Values, not facts: Why do people vote contradictorily all around the globe?

Text: Žikica Milošević

During the last presidential elections in the USA, Bernie Sanders came out with a truly baffling conclusion: many people who they tried to persuade to vote for Hillary actually voted for Trump. And, furthermore, they concurred with all the arguments presented by Sanders and his Democrats, but still… voted otherwise. How can that be? The answer is deeply rooted in psychology. It is not the facts we’re talking about, but rather the values.

One rotten apple destroyed the whole basket

But what do you mean when you say: values? What values? Let me give an example. You take an old age pensioner and, as a leftist and a social liberal, say something like “we will make your pensions higher”. Okay, they agree, great. “We will make nursery schools free for your grandchildren”. Great! “We will shorten the working week”. Superb! “We will make same-sex marriages legal”. And they disagree and decide they will vote for the other candidate. “But, hello, the other candidate promises you longer a working week, lower salaries and pensions, and more expensive nursery schools. Why on Earth would you vote for him?” “Because I oppose same-sex marriages”. “But they have nothing to do with you; you will probably never see a gay couple in your life, just let them be! Think about what is good for you!” “No, I would rather starve and suffer than let those people get married”.

Are we clear now? The basic point is that sometimes, as a politician, you miss the core of your electorate. You present the benefits and try to make the benefits apply to everyone, but then some of these proposed benefits are in deep discord with the values of targeted people, so they discount all the good things and just think about how to oppose the one thing they think is unacceptable. It could be same-sex marriage or immigrants or whatever.

Strict Father

Another example was voting for Trump in Latin American communities, which was inexplicable for Democrats. Jesus! The guy basically promised to expel Latino immigrants from the country, yet an enviable number of Latinos still voted for Trump! Why? Of course, maybe Bones or Dr Brennan hate psychology, but nothing can be explained without it. In this it cases it boils down to the so-called Strict Father, as a figure. This role is of crucial importance in Latino culture, and they feel a father must be harsh and strict. So, if Trump said “I will expel all illegal immigrants and criminals”, many Latino voters saw the classical family scene. One good son, working hard and legal, and one troublemaker. And here comes the Strict Father to say “No eres mi hijo! Lárgate de esta casa!” (I deliberately put it in Spanish to remind you of Televisa shows. It says: “You’re no son of mine! Get out of this house!” So, the “Good Son” believes the Strict Father is right to expel the “Bad Son”, who is ruining the family reputation. Oh, Democrats, in their Protestant minds, forgot about the Strict Father.

The other side of the coin

And don’t be to linear either. Don’t forget that national and personal values can contradict one another. Serbs are lovers of strong leaders and strict fathers, but they are notorious for having ousted or killed most of their leaders, and maybe we have the grimmest and saddest tradition of all, from Karađorđe onwards: the Serbs are rebels and hajduk highwaymen. And you never know when this will resurface, and the same goes for Ukrainians. In Russia and Belarus, the Strict Father is cool; in Ukraine, the Cossack rebels are cool. That’s why there have been so many revolutions there and why the constant quarrels with Russia. And, to complicate things even further, not all Ukrainians are rebels. Some of them, especially in the southeast, are not Cossack, but rather that area was settled by the Russian Empire. And those people like Strict Fathers, which is the reason for any clash within Ukraine.

So, before you enter politics and start considering elections or international relations, you should first analyse the collective unconscious and values of the people you are seeking to rule, as opposed to the benefits you give them or appealing to their rational mind.


Another example of the Strict Father syndrome can be seen in Europe. From Orban to Putin, Vučić to Erdogan, Kaczinski to Lukashenko. In patriarchal countries it is always easy for a politician to be positioned as a “Father of the nation” and to be “fair and strict”, punishing errors and mischief, and awarding good deeds. And the people, having this model in their heads for centuries, follow the leader, especially when it comes to Orthodox societies, where the Byzantine tradition of the “Holy Trinity” of Emperor, Patriarch and Army Commander is deeply rooted in the collective mind. Why is it so easy to have Putin in Russia and Lukashenko in Belarus? Because the people like tsars! And it is “good tsar, batyushka-tsar”. It’s as simple as that. Why it is smooth for Azerbaijan to switch from father to son with the Alievs as presidents? Because in Muslim culture that is the norm. In Serbian culture, every village had its “kmet” or “knez”, who was a local leader and also a Strict Father figure. Thus part of the problem with conservative democracies in Eastern Europe is in the collective unconscious.

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