | Men prefer Trump's energetic falsehoods to Biden's naked fragility – The Washington Post

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Perspective | Men prefer Trump's energetic falsehoods to Biden's naked fragility – The Washington Post

Both candidates turned in awful debate performances. But male voters seem to be flocking to the guy who misled with ease.
On the most recent episode of the podcast “The Focus Group,” host Sarah Longwell, an anti-Donald Trump Republican strategist, played audio clips from swing voters on how they viewed the election after June’s nauseating presidential debate. One woman started out by praising President Biden: “He does want to do what’s best for America. … He has every intent to do good for everyone,” before reluctantly pivoting to criticism: “He just may not be forceful enough to do that.”
The woman concluded by saying that she therefore would probably be voting for Trump.
This maddening logic is the same rationale I’ve heard repeatedly from on-the-fence voters in my personal life. Do these voters like Trump or his policies? Not at all. And they think Biden’s policies are pretty great. But Biden just didn’t seem forceful enough. He looked a little wobbly. Frail. So instead of voting for the good guy who was perhaps too feeble to achieve all of his agenda, they plan to vote for the guy who was strong enough to deliver a completely different agenda, which they don’t even want. The guy who was strong enough to spew falsehoods with gusto, rather than the guy who was too glitchy to hold him accountable.
It’s the presidency as a push-up contest, and after all we’ve been through, in the eyes of some Americans, the greatest evil isn’t being vile. It’s being weak.
It’s worth repeating — though it has been said plenty in the past week — that both of these men had terrible debates. The extent to which you perceived that depended on whether you had the volume on or off. Trump made his case misleadingly but robustly, as if he could ably mislead the public for days (or years!) without losing steam. At rallies, the former president’s words are often nonsense — “‘Silence of the [Lambs]!’ … The late, great Hannibal Lecter is a wonderful man.” — but, boy, is he energetically nonsensical.
At the debate, Biden looked … not like that. He rather looked as though he needed to be guided back to bed by the elbow. In recent appearances, he has been peppier, but a barrage of news articles have quoted aides or acquaintances claiming that, physically, the president has lost a step.
The choice, as another of Longwell’s swing voters put it, looked like a choice between “derangement versus impairment.” Faced with those options, some voters seem willing to roll the dice on the former.
This may be especially true among men. A post-debate New York Times/Siena College poll clocked a gender divide among those who were moved by the two candidates’ performances. Trump, who already led the male vote, picked up another 11 percentage points with men following the debate, while Biden actually gained three among women.
Trump is the more forceful candidate: Rather than being the kind of old man who can seem a bit cloudy, he’s the kind who yells at clouds — loudly, repetitively, for hours at a time. “The type of weapons that you’re talking about today, … I know them better than anybody,” he bragged from a Virginia lectern earlier this week. “I built our military. I totally rebuilt our military. I know more about weapons than just about anybody.”
No matter what Donald Trump actually is, he plays a strongman on TV.
Four years ago, Biden had hints of this bravado, too. He spent his campaign making ads featuring his Corvette and hinting that he could beat up Trump, if the setting allowed. “If we were behind a barn somewhere, it would be a different thing,” he said. At one point, he invited reporters to “watch how I run up ramps and how he stumbles down ramps, okay?”
Back then, I wondered whether this type of thing helped him win. In 2024, I wonder whether he now regrets tying presidential fitness to physical fitness.
But we’re now in a world where the discussions we’re having are no longer about who would jog up the ramp first, but about who would be able to locate the ramp, and who would claim to have built the ramp, and who would insist that there was no ramp. It’s no longer about who is strongest, but rather about which kind of weakness is most palatable to you: The frail kind that looks so alarming that it sends an entire political party into a literal and existential crisis? Or the forceful kind that looks normal enough, as long as you never turn on the volume or listen to a word being said?

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