Posts Tagged ‘cultural values’



August 14, 2015

I really don’t like politics. In fact, I’ve only worked on two campaigns in my life – one Republican and one Democratic (both were successful). But I just can’t seem to resist being sucked in to watch pundits trying to explain today’s political circus. It is kind of like watching a train wreck. So, why is Trump leading the Republican clown car? It has nothing to do with his plans for governing, since we haven’t heard them. It has far more to do with today’s cultural values than politics.

First, Americans do not value politicians. So that takes most candidates out of the game. A recent Rasmussen Reports Survey shows that only 3% of likely U.S. Voters think politicians are doing an excellent job. So why would we want one for President? We also don’t really value intelligence or education (60% of Americans have only a high school education). Today what Americans, especially younger ones, value is celebrity, money and power.

The bombastic Trump is the perfect storm – a living example of the three driving values in our society today. It is that simple.

CELEBRITY HAS VALUE – The most popular online and print publications all focus on celebrities, not politicians. Today an expanding world of social media lets everyone vicariously live via a celebrity’s life. The 24/7 media is also obsessed with celebrities, not journalism.  Why would Caitlyn Jenner be the most talked about speech at the ESPYS when the room was filled with sports stars?

MONEY HAS VALUE – We love people that we believe have “f_ _ _ you” money. We love to dream about having a lot of money (who hasn’t bought a lottery ticket?) because we think it would give us freedom to speak our mind. To have our own bully pulpit for sharing our opinions without fact checking. In fact, most people simply don’t care that the richest 1% in the United States now controls more wealth than the bottom 90%.

POWER HAS VALUE – We also love people that we perceive as powerful. We think they can say and act the way they want. And in America, power comes from money. From 1776 to today, those who have the money, have the power. G. William Domhoff, a Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has written some interesting books on this subject; check out his website:

As for Bernie, he is kind of the anti-Trump. He is playing off a value shown in a 2011 study that people across the political spectrum, when they learn about how much the 1% controls, prefer a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth. He is also reflecting the political values of millennials, the largest potential voting segment in 2016 (see my upcoming August 17th post on millennial values). Oh, and he is also becoming a celebrity – “Feel the Bern!”