2012 Elections

It’s an election year in the US. The first primaries have been held in Iowa for the bid of the republican candidate who will contest President Obama in November this year. The winner there: is Mitt Romney. For now.

Another Republican contestant, Newt Gingrich, who was in the lead before, declared the elections to turn “ugly”. What else is new?They always turn ugly. Until… the day after the election. Then all Americans, like magic, swing to be in favor of the new President-elect.

Why is this?

Why do US elections always end up in smear campaigns when they’re going on, but end up decently “clean” (okay, except the 2000 elections when there were miscounts in Florida)?

Cultural Profile

The cultural profile (according to the cultural model of professor Geert Hofstede) of the US is the following:

  • Power Distance: 40
  • Individualism: 91 (the highest in the world)
  • Masculinity: 62 (not so high right? but linked to a very high score on individualism makes the individual want to stand out as being a clear “winner”.
  • Uncertainty avoidance: 46

The key to, from a cultural perspective, understanding the US elections is the dimension Masculinity.

What is Masculinity?

Masculinity has nothing to do with Gender! It determines the expected role of individuals within a society. Roughly speaking, men provide income, and women change diapers (very roughly speaking, but you get the idea).

This polarisation (Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus) is yet another characteristic of Masculinity. For instance, typical American Hollywood movies are very polarized. There is always a villain and a good guy. Or there’s a good cop, a bad cop. Or there is the good guy who loses it all (by his own doing or not), but turns around and ends up on top in the end.

The same polarization holds true for the upcoming US election process. Fundamentally the US has a two-party system. Republicans and Democrats. And yes, I know, there’s the Independent. But basically the Independent can only snoop voters away from the Democrats. Not from the Republicans.

This polarized political system (part of Masculinity) linked with the motivation to win (also part of Masculinity) at all cost, makes the whole election system such a tough fight.

The way the votes are counted comes roughly down to who has 50% of the votes + 1 vote. That gives the winner his/her majority.

But when finally the winner is declared, all ex-candidates congratulate the winner and ask/tell their electorate to side with the new President-Elect.

Is this year the same?

That’s the way it has always been, and this year it won’t be any different. It will turn ugly. Candidates will drop out or are forced to stop because of the smear campaigns. But on the evening of November 3rd the country will unite again as one and continue business as usual.

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