Could Trump Be the 'Man's Man' America Wants?

A supporter of the Republican nominee explains why the candidate’s diversion from traditional GOP rhetoric attracts ‘angry millennial men.’

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

My piece last Friday on why Trump supporters think he’ll win has sparked a lot of reaction. I was especially pleased that the people whose views I was trying to channel felt that I’d represented them fairly. One of my sources, however, emailed me to say that he felt I’d overlooked something important. I have his permission to reproduce his message, which I abridged for easier reading. I have also edited his words slightly, to protect his anonymity.

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“You’re missing one giant elephant in the room: Trump supporters represent a post-religious Right—arguably an anti-religious Right. You’re lumping together angry millennial men with alienated blue-collar workers, and that’s not quite right. Yes, they both dislike political correctness, but the millennials dislike it because it’s quasi-religious (again, see above), anti-scientific, and just another form of moral posturing.

“When Trump says ‘I’ll fight for you; I’ll win for you,’ his millennial supporters don’t just hear that as directed at them if they’re blue-collar whites. They also hear it as directed at them if they’re gay, or if they watch porn, or have premarital sex. They also hear it as directed at them if they're young, out of work, and crippled by student debt. It’s the first time a Republican has made them feel like he isn't coming to grab their condoms and yell at them to go to their room.

“Trump has been openly and vocally critical of the student-loan system. He has expressed his desire to do something to ameliorate student debt. Coming from a Republican, this is, pardon the familiar word, huge.

Prior to Trump, there was no Republican criticism of the student-loan system except insofar as it involved subsidies. (What I and others hear: ‘My principles about government spending are more important than your education.’)

Republicans attack indebted students for going to expensive elite colleges rather than settling for less because it’s less costly. (What I and others hear: ‘I'm stupid, and I resent you for being smarter than me.’) Indebted students have been attacked for being wasteful and spoiled. (What I and others hear: ‘This is fine for GE and Goldman Sachs, but you don’t have a lobbyist, so get lost.’) Indebted students have been attacked for evading personal responsibility. (What I and others hear: ‘Debt slavery is a totally reasonable penalty for a decision you made, often before you were even legally adult.’ Finally, we’ve been lectured on how this is taxpayer money and we’re stealing from others. (What I and others hear: ‘My retirement being propped up is fine, but putting your life on the right track is a waste.’)

“Into all this steps Trump.

“Trump is seen by his millennial supporters as genuinely more compassionate than Hillary, with student loans and war being big examples. Regarding war, there was a collective outraged roar at the Khan speech from Trump people, not at Khan himself, but at his liberal and Democratic promoters. Because in their view, Trump is going to stop people like Captain Khan (the son) from dying in the first place by not sending them to war, whereas Hillary will disingenuously claim to love everyone—then send hundreds of thousands of young people of all races, creeds, and sex to die in wars that have nothing to do with them, or even with American interests. Trump might be boorish about someone’s religion, but he'll also keep that person safer.

“Obviously, Trump appeals most strongly to millennial men. We feel masculine traits are devalued everywhere. It’s more than just, ‘Oh, the dad's a jerk in commercials.' Rather like gay people a generation ago, young men today feel that they’re being treated as if they were born wrong. We didn’t live through the Reagan years. We’ve never seen a man’s man in politics before. Trump offers a sense that someone sees them and cares about speaking to them, even if only as far as it takes to con them.”