Personality and Campaign:
Obama, Clinton, Hunter
Natalia J. Garland
Personality seems to be especially important in the 2008 presidential
campaigns. The psychotherapist, Alfred Adler (1870-1937), thought that
striving for success was a component of personality. Adler
developed a theory of Individual Psychology in which striving for
success was one of his basic assumptions about mankind.
assumes further the individual's striving for success in the
solution of his problems, this striving being anchored in the very
structure of life. But the judgment of what constitutes success is
again left to the opinion of the individual.
Our criterion for
appraising a specific variant, whether a given individual or a group,
is always the direction towards the ascending development and welfare
[End of quotes.]
In other words, there
are two ways to measure success: (1) a personal satisfaction with one's
efforts, (2) an objective evaluation of whether one's efforts have
advanced the wellbeing of society. For the purpose of this discussion,
it will be assumed that the presidential candidates of 2008 have some
level of sincerity in wanting to serve the American people. Using
Adler's ideas about personality, the campaigns of three candidates will
be evaluated: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Duncan Hunter. Let me
emphasize that these evaluations concern the presidential campaigns and
how the candidates present themselves within the workings of their
campaign activities. No evaluation is intended to carry official
diagnostic value (D.S.M. categories are avoided).
The campaign keyword
seems to be change, especially among Democrats. This is a
superficial motto unless candidates can explain the types of changes
they propose and how they will achieve such changes. Change is
always a part of any election. That is why we have elections and why
we set term limits. Change, or prevention of domination and
obstruction of corruption, is built into the democratic process.
Despite their zeal for
change, most candidates' platforms hark back to the various golden days
of yesteryear. In terms of their political focus (whether it be civil
rights, healthcare, or terrorism), and in terms of their stylistic
preferences (whether it be oratory, photographs, debates, or
interviews), nothing has changed. If real change, meaning something
new or original, is the thrust of a candidate's striving for
success, then there is already incongruity in their campaign
messages. The following two charts will help to illustrate this.
GOAL ACHIEVEMENT PROCESS
||grassroots + change
||change + experienced leadership
||restore conservatism (fiscal + social + defense)
||John F. Kennedy + Martin Luther King, Jr. (1960's)
||Bill Clinton (1990's)
||Ronald Reagan (1980's)
Certainly, it is not
wrong to restore the problem-solving skills of an earlier political
era--so long as those skills can be used effectively in our current
situation. In the attempt to apply an Adlerian view, it would seem
that not only must a candidate feel personal satisfaction with their
problem-solving approach, but the result of any of these approaches
must be the advancement of mankind. This advancement, its substance or
direction, has not been explained in detail by the Democratic
candidates and by some Republican candidates. The most disturbing
aspect of the above charts is that the candidates and voters apparently
feel satisfaction with an incongruous message.
BARACK OBAMA'S CAMPAIGN
Photos (Go to photo page)
If George W. Bush ever published photographs like those of Barack
Obama, he would be accused of messianism. In photo O-1, Obama sits
with his wife and two daughters. The children are lovingly and
physically bonded to Obama, while his wife sits beside him and leans
on him. There is no physical touch between mother and children. In
the background, there is a hazy scene of grayish-white forms which
seem to be open to interpretation. The forms look like clouds, or
like a lake and shore, or like a mountainous island, or like factory
smokestacks. Whatever the forms are supposed to be, Obama and family
appear to float on and within the whole formation in a mystical,
In photo O-2, Obama
appears in a bust-portrait, wearing a white dress shirt and a tie.
The immediate background is a bluish-white haze that spreads to the
right in a bright blue and then to a dark blue slogan area. Obama's
campaign insignia or trademark appears to the left of his portrait.
The trademark is formed in a circle, or letter o. There is an
abstract design within the circle: a hill represented by red and white
stripes, a white semi-circle sun rising above the hill, and a blue
sky encapsulating the semi-circle sun and meeting the hill on the
horizon. The light from the sun also seems to radiate down into the
red-striped hill. Although the design is rendered in the patriotic
colors of red, white, and blue, it is contained in or dominated by the
circle (presumably the letter o for Obama).
Photo O-3 is a variation
of Obama's trademark design. A head-portrait of Obama replaces the
sun. There is a circle, or letter o, around the portrait.
There is blue above and red below a mid-point or horizon mark.
Change we can believe in. What does that mean? What kinds of
changes, and why should voters believe in change? Obama's
slogan seems to imply that change is not something to be believed as a
possibility and then verified as factual, but is in itself to be
believed in. As with Obama's photos, there is a religious or
mystical dimension to his slogan.
I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my
ability to bring about real change in Washington...I'm asking you to
believe in yours. Obama, like the civil rights leaders of the
1960's, operates at a grassroots level. He is capable of both oratory
and spontaneity. He is a multi-tasker, an organizer, and a mobilizer.
Obama is, perhaps foremost, an inspirational leader and his political
strategy moves forward in a somewhat psychological self-help manner.
He and his wife encourage people to overcome their doubts and fears,
and to have hope.
Obama is a 46-year-old, Democratic Senator from Illinois. Although he
is biracial, having a black father and a white mother (and his mother
raised him), he seems to identify as black. He is a graduate of
Columbia and Harvard. His wife, Michelle, is a graduate of Princeton
and Harvard. They were just recently able to pay back their student
loans with the publication of Barack Obama's books. Obama has always
been against the Iraq War and favors withdrawal.
In his Iowa Caucus
victory speech, Obama said: This was the moment when we finally beat
back the politics of fear, and doubt, and cynicism; the politics where
we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up. This was
What It Means
At first glance, Obama's campaign seems to be about honesty in
government and empowerment of the people. Underneath this uplifting
message, however, his campaign seems strongly anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War,
and anti-Clinton. It should not be surprising that Obama has been able
to attract older white people and young people of all races. Older
white people remember the 1960's. They remember the excitement and how
good it felt to be anti-establishment and pro-civil rights. Despite
the social injustices, and because of the righteous nature of those
struggles, it was a golden, pre-9/11 era. It was time of activism,
legislation, and increased educational and employment opportunities.
Today's young people have learned about John F. Kennedy and Martin
Luther King, Jr. in school. It might be fair to say they have been
taught more about the 1960's than about Abraham Lincoln or George
Washington. There is a double-generational voter movement toward
Obama: the older nostalgic voters and the young energized voters.
What It Lacks
Obama needs to explain his Senate voting record. Why did he vote
present more than 100 times instead of yes or no?
How does his voting record fit with his concept of making changes?
Obama needs to
reconsider his reaction to the military surge in Iraq. In the spirit
of "lifting this country up" he must reconcile his anti-war
stance with the success of the surge and with any plan for withdrawal.
In the article, "The Surge Effect," Fred Barnes wrote:
Barack Obama was the
most disappointing in the debate. He offered an imaginative excuse for
dismissing the surge: that the embrace of American forces in Iraq by
Sunnis, the ruling ethnic group under Saddam Hussein, had been
prompted by the Democratic election victory in 2006. The Sunnis were
suddenly fearful of an American pullout that would leave them
vulnerable to Shia oppression.
But the Sunni Awakening
was a rebellion against the brutality of al Qaeda, the one-time ally of
the Sunnis in the insurgency. And it began well before the American
election. Indeed Sunni leaders have made clear that the Awakening
happened because of their confidence the Americans would be sticking
around to protect them from al Qaeda reprisals.
Obama explains his own
view on national security as follows:
When I am this party's
nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war
in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran;
or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that
we don't like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on
something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to
torture--because it is never ok... I will end the war in Iraq... I will
close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I will finish the fight
against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to combat the common
threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate
change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will send once more a
message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You
matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is
[End of quote.]
Obama also needs to
explain whether his religious faith has affected his political goals.
Obama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ. This church
adheres to the Black Value System which includes the following
statement: "To measure the worth and validity of all activity in
terms of positive contributions to the general welfare of the Black
Community and the Advancement of Black People towards freedom."
Obama must proclaim if his primary allegiance is to all Americans, or
to the black community and then secondarily to the remainder of
Americans. Voters should not have to infer Obama's priorities, but
should hear Obama clearly state his own value system.
candidates have been asked to explain their religious beliefs and the
impact of those beliefs on their political views. Mike Huckabee, a
Baptist minister, and Mitt Romney, a Mormon, have had to answer
numerous questions and concerns regarding religion. No less should be
expected of Obama. The following paragraph is an 'About Us' statement
from the Trinity United Church of Christ website.
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically
Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition
are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain
"true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle
of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days
of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It
is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address
injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our
trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and
ministries which address the Black Community.
[End of quote.]
Where is change? Obama'a campaign seems to present him as a savior.
Democrats have accused George W. Bush of having this same public
persona. Obama and his wife are a power-couple, which makes them
look very much like the Bill-and-Hillary-Clinton partnership of the
1990's. What is change? The concept of change has already become
politically correct. Anyone who does not believe in change risks being
put in the cynic category. The Obama campaign points back to history
and, stylistically, seems like a reproduction of other times and
persons. The question for Obama, and for America, is whether this
vintage pattern can be stencilled onto the 2008 forms. Adler wrote:
has established the presupposition, against which no argument can be
found, of the unity and self-consistency of the
[End of quote.]
If Obama has unified
the positive messages of various leaders of the past--especially
Kennedy and King, Jr.--into a cohesive wholeness of personality, then
perhaps he can rid government of corruption and advance the wellbeing
of all Americans. In our post-9/11 world, it would seem impossible to
do this without a solid plan on how to overcome terrorism. Obama's
message of hope might have to rely on military personnel who are
willing to sacrifice their lives during his presidency, and on
returning veterans who fought a war which he did not support from the
HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN
Photos (Scroll down photo page)
There are numerous photographs on Hillary Clinton's campaign website.
Her leading photo, C-1, is a much more typical portrait than Obama's,
but there are nevertheless some interesting observations to be made.
The bust-portrait shows Clinton with her left hand reaching across her
chest or heart area, as if to express heartfelt love (presumably love
of country). Clinton wears a large diamond wedding ring. The ring is
obvious--it could have been cut from the photo, or she could have
placed her right hand across her chest--and suggests fidelity to her
husband and former U.S. president, Bill Clinton. This loyalty is
probably both marital and political. Clinton wears a suit jacket, the
color of which is difficult to discern. It appears to be a
grayish-pink or pinkish-gray. The color would seem to represent a
combination of business and femininity.
Photo C-2 is a composite
of two photos of Clinton from her younger years. At the left, she
appears as a cute little girl. At the right, she appears as an
attractive young woman in what could be a high-school yearbook photo.
These photographs add human interest to Clinton, and also give the
impression of a lifetime of preparing for (and therefore deserving of)
Ready for change. Ready to lead. In other words, if the voters
are ready for change, then Clinton is ready to lead them in the process
of effecting that change.
I will work my heart out. Clinton's statement seems to balance
her lifelong political experience with Obama's campaign focus on
grassroots change and with Obama's charisma. Clinton is a hardworker
who appreciates competence, effectiveness, and self-discipline. She is
task-focused, perhaps to the detriment of relationships. Even though
she has always been an advocate for women and children, she is not
perceived as a people-person. Clinton operates from talking-points
and from political alliances which some people refer to as the Clinton
Clinton is a 60-year-old, Democratic Senator from New York and a former
first lady. She is a graduate of Wellesley and Yale. She has been
especially dedicated to the wellbeing of women and children. She and
Bill Clinton have one daughter, and Hillary Clinton seems to have been
able to combine career and motherhood. Clinton was originally in favor
of the Iraq War, but became critical of President Bush's war strategy
after she visited Iraq in early 2005. She now favors withdrawal.
In her New Hampshire
Primary victory speech, Clinton said: Over the last week, I listened
to you and in the process, I found my own voice.
What It Means
Clinton, like Obama, is classified as a Hard-Core Liberal. Even so,
there are significant differences in their campaigns. Clinton is older
and has a history of success and failure that can be evaluated or
scrutinized. Clinton is married to a former president who is
campaigning on her behalf, and who would join her in the White House
and probably have some political influence with her. The Bill Clinton
presidency, although scandalous, was a golden era of balanced budgets
and relative prosperity. Hillary Clinton is not charismatic like Obama
(or like her husband). Clinton has dedicated herself to improving
healthcare since the 1990's and wants to be known as the Healthcare
President: this could be her legacy because many Americans lack health
insurance or lack adequate coverage.
What It Lacks
Although Clinton chose to stay married to her unfaithful husband, some
Americans divorced him. Yes, he enjoys a certain popularity and has
made a lot of money from his speeches. But, that does not mean people
want him back in the White House. Clinton states she coped with her
husband's behavior through counselling and by reading the Psalms. She
keeps her religious life very private, but she could reveal a deeper
dimension to her personality if she discussed her growth and insight.
And, perhaps of greater significance for voters is whether or not her
husband got any counselling.
favored the Iraq War, then favored withdrawal. Moreover, she seemed to
accuse of General Petraeus of lying. In the article, "The Surge
Effect," Fred Barnes wrote:
response was equally amazing because she passed up a chance to disown
her indefensible suggestion last September that General Petraeus was
lying about the surge's success. At a Senate hearing, she told him that
believing his testimony required the "willing suspension of
disbelief." Asked if she still feels that way, Clinton said,
This level of denial
about the surge among Democrats is politically dangerous. Democratic
voters may be immune to the surge effect, but independents are not. If
the surge continues to bring stability to Iraq, independents--who
produced the Democratic triumph in the 2006 election--almost certainly
will begin to shift their support. They have no partisan commitment to
defeat in Iraq. Like most Americans, they prefer
[End of quotes.]
Unlike Senator Joe
Lieberman who maintained support for the war while other Democrats
were changing their minds, Clinton went back to the Hard-Core Liberal
stance. And, like Obama, she will not admit that victory is possible
or that General Petraeus was right. This entrenchment and obstinacy
is similar to Bush's--Obama, Clinton, and Bush all seem to have this
quality in common when it comes to admitting to any errors in their
assessments of Iraq.
Clinton states that she found her voice in the New Hampshire Primary
process. She listened to others. If this is true, then what was she
doing before? Was she not listening? Was she not herself? Does this
nullify the past political experience on which she bases her
qualifications for president? At age 60, however, it would not be
surprising for a woman of her generation to find her voice later in
life. To use the word change again, conditions have changed for
women over the past 60 years. Although Clinton had educational
advantages, she grew up in a time-period of limited opportunities for
women and is now a running for president in a very different world. It
is possible that she has gained new insight. Adler wrote:
finds its firm rational field of activity in the manner in which the
always unique individual behaves towards the changing problems of life.
Decisive for his behavior is the individual's opinion of himself
and of the environment with which he has to cope.
Whereas Obama seems to
cope by reincarnating messages of the past into his own personality
(while campaigning on a platform of change), Clinton seems to cope
through acquisition of a voice for 2008 (while campaigning on a
platform of experience). If the New Hampshire Primary was truly a
transformational point for Clinton, then this can serve her well in
striving for success and legacy. In our post-9/11 environment, however,
that voice must be not only caring enough to protect women and
children, but also tough enough to act as Commander-in-Chief of the
entire nation. That means really listening to people like
If Clinton were to
expand her healthcare platform to include mental health, substance
abuse, and the care of returning Iraq War veterans, she could possibly
create a voter movement of caretaker professionals as well as reinstate
her standing with military personnel and their families. Additionally,
if she further expanded substance-abuse treatment to include the war on
drugs, by strengthening border enforcement which would also strengthen
national sovereignty, she could possibly attract a voter movement of
crossover Independents and the undecided.
DUNCAN HUNTER'S CAMPAIGN
Photos (Scroll down photo page)
Very few photos appear on the Hunter campaign website. His leading
banner, H-1, is technically poor. There is a head-photo of Hunter
with half of his face obscured by shadow. His hair seems unkempt, he
is not really smiling, and part of his chin is cut off. The background
behind his head is black, and this changes to red for the banner
slogan area to the right of his head. It is as though Hunter, as a
personality, is non-existent.
Photo H-2 shows Hunter
on the campaign trail, making phone calls and ordering a meal in a
coffee shop. Hunter is a solitary figure: no reporters, no staff, no
security guards, no voters, and seemingly no family support.
Hunter has no slogan on his campaign website. However, in 2006 he
raised campaign money under the Peace Through Strength PAC. Hunter
is the Honorary Chairman of this organization.
Hunter has probably been the most issue-oriented candidate among both
Republicans and Democrats. He has been particularly sensitive to
national defense, illegal immigration and border enforcement, and
foreign trade. Hunter is both down-to-earth and authoritative, with
thoughtful solutions to real problems and without any political
correctness or campaign spin. However, he seems to have difficulty
reaching out to voters with genuine emotion or charisma. His campaign
lacks money, the media ignores him, and he has never gained political
Hunter is a 59-year-old, Republican Congressman from California. He is
a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the Army Rangers. He used his
G.I. Bill to graduate from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San
Diego). He is married and has two sons, one of whom served two tours
in Iraq as a Marine. Hunter built a border fence in San Diego County,
and if elected president his goal is to build a 754-mile double-layered
fence in one year. Hunter has always been supportive of the Iraq War.
Hunter recently told a
reporter: My motto in politics is never complain. My trademark for
26 years has been, "Don't whine. Keep working."
What It Means
Hunter is a sort of absentee candidate. He is there, and yet not there.
He is classified as a Hard-Core Conservative. He regards himself as a
true Reaganite conservative, and it would seem logical that his views
should automatically appeal to traditional Republicans. He is a doer.
He built a border fence. He supports the Iraq War, favors traditional
marriage, opposes abortion, and wants to maintain the Patriot Act.
Despite having been excluded from the Republican debates by ABC and FOX,
he continues on the campaign trail while other candidates have dropped
out. What keeps him going? Why do Republicans not rally around him?
What does it mean?
It could mean that the
Republican Party does not really want to restore the Ronald Reagan era.
Unlike Democrats who seem divided between nostalgia for the Kennedy or
Bill Clinton eras, Republicans are splintered among different views
regarding taxation and spending, family values, and homeland security
and the war on terrorism. Democrats are divided between two legitimate
expressions of their Party: a civil rights approach, and a jobs and
healthcare approach. Republicans, however, are fragmented within the
very body of their conservative principles. Each candidate (except
Hunter and perhaps Fred Thompson), expresses a portion of that body,
but then adopts other views or strategies as well. Republicans
constantly talk about Reagan and seem to use him as a standard, but
none of the major candidates follows a strictly Reaganite philosophy of
What It Lacks
Emotion, organization, money, media coverage.
The example of Hunter shows how important personality is to the
American people and to the American political process. Voters want
more than a candidate's record and a plan. There are probably
complicated variables as to why Hunter's campaign has not been
successful, but lack of emotional expression might be one of them.
Adler wrote that thought and emotion could not be separated. Hunter
was never rounded-out as an interesting personality. Voters can agree
or disagree with him, but nobody can really discuss his humanity.
Because of this, the "development and welfare of mankind"
will not move forward in the unique way that only Hunter could have
If a Republican
president is elected, that president will not be practicing Reaganite
conservatism (assuming Thompson drops out). The next Republican will
face the challenge of striving for success within his own
version of conservative philosophy. If a Democrat president is
elected, that president will probably try to re-create his or her ideal
of a golden past, but may also have to change or modify that
philosophy in order to survive terrorism. Obama has found his moment,
Clinton has found her voice, and now the Republicans must find their
own awareness. There can be only one winner. The losers will do well
if they don't whine and keep working.
(Written 01/14/08: bibliography available.)
Until we meet