Profiles in Porridge: The Squishy Political Rise of the Beta Male
“Mr. Prime Minister, there are people who disagree with you gathering outside in the streets and I think maybe we should…”
“Move me to a secret bunker? Please, please say you were going to say that and, yes, I agree.”
This may not be a verbatim transcription of the recent conversation between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his security team, but it is probably not that far off and is a mortifying example of the squishy political rise of the Beta male.
It’s hard to be a leader while cowering behind a desk--that’s why in popular culture there are very few examples of positive portrayals showing stalwart leaders heroically running away during crucial moments.
But we need not look across the border for examples of Beta males in positions of power. From Eric Garcetti to Ted Wheeler to Jacob Frey to Pete Buttigieg to Gavin Newsom, there are now countless examples of reasonably well-coiffed, credential clones clogging up governance at every level.
There are certain “qualities” that this new class of “leaders” all possess. They went to good schools. They have multiple degrees. They have most likely not spent a large part of their life in the private sector. They probably had an Alpha male father. They tend towards being on the thin side. They eat healthily and exercise regularly. They are at some level aware of their Beta status and therefore deeply insecure. They socialize almost exclusively with people like themselves. They don’t yell…in public. They have fixers who handle the dirty work. They like well-worn paths and tracks. They speak in jargon. They don’t think outside the box and, in fact, specialize in building boxes. They believe in focus groups and task forces. They treat staff poorly. They over-react. They truly believe themselves to be a new superior form of human and, therefore, should automatically be treated as such. And because of all that, they know better.
To coin a phrase, when the chips are even they are not inherently bad to have around. But when the chips are up they take all of the credit and spend them as fast as they possibly can—and when the chips are down…well, if they stick around it is only to create a fog of blame around other people.
Trudeau’s invocation of Canada’s Emergencies Act is a prime example of a Beta in well over his head. In 1970, his father Pierre used the Act’s previous incarnation to take on Quebecois terrorists who had kidnapped and murdered government officials; in 2022 Justin is using it to quash exceedingly tidy protests that have featured kids’ bounce houses.
A perfect example of clueless, narcissistic Beta over-reaction is Trudeau’s response to a Jewish Conservative member of parliament, Melissa Lantsman, who dared to question his response to the Freedom Convoy. His answer? “Conservative Party members can stand with people who wave swastikas, they can stand with people who wave the confederate flag...” Suffice to say, this was met with disgusted incredulity but it should not have come as a surprise.
Image: Justin Trudeau. YouTube screen grab.
This petulant, child-like disproportional foot-stomping is a signature move of the empowered Beta, as is an absolute refusal either to tell the truth or face any consequences. From Garcetti’s ludicrous claim that he knew nothing of his top aide / political attack dog / actual alpha male fixer Rick Jacobs’s serial sexual harassment (a dozen witnesses say Jacobs’s harassed both men and women in a way that would make the writers of “Mad Men” blush) to Garcetti’s admittedly innovative defense that “I was holding my breath” for not wearing a mask at a recent football game, the elected Beta will do or say anything to shift and sideline topics he most likely truly believes he should not have to address. (Of course, in light of his in-limbo India ambassador appointment, Garcetti’s breath-holding talent may stand him in good stead.)
On those occasions when Betas are almost randomly handed power (as opposed to situations in which they got elected on their own initiative or inherited the power through family pedigree), the fact that they are in a meaningless sinecure means that their failings will be noticed only when they’re handed an actual task. While not a male, Vice President Harris is a Beta, so asking her—whose a woman whose entire experience with customs procedure is figuring out what she can get at the duty-free shop—to “handle” the border was destined to fail.
As for Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, the criticism he faced for staying out on paternity leave while America’s ports were overwhelmed may have had some merit but it is also possible he knew in his heart that there is nothing he—a Beta former mayor of a city with a few dozen buses, an airport that emplanes about 1,800 people a day, and a river known for the Notre Dame crew team and not for loading and unloading millions of freight containers—could have actually brought to the solution table.
Betas are also extremely self-involved, do not handle criticism well, and will stop at nothing to try to get their way. Portland’s Mayor Wheeler whinged and weaseled for weeks in the face of the Antifa protests—that is until they tried to burn down his own home. Minneapolis’s Mayor Frey literally slunk away after he was yelled at by a crowd demanding he defund the police. And California’s Governor Newsom ran his not-so-covertly racist anti-recall election campaign largely against someone who had exactly zero involvement in the process. (Considering his thin skin, if Newsom were facing what Trudeau is he, too, would have invoked emergency powers but he would not have ruled out using the military.)
Admittedly, at certain times and in certain roles, Betas can be useful but they cannot function well without a leader, making them unfit for crisis management. Their response to difficult situations will either see them go to six-year-old foot-stomping, breath-holding over-the-top responses (masks for school kids forever!), or they will, like a deer in headlights, freeze in the face of difficulty.
All of this is not to say that the nation would be better off if it were run by Dr. Strangelove-style General Buck Turgidson uber-Alpha types, but there does come a point when Beta’s prove why they are, at best, second best.
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at email@example.com. You can read more of his work at: https://thomas699.substack.com/