‘The Market’ Has Chosen the Winner in the Culture Wars

ellen degeneres

Portia di Rossi and Ellen Degeneres

“Gen X” was popularized as an advertising term. Marketers used the label to describe the young people of the late ‘80s. The focus was on how to sell goods to the MTV generation.

Advertisements at that time, just as one example, started to feature unmarried couples to appeal to this group of consumers. This was a first and in the early ‘90s it was pushing the envelope. It apparently resonated. The advertisers gauged correctly: They successfully sold their products to Americans with the now documented lowest marriage rate in history.

The argument could be made (mainly by those who want to take us back to a mythical innocent time of the supposedly recent past) that it’s advertisers who’ve corrupted our culture and changed what’s socially acceptable through their manipulations. Or, if you have sold your proverbial soul to the gods of unfettered commerce – like the rightwing self-described Culture Warriors, or the (formerly) Moral (former) Majority – advertisements are the market speaking for the greater culture at large. And the greater culture, funny enough, largely disagrees with the rightwing.

Here’s how it works: Advertisers put out an image or an idea – the greater public concurs by buying those products. Successful ads equal agreed upon ideas. Marketing is, after all, the definitive pandering.

And here is what the culture is saying through advertisements: We like racial diversity. Why can I say that? Because commercials not only have racially diverse groups of friends and co-workers – they now regularly feature bi-racial couples in ads. In a Budweiser Super Bowl spot this year, there were black men flirting with white women sans scandal. If those spots are moving widgets it means consumers agree with the message. It’s a type of voting. Even if some viewers don’t notice or don’t have a visceral reaction one way or another – it’s an indicator of a new cultural norm.

Also Americans are okay with homosexuals. The American Family Association, an association for only pre-approved families, threatened JC Penney with a boycott after they hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson. Now, Degeneres, besides being a comedic genius, is also a successful talk show host and a popular pitchperson for brands like Covergirl and American Express. The market has spoken time after time, and Ellen is adored and sought after. She also happens to be a lesbian, which has made her the target of the AFA whose influence is clearly eroding.

tina dupuyWhat else does the market proclaim? Well, Americans widely approve of birth control. And yes, even legal abortion. In the dust-up last week between Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood the market picked the winner. It was Planned Parenthood. The nonprofit health care provider saw a spike in private contributions after Komen announced they would no longer give Planned Parenthood a grant to screen for breast cancer. And Komen’s brand has been forever tarnished by putting politics before their cure-finding goal. It’s already resulted in one resignation of the Vice President of Public Policy, Karen Handel.

You can think of the market as a leading indicator of our social mores and the Republican primary as a lagging one.

Disgraced former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, has been trying to play the well-worn Nixon Southern Strategy to rile up the base. He calls Obama the food stamp president and said he wants to go talk to the NAACP about “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” He also said immigrants should learn English and not use the “language of the ghetto.” That phrase hurt him in the Spanish-named (former Spanish colony) state of Florida. Why? Because the market has spoken, we have our first biracial president and we no longer care for these antiquated wedges Gingrich peddles.

Tina DupuyThe GOP-worshipped market has chosen the winner of the culture wars, and it hasn’t looked favorably on its most devout.

Of course, the market for Republicans is just like the Bible or the Constitution. They worship it piously as long as they believe it agrees with them.

If their deified market is all-knowing and all-powerful – it clearly favors a progressive social agenda…and not the GOP’s.

Yeah…tough sell.

Tina Dupuy
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far 


  1. Dr. Robert Jones says

    You are clearly mistaken in your view of primary politics.  Particularly Republican primary politics.  In case you have not noticed, the culture wars approach is what the Republican Party turns to when all else fails.  In Kansas, for example, spots aired in 2004 that suggested that a vote for John Kerry was a vote for gay marriage.  I am still trying to figure out the connection there….but it works.  Republicans carry Kansas on a consistent basis and that in spite of the fact that Kansas is a predominantly blue collar state.  This means that Kansans vote against their own interests on an extremely consistent basis.  Rick Santorum, the new “not Romney” is very likely going to be successful.  He does not carry the personal baggage that Newt Gingrich carries and he is the darling of the Republican base.  Why?  because he serves up the red meat that the Republican base loves!  He is ready to engage in the culture wars and say outrageous things about the President.  Things that I am betting even he knows are untrue, merely to get into office.  He will say them with passion and conviction.  He will accuse the president of being a socialist, a phony Christian, and even allude to the President being a Muslim.  How do I know this? He already has!  Primary voters are more aligned with the extreme poles of either party and hence the serious challenger in a Republican primary is the one who can maneuver to the right of a moderate Republican, who is usually unattractive to the tea bagger base.        

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