THERE IS AN absolute in political campaigns that very little is said that is original. Ever since the proprietors in colonial days insisted that they should not be taxed, the idea has persisted among Republicans that taxes do nobody any good, particularly the wealthiest one or two percent who control most of the money anyway. Not a fresh idea.
But ancient anti-tax talk is now sharing the political dialogue with another idea that doubtless emerged from the prairies of America. From what I've read, men were men in those days. They carried six-shooters, drank their bottles dry, never shaved and killed cattle thieves for the hell of it. If guys like Gene Autry whipped out his guitar to fetch Frosty the Snowman, it was Hollywood's way of assuring us that life on the frontier wasn't all bloody macho.
Now, in the age of steroidal whacks at baseballs, the candidates, particularly the much heralded Mama Grizzlies, are insisting that you can't trust a man who won't man up. It has become an overworked talking point for the 2010 election as the Grizzlies challenge their male opponents to man up for no reason at all other than it's a catchy way (they suppose) to convince the audience that we have a newly vulnerable weaker sex on our hands. Even Newsweek picked up on the echoes in a cover story a few weeks ago by telling us that the "Traditional Male is An Endangered Species. It's Time to Rethink Masculinity."
That may be so. But as a threatened male, I have to keep telling myself they used to say the same things about buffaloes. There is even a term for this: the blog POLITICO calls it "man-upsmanship", so you see how the mere mention of unmanly things keeps getting recycled these days. When the word spread to Nevada, Republican Sharron Angle promptly challenged her rival, Sen. Harry Reid with "Man up, Harry Reid!" Moving to Missouri, POLITICO recorded these words from Democratic senate candidate Robin Carnahan, as she sought satisfaction from her Republican opponent in a debate over health care. "Man up," she challenged him,"and do what you ask of other people to do."
I've tried to rethink my male-ness and have asked myself, "Do I really want to be Hulk Hogan?" He had manned up long before Sharron Angle arrived on the scene. But I really don' t want to be a Mama Grizzly or a Hockey Mom, either. As a former poker player, I've decided to just play the cards that have been dealt to me and wait for somebody to invent another cliche.
In the meantime, I would caution the man-up ladies that there is a risk involved here: Now that you have the weakening sex right where you want them, do you really think it's a good idea to have them return to their old domineering ways?