Trump knows that voters don’t vote their self-interest. They vote for their values and identity. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff has, without much success, been trying to educate Democrats on this truth of political messaging for decades. Lakoff’s work urges progressives to create messages that represent their values rather than simply the details of their policies. Voters wisely understand that the details of policy are murky, but that they can trust politicians who share their values to represent them. For many Americans who voted for Trump, a vital part of their identity and therefore their values is a traditional idea of masculinity.
What Congress Needs to Change About Its Trump-Russia Investigation
Progressives should resist the urge to pigeonhole this. This is not only true of men — many women hold these concepts about male behavior in their heads just as strongly. Nor is it about recruiting “manly candidates.” (The last thing Democrats need is more John-Kerry-on-the-motorcycle moments of facile pandering.)
That Donald Trump is a draft-dodger hasn’t stopped him from clearly communicating that he values traditional masculinity. During the 2016 campaign, he successfully reframed many issues through the lens of conservative masculinity. When GOP rivals said he had “New York values” (another city-based stereotype of “weak” liberalism), Trump instantly parried by evoking cops and firefighters on 9/11. When caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, he used men-being-men masculinity as a shield.