Sigmund Freud wins the Republican debate


Two things we learned during the first ten minutes of last night’s Republican primary debate:

  1. Marco Rubio is short, small and light.
  2. Donald Trump is big, strong and definitely has a large penis.

Last night’s opening was an inevitable point for a campaign in which displays of alpha male dominance have come to replace actual issue positions. Ever since the previous debate, in which Rubio discovered that the only way to do any real damage to Trump was to play his own game and tear him down as a person, not a politician, he’s been repeating the charge that Donald Trump has small hands (if you know what he means). The insult dates back to the early ’90s, when Graydon Carter referred to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy magazine. As Carter explained in Vanity Fair last year, this got way under Trump’s skin:

To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby. The most recent offering arrived earlier this year, before his decision to go after the Republican presidential nomination. Like the other packages, this one included a circled hand and the words, also written in gold Sharpie: “See, not so short!”

This matters, amazingly, because last night Donald Trump was asked to respond to Rubio’s ongoing roasts. And not only did Trump brazenly lie about his hands, he took the opportunity to turn the Republican debate into a literal dick measuring contest:

Said Trump:

I have to say this. He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I have never heard of this. Look at those hands. Are they small hands?

And he referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.

The really amazing thing about the exchange is not that it happened, but that it mattered. Trump has put himself in a position where a certain subset of his voters really do respond to the notion that he is well-endowed biologically as well as financially. In fact, much of Trump’s appeal turns on the claim that he is the manliest, alpha-est, most dominant candidate in the race. It’s one of the reasons people on the “alt-right” — the people who think that calling someone a “cuck” is the most brutal of online owns — are so excited about his candidacy.

Donald Trump and his small hand, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump and his small hand, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Trump obsesses over poll numbers and election results, repeating over and over again how he’s defeating all challengers. He brags about his massive fortune and is currently on his third trophy wife. He is fascinated by his own genes. When he isn’t talking about himself, his attacks on his opponents are often based not on their platforms, but on either their biology (Jeb Bush is “low-energy;” Marco Rubio is “little,” “lightweight” and “sweaty;” Carly Fiorina has an ugly face; and so on) or their actual sexual history.

Even Trump’s actual issue positions, if you could call them that, hinge on the suggestion that he wakes up the morning and pisses testosterone. Last night, he promised to order generals to commit war crimes, insisting that they would obey his illegal commands simply because he’d tell them to. He talks about the need to get “tough,” and how he’ll make us “win again” by nature of his unique ability to power through and obliterate all challengers.

This is the bluster of someone who is clearly compensating for something, which makes it even more crucial for Trump to insist that he doesn’t have anything for which to compensate. Hyper-masculinity is central to everything about Trump. If it turned out that he was less than well-hung, it would put his shows of dominance in a much different context.

Regardless as to whether the polls shift over the weekend, Sigmund Freud won last night’s debate.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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10 Responses to “Sigmund Freud wins the Republican debate”

  1. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    Trump is a perfect study in how far our society has fallen. We’ve decided we would rather turn politics into the sad child of a circus clown show and a sophomore fraternity common room. He’s not saying anything that his base wouldn’t, and doesn’t!, say in chatrooms and forums and meat-space gatherings across these Disunited States.

    Trump has stoked the Troll vote. He knows that the Troll Vote wants to see all the people they use pejoratives on to be put in their place, which is being ground under the Troll Vote’s boots. Trump may not believe a word of this himself, but he sure knows that that’s what the Troll Vote eats up.

    The Trumpets eat this sh-t up. They love the Donald’s manliness, and when he goes and outright tells another candidate that his pants are full, their pants get full in a different way. What can you say. They’re disgusting cretins that barely warrant the label ‘human being’.

    The only thing I’m surprised at is that the Donald didn’t whip it out on stage. And as for how full his pants are? They’re full, alright. Just in a different way than both of the previous alluded statements, and boy does it stink.

  2. DoverBill says:

    Vote for “The Donald” and get the whole package?

  3. The_Fixer says:

    Or to put it another way…

    I won’t claim credit for this, it’s been floating around the Internet a lot since this story broke. Oh, and I love the song and Maria Muldaur

  4. Outspoken1 says:

    As a friend of mine was oft to claim, “It is not the size of the boat, it is the skill of the sailor.”

  5. hauksdottir says:

    Bill Clinton is partially responsible. When asked “boxers or briefs?” a statesman could have pivoted in a way that would make it crystal clear that certain areas were not worthy of discussion in public and certainly not by a President or persons seeking that Office.

  6. FLL says:

    Your description of Trump as the reflection of what the Republican party has become is what I meant when I said the seeds of all this were sown when Republicans courted Southern racists in the 1960s and again in the Reagan era. I just don’t think they can win a presidential race at this point. The only complicating factor would be the economy. If the economy tanks—and I don’t think it will—Trump’s shouting about trade imbalances with Mexico and East Asia and the loss of American jobs may win converts.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I’m just flabbergasted to see the decline has advanced so far, so fast. Their front runner is literally bragging about the size of his genitals. He seems to have no decency whatsoever, no respect for the country or for the office he wants to be elected to.

  8. BeccaM says:

    I wish it were so, but I have a feeling that Donald Drumpf, the would-be tin-pot fascist dictator who is obviously mentally ill is precisely the candidate the Republicans have been building up to since Reagan.

    Their last President literally got away with war crimes, as did many members of his administration. For the last eight years, they’ve been spreading lies about the current Democratic president’s parentage, citizenship and religion — as if black, Muslim, and son of an immigrant father are all inherently disqualifying characteristics. Now they have a guy whose racist xenophobia and nationalistic jingoism are precisely the mother’s milk the GOP base has been conditioned to feed upon.

    At this point, I think Trump is a direct reflect of what the party’s become, and the moments we could see the RNC leadership losing control over their monster were when their own leaders began to be challenged by far right radical, fact-free candidates, like when Brat challenged and defeated Cantor.

  9. FLL says:

    Comic relief:

  10. FLL says:

    When I watched Trump’s speech in Portland, Maine, just before the debate in Detroit, I was impressed with his talent as a populist demagogue because he zeroed in on jobs, trade and “don’t-ship-our-jobs-to-China-and-Mexico.” After watching the debate in Detroit, I have to conclude that Trump may have a secret mission to blow the Republican Party apart. Comparing dick sizes in a national debate disqualifies a candidate in the general election. Worst of all, Trump brought the subject up himself. If he really wanted to win the general election, you’d have to conclude that Trump is an idiot, and I don’t think he is. What’s left but some hidden agenda? I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories, but how can you explain Trump deliberately sabotaging his chances in the general election? Can you just imagine the Democratic ads with Trump talking about his dick size and “little” Marco Rubio (who happens to be 5’10”)? The longer this nonsense goes on, the clearer it is that Trump is up to something that he’s not letting anyone else in on.

    We are watching as the Republican Party disintegrates before our eyes. The seeds of this lie in the last major party realignment during the 1960s. LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in July, 1964 and predicted that the Democrats would lose the South for a generation. Goldwater’s batshit-crazy campaign exploded immediately after that, and Goldwater won (tellingly) in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and his home state of Arizona. The stage was set for Nixon to make the Republican party the party of racism and bigotry with his “Southern strategy.” No surprise, then, that Trump is going for a largely geriatric Tea Party crowd to form a white nationalist party. Most of the country supports a secular government with constitutional protections for minorities, leaving the other 20% of the country to die a noisy, embarrassing death. Some belief systems endure, others don’t. Clean up the mess of the 2016 election and you’re left with diamonds and rust.

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