With their cultural power in steady decline, the evangelical movement has shifted its efforts into the one arena of American life in which it still reigns supreme: politics. White, conservative evangelicals dominate the American political scene despite their minority status in the national population, due to a political system that was designed hundreds of years ago to privilege a propertied minority over other American citizens. The evangelicals, consumed with panic over their diminishing cultural hegemony, have assumed an ultra-combative stance in politics, and the politicians who attract their support happen to reflect this penchant for political aggression.

Thus, the leading Republican politicians of the day tend to be bullies with a keen sense of how to provoke the media and the Left. The beau ideal of this political archetype is Donald Trump. Never before in American history have we seen a politician with his ability to manipulate and exploit the news media to build political momentum and destroy enemies. Trump’s influence continues despite the loss of his Twitter feed, and will receive rocket fuel when he resumes campaigning for president, as it seems likely he will.

From Trump, the Republicans have grown a crop of “Mini-Donalds,” lesser Trumps who utilize his playbook for antagonizing the media and “owning the libs.” Governors Ron DeSantis, of Florida, and Gregg Abbott, of Texas, are instructive. Both of these men provoke constant battles with reporters and Democrats, eschewing substantive governance for high-profile cultural confrontations over identity and public health. In so doing, they have branded themselves as “fighters” and allowed their adoring supporters to experience the rush of combat through watching their governors fight.

An important aspect of all this is gender. I try to avoid jargon in my writing, but the academic concept of “hypermasculinity” is absolutely essential in understanding the new breed of Republican bully. With virulent intensity, these exclusively male politicians deploy the worst excesses of American masculinity to bludgeon and subjugate the people their followers hate. It’s one part George Wallace and one part “Scarface.” The GOP is an increasingly male-dominated institution, and not only that but a party dominated by men anxious about their place in a society where women are ascendant. Fragile, toxic masculinity is central to the authoritarian brand.

Which brings us home to North Carolina. The most prominent Republican in our state, by far, is Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson. And if Abbott and DeSantis are mini-Trumps, Robinson is a two-bit demagogue aspiring to that status. He combines brash aggression with the mastery of electronic media that, after all, launched his political career. In addition, he flaunts his bigotry at every opportunity. He’s even expressed disdain for rape victims. Gregg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, and Donald J. Trump embody the zeitgeist in national Republican circles. In North Carolina, Robinson seeks ascension to their pantheon.

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