Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Trump & Beta Males

John Zmirak and Eric Metaxas contemplate manly men doing manly things
Screen Shot 2021-10-15 at 9.52.07 PM

So Donald Trump is threatening to blow up the 2022 and 2024 elections for Republicans unless they commit to pursuing the overturning of the 2020 presidential election results. Seriously, he is. He released a statement saying so.

This is insane. With wokeness rampant under this Democratic administration, Donald Trump is willing to assure Democratic victories if he can’t get the GOP to go along with his crazypants strategy to [suppresses snicker] overturn the 2020 election?! How monumentally selfish. Trump is prepared to let the Democrats carry the country over the cliff unless Republicans promise to indulge his absurd fantasy life. I hope that even Trump’s strongest supporters can recognize how selfish this is, and how much damage Trump is willing to inflict on the country for the sake of salving his ego. You have rarely if ever seen on this space me agree with Jonah Goldberg, but he’s right here:

And then in comes Trump, making waves like a stumbling drunk who didn’t see the hot tub until too late, literally saying that Democrats should win every election uncontested unless everyone “solves” the object of his batshit bullshittery. The single most important thing for Republicans to address isn’t critical race theory, vaccine mandates, the border, the supply chain cock-up, inflation, or anything having to do with foreign policy. It’s their commitment to a claim that was shot down by every court that looked at it, not to mention Trump’s own attorney general(s).

At least my solutions are aimed at the future and grounded in real policy stuff. I’m trying to figure out how to make the GOP better, more successful, and conservative in the long run. Meanwhile, Trump’s stolen election fantasy is simply and entirely about his own selfish id, his unrestrained narcissism, and his complete lack of concern with anything approaching real issues. He might as well be venting about how the time travel in Back to the Future really didn’t make much sense, given how little this stolen election nonsense has to do with not only reality, but stuff that might be helpful for the GOP. In other words, my alleged “Trump obsession” isn’t the issue or even a problem. But Trump’s very real and deranged Trump obsession is.

It already cost the GOP control of the Senate by losing Georgia. Now Trump proposes losing the whole country if his ego isn’t stroked.

Jonah Goldberg’s ideas for what the GOP ought to do are very different from my own, no doubt. But at least he is trying to deal with the world as it is. The 2022 and 2024 elections are going to be incredibly important. The idea that conservatives should sit it out if the GOP leadership doesn’t kowtow to Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election is berserk.

Speaking of berserk, a reader today sent me a link to an episode of the Eric Metaxas Show in which failed writer and professional ankle-biter John Zmirak calls out me, David French, Russell Moore and others as “spectacularly anti-Trump” in the last campaign. He says we are all “beta males,” and so forth. Golly.

Well, for the record, I was not anti-Trump, spectacularly or otherwise, in the last election. As regular readers know, I made a point of not saying who I was going to vote for, and of criticizing both candidates when I thought facts warranted. I’m certainly not an admirer of Trump, but I did not urge people not to vote for him. Unlike French, Moore, et alia, I’m not a Never Trumper. I believed, and do believe, in much of what Trump advocates, but I think he is his own worst enemy. I would like to have a conservative politician who believes what Trump believes, but who is actually a competent political leader. As long as the Republican Party is held captive to Trump’s personality cult, that person won’t be able to emerge.

That said, it is an honor to be with those guys in Zmirak’s crosshairs. I guess you’d have to know Zmirak — I have, since 1986 — to grasp how funny it is to have a guy like him accuse anybody of being a “beta male.” He is a short middle-aged man with a belly as big and as soft as a beanbag. Hey, I’m not short, but I’m only two years younger than Zmirak, and I have the same belly he does. We are men who make our living writing. Unless you’re Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, or Sebastian Junger, it’s not especially the occupation of badasses. The only fight Zmirak is likely to have been in is when a sedevacantist hit him with his scapular. Hey, I am not exactly the pugilistic type either. But I know better than to go around calling better men than me “beta males.”

I would point out too that unlike David French, Zmirak never served in the military, which is a manly thing to have done. Unlike French, Moore, and me, Zmirak has never committed himself to a woman in holy matrimony, nor, like us, has he raised children. I don’t fault him for that. It’s not everybody’s calling to be a married person or a parent. But please, spare me the yappy he-man LARPing when you haven’t met any of the standard milestones of what it means to be a man in our culture. I don’t share all of David French or Russell Moore’s politics, but these are men who have accomplished big things in life. However mistaken they might be on this or that, those men are grown-ups. Zmirak is the same person he always was: an arrested-development sad sack who tries to get attention by insulting people. If you’ve ever seen him in action, bless his heart, it’s obvious why he has ended up like he has.

It’s not obvious to me why Eric Metaxas has ended up like he has. Unlike his agitated interlocutor, he is an actual adult. But I don’t give him a pass for allowing a shmendrick like Zmirak to come on his show all the time and say childish crap like that. That shows at the very least spiritual immaturity. You will recall that Eric last December called on patriotic Americans to prepare to “fight to the death, to the last drop of blood” to defend Donald Trump. Eric is an expensively groomed dandy who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This is not a criticism; I like his style! But the idea that Eric Metaxas, of all people, was urging people to give their lives for Donald Trump, is risible — about as risible as the George Costanza-like John Zmirak calling men who, unlike him, have actually accomplished serious things in life, “beta males.”

I wrote this post because an Evangelical pastor friend pointed the Zmirak/Metaxas insults out to me, and said that this kind of thing really does land with a significant number of Evangelicals, and that I should address it. If it’s true that a significant number of people still take these guys seriously, I’m sorry to hear it. This kind of talk is also politically immature. Zmirak squeaked and squawked about how evil Joe Biden is — and look, I agree with some of what he said — but you watch: is either he or Metaxas going to criticize Trump for his self-serving call to Republican voters to sit out the 2022 and 2024 elections unless GOP leadership kowtows to him? Of course not. Which makes you wonder what kind of weird psychological relationship they have with Trump.

I’m old enough to remember when John Zmirak was bragging to his friends about hanging a picture of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in his Manhattan office. He had much better taste in right-wing strongmen then. They were actually, you know, strong.