Social Mood Conference | Socionomics Foundation

By Robert Folsom | Excerpted from the March 2016  Socionomist

The conventional narrative on 2016 US presidential candidate Donald Trump is that he has succeeded despite his rejection of political correctness. Here, Robert Folsom explains that Trump has in large part succeeded because of it.

Trump gives voice to the political discontent that flows from negative social mood.

Read an excerpt of the March 2016 article below.

The Rise and Fall of Political Correctness

Long-term trends in social mood consolidate collective tendencies. Political correctness epitomizes collective tendencies toward inclusion, pluralism, contrition and tolerant speech. It was formalized and entrenched by the same long-term positive mood trend that drove the great bull market of the 1980s and 1990s. In politics, this process has been manifest in the actions of all branches of government. Positive-mood expressions characterized politics from the early 1980s thru the peak year of 2000; negative-mood expressions followed, became pronounced in 2008 and have been especially conspicuous since spring 2015.

Today’s negative mood involves unformalizing the norms of the previous positive trend. Political correctness and the collective tendencies it epitomizes have given way to a new normal of exclusion, polarization, impenitence and more wide-open speech. …

… Making Politically Incorrect “Cool”

Which brings us to Donald Trump, who denounces political correctness, condemns the establishment, has been immune to negative press, is the master of his own message and has demonized certain groups as “The Other.”

The conventional narrative on Trump is that he has succeeded despite his rejection of political correctness. The truth is that he has in large part succeeded because of it. From the start of his campaign, Trump seemed aware that the more politically incorrect he was, the more widely-reported his remarks would be—and that while he may offend some people, those same comments would get the loudest applause and approval from people who support him.

Crude invective and vulgarity have long been Trump’s weapons against individuals who anger him, such as his insult of debate moderator Megyn Kelly, after she asked him about his pattern of misogynist insults. At rallies and on social media, Trump has made a habit of airing and reposting remarks and quotes from sources on the extreme right of the political fringe.

Some people may think, well, “That’s the New Yorker in Trump.” But Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg are all New Yorkers: They did not make a habit of being politically incorrect and vulgar in public. These other New York politicians may have talked fast and had short tempers, but they did not go to rallies and call their rivals obscene names.

The potentially more lasting side of Trump’s political incorrectness involves policy. In fact, the issue which has most defined Trump’s candidacy is also America’s oldest ongoing political controversy: immigration.

Time and again, changes to immigration policy have reflected the dominant social mood in the United States. Limits on immigration mostly happen when mood is negative, while inclusive immigration policy mostly happens when mood is positive.

1986 was the last major legislative change to immigration policy. But in 2016, immigration could erupt into the most contentious…


In the remainder of this nine-page article, Folsom:

  • Illustrates the rise and fall of political correctness over the past four decades
  • Reviews the political incorrectness of the other candidates in the 2016 US presidential race
  • And explains how Trump’s success fits into a broader collective dissatisfaction and negative mood trend in America

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