U.S. Post-Election Commentary

IRMS experts comment in the aftermath of the election, from the role of masculinity in politics to the strategy behind GOP claims of voter fraud.

Dr. Emily Carian:

“Men’s concerns about their power and status shape the way they vote. In a previous study, my colleague Tagart Cain Sobotka and I tested the role that threat to men’s group position plays in support for political candidates. Just before the 2016 presidential election, we exposed men to (fabricated) data predicting that men’s unemployment would rise while women’s decreased. Compared to men who saw that all unemployment would remain stable, they were far more likely to say they desired a masculine president and, in turn, were more likely to support Donald Trump and less likely to support Hillary Clinton. We interpret this to mean that men’s vote for Trump is based, in part, on their concerns about their place in the gender order. By choosing Trump, they symbolically reasserted men’s status over women.

“The 2020 presidential election has once again laid bare how masculinity is implicated in national politics. While both major party candidates were men, their embodiment of different forms of masculinity likely led to the same dynamics we observed in 2016. As IRMS fellow Pierce Dignam recently wrote, Trump has gained support through cultivating a dominant masculinity built upon being tough, unapologetic, and combative—a ‘man’s man.’ Bucking the advice of experts, Trump has refused to wear masks in public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Because masks indicate one’s vulnerability to or even fear of the virus, they’re seen as unmanly. In contrast, Joe Biden routinely wears a mask. One conservative commentator’s suggestion that Biden ‘might as well carry a purse with [his] mask’ is one of many examples illustrating the belief that the Democratic Party feminizes men and the country as a whole. Exit polls show that 53% of men voters (as compared to 42% of women voters) voted for Trump. In choosing Trump over Biden, men resolve their concerns about their power and status by upholding the value of a particular masculinity—one characterized by misogyny, racism, and nationalism.”

Dr. Chelsea Ebin:

“Trump’s slow-motion coup is most likely not going to be successful at keeping him in office. Why then would senior Republicans support his outlandish assertions of voter fraud? Because, as Lindsey Graham so honestly put it, Republicans will never elect another president unless they “do something” about voting.

“A herrenvolk democracy is one in which only the group of people that has termed itself the “master race” participates. For example, under the system of minority white rule created by apartheid, South Africa had a herrenvolk democracy. The historian David Roediger applies the concept to the origins of the American state and its embrace of republicanism. The ideals of liberty and equality were able to flourish alongside the institution of chattel slavery because Black people were systematically excluded from membership in the republic. Following Roediger, we can say that the United States was a herrenvolk republic from its founding until the Civil War if we want to be generous, or the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s, if we want to be accurate. The Republican Party is embarking on a new project: herrenvolk partisanship.

“The Republican Party is a minority party. Its electoral majorities are secured not by acquiring a democratic majority, but through the gaming of institutions (the Senate and Electoral College) that were expressly created with the intent of privileging white and male supremacy, and that were designed to exclude large swaths of the population and maintain the institution of slavery. Unable to implement a herrenvolk democracy and discontented with what remains of herrenvolk republicanism, the GOP is attempting to secure a future for itself as a ruling minority party by delegitimizing the electoral wins of its opposition. It seems increasingly clear that the Republican game plan is to assert itself as a supremacist “master party” and to forcibly exclude its competitors from membership in the body politic.

“Trump’s election lawsuits have no merit and he is likely to leave office on January 20th. But the damage caused by Republican allegations of voter fraud will have been done. The seeds of herrenvolk party rule have been planted.”

Dr. Sophie Bjork-James:

“There are three trends I think are important to note about the election. 

“The first is that on far-right social media the election has not been decided. Rather, there is a wide belief that Trump won the election and widespread fraud is allowing Biden to steal the election.  

“The second is that QAnon is now definitively heading to congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene won Georgia’s 14th Congressional district. And Lauren Boebert won Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, who said in May she hopes the QAnon conspiracy ‘is real.’ It is unclear how this will affect the legislature or the QAnon conspiracy, but it is unlikely the conspiracy is going away anytime soon. Despite Q falling silent since the election, this movement remains in step with broader far-right claims of election fraud.  

“The third theme of note is that national exit-polls shows that white women actually increased their support for Trump over the last four years. So while Republicans nationally made slight gains across most racial groups, they lost some support among white men while gaining support from white women. This was somewhat unexpected.”