I went to high school in small town Ohio. <shudder> I don't know if it is true in every school, but there was a very strong current of anti-intellectualism. The few smart people were mocked and/or actively hated and targeted.
In terms of elections, the US is just like high school The smart people (Gore, Hillary Clinton) are disdained and attacked over absurd invented bullshit. Yes, both won the popular vote, but winning the smarter states (NY, CA) by a lot just doesn't cut it given our anti-democratic Electoral College. John Kerry, Michael Dukakis -- smart people tarred with the "elite" label. (I do find it telling that we want an "elite" surgeon or pilot, but not President.)
On the other hand, the popular people who don't act smart -- George W Bush, Bill "Bubba" Clinton, Trump -- are liked enough to be elected.
Obama was fortunate to run in 2008, when anyone running against Bush's economic collapse would have won. Again, Romney was a rich "elite" type, while Obama was able to maintain enough "cool" aura to carry the needed states.
What this implies is that we need to nominate based on popularity -- likability -- rather than qualifications or policies. The US just isn't made up of an informed electorate, but rather a National Enquirer electorate. We need to accept that. Idiocracy wasn't satire, it was a documentary beamed back to us.