March 17, 2017

I finally get it. I read two articles this week that helped me get it: one discussing Trump’s sons’ penchant for trophy hunting, and one comparing what’s happening in Washington not to 1984 or Brave New World but rather to Lord of the Flies. Now I understand why the leadership of the Republican party is such a moral and intellectual void. They’re all alpha males. They’re a pack of men who each thinks of himself as the leader of a pack. Everything they’re doing—the incessant chanting of “Destroy, destroy, destroy,” as they stand around their cave, their echo chamber—comes down to alpha male logic.

Alpha males despise the vulnerable.

Alpha males get to where they are because they kill their own vulnerability. After they successfully deny their own weaknesses, including the possibility they might be wrong, they must destroy every vestige, every reminder of vulnerability. And, they think, the pack can’t afford to keep the vulnerable around. The sick slow us down. The old are dead weight. Children, unless they carry the alpha genes, are useless. Women, unless they carry the babies that carry the alpha genes, are pathetic. That’s why health care, meals on wheels, and PBS must go: they sustain the vulnerable. But the vulnerable—all vulnerability—must be forsaken, ejected, destroyed.

Alpha males must destroy their rivals.

The destruction must extend to any possible rivals, even those who have already been deposed. Alpha males can’t abide any lingering scent of those who threaten their status. Obamacare must die. Hillary must be locked up. The press must be cowed. The courts must be intimidated or broken up. Anything that resembles a threat is itself a reminder of vulnerability.

Alpha males must strut their stuff.

Alpha males can’t stop displaying. Once in power, they believe that to stay in power they must incessantly demonstrate the prowess that got them there. Their muscles, their fangs, their claws, their rapacious sexual appetite. Their vacuous bluster. They are compelled to justify, to rationalize, to reinforce their power and ego.

Alpha males hoard resources.

Alpha males know deep down that they really are vulnerable, that there will be new rivals, and that the stuff they strut will eventually let them down. So, hedging against the day when power is inevitably snatched from their hands, they hoard. They hoard resources: money, power, influence, property, deals. The resources they accumulate function doubly as advertisements of their power and triply as justifications of it.

Alpha males’ lives are meaningless without power.

The thing is, that all of the stuff the alphas hoard will be useless to them when they lose power—except, of course, for power itself. Even influence and its surrogate, money, will be weak substitutes. This is why they hang onto power at all costs. It must be ripped from their cold, politically dead hands.

Alpha males don’t cooperate.

Now here’s where the logic of the cub-killing, weakness-despising, upstart-snuffing, stuff-strutting power-hoarders fails them in a world where they have to lead a country instead of a pack. They are fundamentally unable to cooperate. Everything they’ve done to get where they are, especially the denial of their own and others’ humanity, means that they perceive any concession as a sign of weakness. Any act of giving in may as well be an act of giving up. The need to cooperate shoves that detested vulnerability back in their face, reminding them that their status as alpha males is temporary. Their popularity numbers will suffer, their lobbyist buddies won’t buy them expensive lunches anymore, they will lose campaign funding, they will be voted out, they will die.

This element of alpha male logic will be the undoing of this incarnation of the Republican party. No one can rule a vast, complex, multifaceted democracy by fiat alone. It is why they are trying to make the U.S. an autocracy. But they have a fatal flaw: there can only be one alpha male. Their inability to cooperate with each other will doom then. Then their inability to cooperate with the party across the aisle will reveal them as the frauds they are. The country is not a pack of wild animals. True leadership—and functional governance—requires so much more than the alpha male has to offer.