Political Personalities and Male Stereotypes

Posted by Terri McCormick On January - 8 - 2014

NapoleonThere are several theories and stereotypes of men in politics, just as there are with their women counterparts. Consider the following:


One could argue that the Napoleon complex, an insecurity born out of being “vertically challenged,” is a relevant political archetype that affects men—and perhaps some women—who serve in government. Napoleon, who was reported to have been five foot seven, was of average height in France in his day, but he was short when compared to his bodyguards, who towered over him.

The current research (2008) conducted in the Netherlands reveals that there is a correlation between short-statured individuals and the need to control and dominate others with aggressive behaviors. The Napoleon complex, or “short-man syndrome” as it is also called, reveals a historical archetype for leaders throughout history that includes Napoleon, Mussolini and Attila the Hun, all of whom are reported to have been shorter than average height.


Machiavelli (1496–1527), rightfully or wrongfully, has been given the dubious honor of being called the founder of modern political and social thought. Up until Machiavelli there was no double meaning in terms like virtue, social goodness and the heavens. Machiavelli is attributed with inventing the concept of propaganda, stating that power needs but two tools: the pen and the sword. As propaganda goes, Machiavelli invented the term hypocrisy as well. He believed that fear and control of others was always justified to hold onto power. Power at any cost was virtuous. Machiavelli abolished moral standards—he didn’t believe in them, nor did he believe in the moral essence of leadership. He did not believe in looking to the heavens for guidance; rather, he believed in what he could control—the greed and selfishness of man.


The notion of women as leaders has long been misrepresented by the use of stereotypes and classic gender-based archetypes. Incompetence, emotionalism, instability and vindictiveness are genderless personality traits that have no place in any professional office, let alone a seat in government. I will admit that my patience was tested by individuals who were more focused on self-service than public service, each and every day when I walked into my legislative office.

It was not my intention to go into politics as a “woman”; I simply ran for politics to make a difference and get things done. I did what I always did—worked harder and (hopefully) smarter than those legislators who couldn’t see their way to the solutions needed. For this reason, I was considered a problem. Surrounding myself with journalists and other talented and capable staff became not only a good idea but a savvy one. In addition to a professional staff from outside politics, we drew on key private-sector policy advisors, who became a part of my team and who focused on solving problems through key policies ,which soon became national models. Among the major reforms recognized nationally by the Small Business Administration in Washington was the small-business regulation reform, competitive prescription drug purchasing pools and the capital investment corporation model, which created transparency in government tax credits.

We simply wanted to work on policy that would help the people I represented. Some would call that leadership; others would call that something else. If I broke stereotypes, personally and professionally, that was not my intent. The fact was, I was an elected official who simply happened to be a woman. My advice to all women is to not take on other people’s labels. The femme fatale who is always breaking a nail and crying out for help; the woman who takes an office poll before every decision; the woman who wears inappropriate clothing into a business meeting and is not prepared to conduct the business of the organization—all these are stereotypes of women who aren’t ready for leadership or public office. The greater challenge for many women serving in politics is this: we must learn to trust our own core values, as well as our own personal sense of purpose.


Admittedly, political blocking has been and is currently a part of the landscape. Competition knows no gender or ethnicity, but a series of campaigns and a pattern of White House interference with federal campaigns seem to have focused on women. I was one, as were two others, which begs the question, what sex is a Republican? As Brian Tumulty of the Gannett Washington bureau reported in August 2006, “Party officials traditionally stay neutral when there is an open seat or multiple challengers seeking the right to run against an incumbent.” But Hastings Wyman, editor of the Southern Political Report, admitted, “McCormick was not alone in the GOP primary snub. What happened to McCormick happened also to Republican candidates in Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. They were just pulling out the stops to make sure their guy wins.”

On January 11, 2006, in Washington DC’s The Hill, two related stories broke within days of my being blocked by the GOP machine from running for U.S. Congress. Interestingly, these are only two of several stories in which women happened to have been the candidates blocked. The first story broke on Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), the only woman leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her colleagues accused her of “not being aggressive enough in supporting Majority Leader DeLay when his indictments were brought down.” As the conference chairwoman, Rep. Deborah Pryce was in the mix for a chairmanship of the Rules Committee. This was due, in large part, to the reshuffling of GOP leaders as they were ousted or demoted during the Jack Abramoff bribery indictments. GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) made this statement as his staff and he himself were under investigation at the time: “Pryce did not respond forcefully enough to ethics charges Democrats leveled against me.”

As proof that Rep. Pryce had the ability to win leadership seats, she trounced two Republican men to gain her current leadership position as conference chairwoman. But several lawmakers, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), now a candidate for Majority Whip, and her vice chairman, Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), as well as her conference secretary, John Doolittle (R-Calif.), were considering challenging Pryce.

Another interesting example is the Florida primary for U.S. Senate. Rep. Katherine Harris’s 2006 bid for U.S. Senate came about after Harris came on the political scene as the darling of the George W. Bush 2000 chad ballot-counting controversy. Harris had drawn understandable attention from the Democratic base in the state as a political hot potato. She was viewed as capable, yet incapable of ridding herself of the 2000 presidential election baggage, meaning that as Florida’s Secretary of State, she helped George W Bush. Harris became the target of media reports as to her inability to win the Senate race, despite her decided victory two years earlier in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This was puzzling, in that she not only was a member of the House of Representatives as a member of the GOP, but she also had proven that she could win elections. In fact, the polling showed that Harris was the clear front runner in the Republican primary. A different set of “facts” were circulated to the press, however, by her fellow Republicans. Reports indicated that she was funding her own campaign. “So what?” you might say. What’s more, GOP veterans were speaking out anonymously against her supposed “dwindling” supply of campaign cash and alleged staff problems.

The GOP reaction to Harris’s report on using inheritance money for her campaign provided more inner-party sabotage when staffers gave anonymous “expert” advice that they wanted an alternative GOP candidate.10 No such contender surfaced, as polling continued to show that Rep. Harris was the stronger GOP candidate. Perhaps the most flagrant attempt to block Rep. Harris, despite her polling and despite her own money used to fund the race, came at a campaign rally for Florida candidates held by then-governor Jeb Bush and President George W Bush. Not only was Rep. Katherine Harris not recognized as being in the room as a party snub, but she was not allowed to participate as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Gender blocking? Possibly.

The point is this: whether or not it was gender-based, a party snub smacks of election engineering and collusion at the highest levels of GOP leadership. It violates the United States Constitution and our most basic right to vote as American citizens.

To continue reading this book, get your copy of “What Sex is a Republican” in paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon.

About the Author:

Terri McCormick is an author, policy expert, educator, and former state representative to the Wisconsin State Legislature. Today, she offers her expertise in public and government relations through McCormick Dawson CPG Ltd., a trusted consultancy of independent contractors.

Ms. McCormick serves as president and CEO of the company, drawing from more than two decades of professional experience, a strong educational foundation, a host of industry-related publications, and a multitude of accolades, awards and formal recognitions. Holding a Master of Arts in administrative leadership from Marian University, and a Bachelor of Science in political science and public administration from the University of Wisconsin, Ms. McCormick received both degrees with high honors.

“What Sex is a Republican?” is sold on Amazon in both the paperback edition as well as Kindle edition.  Read reviews on Amazon here.

Terri McCormick honored for excellence in government relations by Cambridge's Who's Who industry experts