Men are pack animals.
Not all of us, of course, but male culture is ordered by hierarchies of power, with the apex being the alpha. It can be toxic and problematic, ill-considered and tribal, but it is also deeply embedded in our society and resistant to modification.
The pack mentality is particularly prevalent in politics, where even men of principle drift toward the centers of gravity.
Donald Trump rose to power, and continues to pose a threat to this country, by pretending to be an alpha male and exploiting the pack behavior of politicians, particularly the Republican men with the most power.
Nothing illustrates pack behavior better than the immediate aftermath of the insurrection: Some Republicans briefly turned on Trump and blamed him, believing him injured and weakened by the episode. But, when he appeared to survive it, they quickly, obsequiously, fell back into line, tails tucked.
Both the men in the Capitol and the man on the street exhibit pack behavior.
In a gym in Brooklyn a few months ago, I overheard a group of friends loudly discussing politics. Two were white, and one was Black.
The two white men were boasting about Trump, how much they loved his bravado. Even if there were drawbacks, they were overcome by this one positive attribute. The Black man interjected with comments about Trump’s racism, but the two white men dodged and dismissed it. They wanted to focus on his strength and his power.
This is why I have come to fully, religiously believe that if this country is to be saved, it will be women who do the saving.
The riveting testimony of the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday only reinforced my belief. She did what so many men around the president have refused to do: She spoke up in service of the truth and the country.
This is not to say that there haven’t been men who have acted heroically in the face of recent threats to the country, but the women have truly distinguished themselves, which is even more remarkable in politics, which even now is dominated by men.
There were the brave women who came forward with sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, even though they were being attacked and vilified. I don’t want to fail to mention Christine Blasey Ford, who testified to her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
There was Nancy Pelosi, who held the line as best she could when Republicans held the majority, and expedited an aggressive liberal agenda when Democrats regained the majority.
She also oversaw not one, but two impeachment votes against Trump, the first on accusations of soliciting foreign interference for the 2016 election, and the second on allegations of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In fact, in 2020, no group of voters voted more strongly to oust Trump than Black women. In fact, regardless of their race, more women voted to get rid of Trump than men, although a majority of white women still voted for him.
Then, there is this point: America will rue the day that it did not elect Hillary Clinton president in 2016. There was an open Supreme Court seat when people were casting their ballots, and it still didn’t motivate enough Democrats to turn out to the polls or convince enough undecided voters to support her.
Sure, there were overlapping factors operating in that cycle — Russian interference, the media’s lopsided treatment of Clinton and Trump, Anthony Weiner’s laptop and James Comey’s outrageous 11th-hour announcement — but sexism was also one of them.
Now we have a Supreme Court poised to plunge us into an era of regression. But even there, we must take note of the women. When Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in on Thursday, the entire liberal arm of the court will be female. They may not be able to blunt the rulings of the theocratic majority, but this trio of women will compose the dissents, outline the moral argument, and lay the groundwork for future courts more inclined to undo the damage wreaked by this one.
The change could start as soon as this fall, if enough women, riled up by the Dobbs decision, head to the polls to punish Republicans for putting them in this position.
It is conventional wisdom that parties in power lose seats during the midterms, but in this cycle many women in this country are mad as hell about the loss of their civil rights and therefore may challenge that conventional wisdom.
In two generic congressional polls taken in the days after the court handed down its decision in Dobbs, the Democrats held a significant lead over the Republicans. There are months to go before the elections, but this finding is interesting and must be unsettling for Republicans.
In the meantime, it is women like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush who are pushing for an aggressive response to the abortion decision, while President Biden hews to his institutionalist instincts.
It simply feels in this moment that women, more than men, have a clarity about the danger we face and the courage demanded to fight it.