The 2008 Presidential
Now that the 2008 Election is over, we thought that we would present our views about the major candidates’ types. The following are our current, best "educated guesses," arrived at from listening to interviews, reading books and articles by and about the candidates, and observing their consistent behaviors and reactions. We also took into account what seems to be their sense of themselves and their motivations (both stated and implicit), their self-presentations, energetic and talking styles, and the recurrent themes they brought up during the campaign—all of which reveal their personality type.
Gaining insight into their personality type is relevant to an understanding many aspects of leadership, such as character, decision making style, openness to new ideas, flexibility, determination and persistence in adversity, and use of power. The following observations could be extended quite a bit, and we have written more about Barack Obama than the other candidates since he is the President-Elect and is now such an important and influential world figure.
3w4, Social Instinct Dominant ("The Achiever")
We believe Barack Obama is a Three with a Four-wing (“The Achiever”), with a wing subtype name of “The Professional”—both of which seem to fit him well. Typing Barack Obama has been challenging for the main reason that we believe that Obama is unusually healthy for a politician. He seems to be operating around Levels 3 to 5 of type Three—that is, the "center of gravity" of his personality is in the healthy to average range. His relatively high Level of psychological health is also why he is such an unusual politician and has become such an outstanding role model for others—especially for anyone of mixed background or who feels like a disenfranchised outsider.
There are some good reasons why Obama could well be another type (and we will consider the other most likely possibility, Nine with a One-wing below). Since every individual is a unique mix of all nine types, and since their personality reflects not only inborn temperament as well as parental and cultural imprints, there are often individuals whose type is more ambiguous than that of others—and, as already noted, if the person is relatively healthy, the type is also less a well-defined “fixation,” adding to the complexity of making a diagnosis. In these cases, it is often useful to try to keep “the big picture” of the person—the whole arc of their life and activities in view—rather than focus too narrowly on specific actions or traits which could be interpreted in a variety of ways.
With this approach in mind, a look at Barack Obama's career gives the overwhelming impression of a young man constantly "on the rise," which is typical of an average to healthy Three. Even as a young man, he needed to make something of himself and had talents and intelligence (as well as personal energy and ambition) that allowed him to do so. It would be difficult to find anyone else in recent American politics who is as ambitious and energetic—as well as idealistic and self-aware—as Barack Obama. Obama’s parents and grandparents instilled in him not only ideals, but a great deal of self-confidence and belief in his own worth and potential. Thus, we see an overall pattern of his being the “star” of whatever class or group he is in, the person who almost effortlessly succeeds at whatever he puts his hand to. Obama was blessed with intelligence, energy, the desire for self-improvement, good looks, and the ability to charm others, to disarm them and get them to like him and want to support his plans and ambitions—all characteristics which we see in a healthy, well-adjusted Three.
“Type Three exemplifies our desire to be our best self, to develop all of our potentials, and to value ourselves and others. Threes are the “stars” of the personality types—people of tremendous drive, ambition, and belief in themselves. Threes want to excel, to be the best at whatever they do, and they are willing to put in the effort it takes to do so. Threes can be found at the gym, taking classes at night, putting in extra hours at work, learning how to coordinate their best colors when they dress—basically doing what it takes to shine. While Threes are energetic and ambitious, they are also diplomatic—they want to be liked and esteemed by others. They strive to be presentable and appropriate, not wanting to come across in ways that would be disapproved of. They know how to put their best foot forward and present themselves in a way that highlights their energy and confidence.
“Threes are, above all, goal-oriented. They get a particular objective in their sights and then actively engage in activities that will bring them closer to whatever they seek. They pursue their dreams tirelessly, and cannot understand why others are not similarly motivated. Thus, Threes also enjoy sharing self-development tips, explaining how to make money, lose weight, develop career skills, and so forth. They are hard workers, diligent and effective—and they like helping others to be that way, too.
“To achieve their goals, Threes learn to be highly adaptable. They are able to change course when necessary and may even do so several times, including a change of career, if that is what it takes. They may try different approaches to problems until they find a formula that seems the most effective. Similarly, Threes quickly adapt to different social settings, always wanting to be appropriate and to exemplify the values of whatever group they are in. While their adaptability can be an enormous asset, it can also be overdone, leaving Threes unsure of who they are or what their own deepest values are.”—Riso and Hudson, Discovering Your Personality Type, (Houghton Mifflin; second edition, 2003), 106-107.)
Despite his fairly "cool" and self-contained exterior, we think that Obama is in the Feeling Center since he seems primarily to be concerned with issues of identity, personal value, and of being seen in a certain way—the main issues of the types in this Center. (Because of his unusually high Level of Development—and because he is a personality type Three (which is the “primary type” in the Feeling Center), he is able to put his feelings aside to perform and get the job at hand done. Virtually everyone agrees that Obama does not reveal his emotions readily nor does he get pulled into emotional reactivity and "drama"—all of which fits the Three pattern.
‘The magazine American Conservative once described him as ‘a formidable identity artist.’ The observation was meant pejoratively, but it is also true, and arguably the key to his success. Mr. Obama’s early life suggests not adaptation, the chameleon’s ability to blend with the surroundings, but something more fundamental, a clear-eyed determination to change himself and establish his own identity by force of will. As a student, he read Nietzsche, while developing his own will to power.” (“The Times,” US Election Special Section, Nov. 5, 2008), p. 4.)
This also coincides perfectly with the Three personality pattern: we see in Obama a “formidable identity artist” in his ability to become what he thinks people want, to embody in himself and, importantly, to project to others what he intuits what they want to see in themselves. In effect, the Three becomes the screen on which others project their own hopes, ideals, and aspirations, and few in American politics have done this as successfully or completely as Barack Obama. An average Three will, however, do this as the projection of an image which increasingly has little connection with his or her real substance. A healthy Three, on the other hand, will actually embody and project the aspirations of others because he or she has become what they point toward: they actually become the “ideal” they seem to be.
Naturally, the process of becoming authentic and of being the person he seems to be started early in life for Obama, as it does for every child. His own identity and value were problematic, being the child of mixed-race parents, having an abandoning and absent father, and living much of his life with his white grandparents in racially and culturally diverse Hawaii. He not only had to “find himself,” he had to “create himself” in a way that would guarantee him a place in his world, and this took some maneuvering and trial-and-error:
“I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two would eventually cohere. Still the feeling that something wasn’t quite right stayed with me. There was a trick there somewhere, although what the trick was, who was doing the trick, and who was being tricked eluded my conscious grasp.” (Obama: Dreams from My Father, quoted in “The Times” [London], no page specified.)
While growing up—and under more than usual teenage stress—we think that Obama shunted to the average Nine range (the Three’s Direction of Disintegration or “stress” predicted by Enneagram theory), disengaging emotionally and escaping into occasional drug use, disengagement, and apathy. The young Obama did not apply himself to any clear goals in life, except to want to become a professional basketball player. However, Obama pulled himself out of this movement to Nine by discovering that he could become "the family hero," a typical role of a Three at Level 4. He would make his mother and grandparents proud of him and heal his broken, mixed-race family’s shame by becoming more successful than his father and by being a better man than his father:
“Barack means ‘blessed’ but Mr. Obama’s start was anything but. His father walked out early on, heading off to Harvard on another scholarship (the second time he would leave behind a wife and child but not the last). The young Mr. Obama would grow up with a heroic idea of the missing father. ‘The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader…It was into my father’s image, the black man, the son of Africa, that I’d packed all of the attributes I sought in myself.’” (“The Times,” quoting Obama: Dreams from My Father,” no page reference given.)
A talent for turning adversity to his advantage (supported by his own native intelligence, ambition, and knowing when to take an opportunity when it knocks) was never a problem for Obama. As “The Times” dryly notes:
“There are multiple journeys within the Obama story: from atheism to Christianity; from dry legal academic to the epitome of political cool; from “Barry” to “Barack”; from surfer dude to hardscrabble community worker to sharp-suited lawyer to president. ‘In no other country is my story even possible,’ Mr. Obama told the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Mr. Obama’s genius was to realize very early in his career, that so far from being a political liability, his extraordinary and unlikely story could be turned into his greatest asset.” (“The Times,” November 6, 2008.)
Ever since Obama entered college, his life has been an ever-escalating ascent in his career and fortunes. The principal keynote has been his monumental ambition as he moved from Occidental College in Los Angeles to Columbia University and beyond. After graduation from Columbia University, NYC in 1983, he had a series of jobs and then moved to Chicago in 1985 to become a community organizer there where he also met Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ. Until this time, Obama had been non-religious, but became a Christian at this time in Rev. Wright’s church. In terms of his personal growth, we believe it was during this time that he learned the lessons of “going to Six,” (the Direction of Integration of a Three, predicted by Enneagram theory) by giving himself to service to a cause greater than himself. It was a place and time where “his political identity and social conscience were forged and fused….Earning a meager $12,000 a year, Mr. Obama called the experience ‘the best education I ever had.’” (“The Times”)
Obama’s idealism has been evidently sincere ever since his Chicago community organizer days, although his idealism probably also had some psychological roots in his unconscious competition with his pragmatic, non- religious father (probably an Eight), and an expression of his wish to fulfill the dreams of his idealistic but somewhat romantic and impractical mother (probably a Four). Although we are speculating, it was probably his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham who taught him that he could be “anything he wants to be”—virtually the internal anthem for the Three’s belief in himself and in his unlimited potential.
After his Chicago organizing experiences, Obama gained acceptance at Harvard Law School in 1988, and within two years was elected the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, the most prestigious legal review in the country. After graduation, he went back to Chicago where he practiced law and taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago for about 10 years. (This was, of course, a huge career step and success for a newly minted young lawyer.) Obama was elected in 1996 to the Illinois State Senate, becoming one of its youngest members. In 2004, he was elected to the US Senate; at the time, he was the only black US Senator, and only the third black in history to be elected to the Senate in his own right. In 2006, Obama announced for the Presidency on the steps of the Illinois State Capital, the same building which is associated with the early career of one of his principal heroes and role models, Abraham Lincoln.
In common with Lincoln and his other main role model, Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama possesses outstanding rhetorical skills which have allowed him to inspire millions and to move them into action for change. Obama has been criticized, however, for being principally an orator rather than a person of political achievement with a solid record on either the state or federal level. It is true that despite achieving the Presidency in a mere 12 years since his election to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, Obama is not known for having a long list of political or social accomplishments. Despite his 12 years in public office, his lack of experience was a major problem for him and his campaign. However, with his formidable charm, intellect, and charisma, he relied on his rhetorical gifts to gain the confidence of others not so much for what he has done but to the nobility and inspiration of his vision for the future. His main talents lie in being a genuinely effective communicator, motivator, idealistic visionary, and personal role model—all qualities of healthy Three.
“I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment…when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.” (Barack Obama, June 3, 2008 speech on the night of the last Democratic primary race.)
Besides the almost magical rhetorical cadences of this speech (and all his speeches), also notice the implied magic of a belief in ourselves and in the specialness of our moment in history, one which has the power to turn back the oceans, heal the planet, end war, and restore the image of America as “the last best hope on Earth.” It is a stirring rallying cry to “remake this great nation”—that is, to remake ourselves—from what we have been to become “our very best selves” and an expression of “our highest ideals.” The belief in oneself and the ability to remake oneself, to be my best self, and to embody my highest ideals is among the most deeply held and cherished beliefs of personality type Three—and the Three in all of us.
“Almost everyone would like to be like a healthy Three, at least in some way. Who would not like to be attractive and at ease with themselves and with others? Who would not like to be self-assured and endowed with the energy and motivation to make the most of their potential? Who would not like to enjoy being themselves as healthy Threes so evidently do? When they are healthy, Threes are truly stars. When people are in their presence, they are aware of something special about them.” (Riso and Hudson, Personality Types, Houghton Mifflin, 1996, second edition), p. 109.
Despite the above (and other evidence which could be amassed), there are characteristics in Obama which lead some to type him as a Nine with a One-wing (Nine—“The Peacemaker,” and the One- wing, “The Dreamer.”) We have given this typing long consideration and much debate. We have heard Obama’s statements about bringing people together and healing the nation of racial and religious fractions and the need to build coalitions. We also see his apparently unruffled demeanor, his ability to listen to different points of view, his ability to not react to attacks with anger during the 2008 campaign, and so forth.
But we disagree with a Nine with One-wing typing, and think that a close look at the whole pattern of his personality does not support this interpretation. Obama’s career and extraordinary personal ambition are not consistent with a "laid-back" Nine personality structure. Even though healthy Nines are engaged, aware, and can be energetic, they are usually not as consistently persistent, outwardly-focused, pragmatic, self-aware, and goal-oriented as Obama has been throughout his adult life.
There are many other important points of contrast. For example, the Three’s Social Role is personified in Obama as someone who is "The Best," someone who is intent on becoming outstanding at whatever he attempts. By contrast, the Social Role of the Nine is "Nobody Special," which does not fit Obama at all, given his extraordinary life story and meteoric professional history. In fact, he has been criticized for being arrogant and elitist and having a "messiah complex"—something one would not see in a Nine.
Further, if Obama were a Nine, we would see evidence of movements under stress to Six (self-doubt, anxiety, being dependent on others' counsel rather than trusting his own judgment, inferiority feelings, emotional reactivity, and so forth), which we do not see in his history at all. By contrast, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush are Nines, and they are quite unlike Obama in many different ways; we also can see movements to Six in all of them. If Obama were a Three, however, Enneagram theory predicts that we would see movements toward the healthy side of Six (the Direction of Integration expressed in humble service to others, commitment, and trustworthiness), which we see in Obama. If Obama is a Three, we would also expect to see movements to average Nine (the Direction of Disintegration/stress which we can see in his early disengagement, passivity, and apathy). We will also see a higher movement to Nine toward his “Missing Piece,” discussed below.
Moreover, if Obama were a Nine, there would be moments of average-Level Three traits (or “security point” reactions). His behavior would shift from a Nine's laid-back invisibility and reluctance to step forward (much less to promote himself), to moments of awkwardly seeking others’ validation. Again, we do not see this in Obama, who is graceful, highly poised in public, polished at self- presentation, and knows how and when to project a good natured self-deprecation and self-assured humility.
Nines are in the Instinctive Center and their theme-song, so to speak is “I don’t want to be messed with.” We see stability, resistance, the tendency to downplay problems or the need for change, and a reluctance to take on difficult issues. By contrast, Threes are in the Feeling Center, and their theme-song is “See me the way I want to be seen”—something which much more clearly fits Obama. We see in Threes adaptability, flexibility, pragmatism, charm, and the ability to impress people and to get them on their side. Nines tend to go with their “gut hunches,” and to have little concern with consequences or details; Threes tend to give careful consideration to their actions, to the point of being almost pre-meditated. They are also highly aware of the importance of details and careful management in order to be effective. Threes are masters of compromise, whereas Nines can become willfully stubborn and intransigent.
It is also worth noting that the psychological capacity on which the personality is built is, in Nines, “unselfconsciousness,” whereas in Threes, it is “adaptability.” We suggest that Barack Obama is anything but unselfconscious, and is, in fact, the personification of self-conscious adaptability and pragmatism. Related to this is the observation that Obama seems to be completely self-motivated unlike many successful Nines who live with someone who finds the button in them that turns them “on” and knows when and how to push it. It seems that Michelle Obama has been reluctant to be this deeply into politics and has not been pushing her husband into this arena—Barack Obama has done this for and to himself, dragging her along, so to speak. By contrast, Nines often "fall into" leadership positions, or are or are pushed into leadership positions as figure-heads who can be used by other “background” influences rather than seek the limelight themselves. (For example, Ron Reagan, Jr. said something humorous and telling to the effect that "My father would have been perfectly happy being a game show host if it wasn't for my mother.”) We’d wager that someone (not Laura) was behind G. W. Bush’s run for the Presidency—but that Obama had his own ambitions and is not “fronting” for someone else.)
Another way to clarify someone’s type is to list a series of average qualities of the alternative types in consideration, and recall if the person has behaved consistently in these ways—or to imagine them doing so by extrapolation. (We can dub this “the extrapolation technique.”) For example, in average Nines (Level 5) we see complacency, disengagement, being on “auto- pilot” much of the time, being oblivious and in denial often, unresponsiveness, vagueness in their thinking and flatness to their emotions, stoicism and resistance—among many other traits we could mention. Whereas, in average Threes (Level 5), we see expediency, efficiency, pragmatism, image-consciousness, the tendency to be “rehearsed” to the point of being calculated, coming across as “Mr. Nice Guy,” being intensely goal-oriented, excellent at knowing what is in demand and trying to present themselves as that—among the many other traits we could mention. We think that, without a doubt, Barack Obama does not fit the characteristics of the average Nine, but that he strongly fits the traits of the average Three, at least by extrapolation. We think that Obama is generally more healthy than this (more often Levels 3 and 4) although he regresses to Level 5 occasionally.
Last, and very tellingly: Is Obama is in the Competency Group (One, Three, and Five), or in the Positive Outlook Group (Two, Seven, and Nine)? We think he is clearly a Competency type, and while he seems to be idealistic, he is, at his core, a pragmatist (as Threes are), as we predict time will tell. We also continue to see him as Assertive type (Three, Seven, or Eight), going after and attaining the Presidency in 12 years in public life. The “Nine” elements in his personality have been consciously and unconsciously learned along the way as an effective way to get along with people and be a "Mr. Nice Guy" who does not threaten others, gains their confidence and votes, and makes allies to help him with his political ambitions.
Thus, Obama’s "Nine" qualities can, at base, be explained by the Three’s tendency to want to be pleasing to everyone—to not lose popularity by alienating others. (“John [McCain], I agree with you….”) Threes are diplomatic and polite, even when they are privately preparing to go on the offensive or to say or do something undermining or hostile. They are concerned with “looking good,” and maintaining whatever image they have identified with. In Obama’s case, it is one of a moderate, an idealist, an intellectual, and a reasonable man—all qualities that Threes have in common with average to healthy Nines. To explode at someone or to become openly hostile would be among the last things he would want to do in public. Obama has also been consciously modeling himself after his personal role model, Abraham Lincoln, who was a Nine with a One-wing. This kind of carefully calibrated personal expression is a basic survival skill learned early by most Threes; as Obama says of himself:
“’I had given her a reassuring smile and patted her hand and told her not to worry. I wouldn’t do anything stupid. It was usually an effective tactic; another one of those tricks I had learned: people were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied—they were relieved—such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.’
“It is indeed an effective tactic: you could say that the whole campaign was defined by the motto: ‘No sudden moves.’ And yet how telling that last sentence is for there is a world of difference between being angry and not seeming angry.” (Obama, Dreams from My Father, no page cited, in “The Times,” page 17.)
Obama’s “Nine” qualities can also be explained by his moving toward the Three’s "Missing Piece" at Nine, something we would see only in a healthy, conscious Three. Rather than their finding personal value only in achievement and external success, the healthy Three knows that his value is inherent in his Being, and that he can abide in Being itself (as a very healthy Nine does). In short, highly developed Threes move from “human doings” at Three to “human beings” at Nine (after learning at Six how to connect with and serve other people).
This is the meaning of the
Three's "Missing Piece" which we believe Obama is intuitively learning
especially in moments of ego-
transcendence as seems to happen during some of his momentous speeches. At such times, Obama does not have to do almost anything except to offer himself as a clear channel, a kind of priest calling forth the highest aspirations of the people. As one of the participants on our website’s Discussion Board (“Marie”) beautifully put it:
“I could feel all of this when I heard him speak. The energy came from the crowd. He called it forth and stood out of the way. An old black woman stood next to me weeping and teenagers who didn't even understand the nature of what called to them cheered. He wasn't basking in the limelight...he stood out of the way, and became the greater because of it.
If it were about him...if it was a narcissism expressing itself...I would have known. I would have felt it. The dancing in the streets on November 4th was not about him; even he knew as much. It was written on his face. It was about something much bigger...something that we never could have felt had it been about him...he is but its channel.”
Of course, much more could be said about all of this; however, in short, we feel that Barack Obama has found his value as a human being through becoming an authentic exemplar of the American Dream. He is the personal embodiment of the visions of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., his heroes and role models. Last, it is noteworthy that his main personal message to others has been about "hope," and about helping others to find their own value; in this regard, it is no coincidence that Hope is the Holy Idea for the Three.
7w6, Social Instinct Dominant ("The Enthusiast")
Biden seems to be a high- average Seven, operating around Level 4 for the most part. He brings a lot of energy and exuberance to whatever he does, has a quick wit and a highly developed sense of humor. He is curious, leading him to have wide- ranging interests in foreign affairs and government. Biden is also known as "a talker" and to be overly loquacious on the Senate floor—often to both the amusement and dismay of his Senate colleagues.
Biden has the typically Seven habit of saying what’s on his mind and of not worrying about playing it safe or saying the “politically correct” thing. This has gotten him into some trouble on different occasions, but his Delaware constituents admire him for his honesty and forthrightness because he often says the very things they feel but do not have the platform for saying. Biden is thus an interesting mix of the Social Seven with the Social Six (Everyman—we could even dub him "Joe the Senator"—which endears him to his constituents).
On the other hand, Biden’s very verbosity and tendency toward techno-speak often leaves his listeners baffled and bewildered by what he is saying: too much information can be overwhelming, and is an indication of the Seven’s tendency to talk too much, go off on tangents, and get into areas that he may or may not know enough about (as we will also see in another Seven, Sarah Palin, below). Being more selective in his comments and having a clear sense of priorities in the things he speaks about and does will likely be a problem for him as a Seven in the Vice-President’s office, as it has been during his Senate career.
The Six-wing also shows up in his history as a loyal family man. He lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident two weeks after winning his Senate seat, but committed himself to raising his remaining two sons, even with an hour and a half commute from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC. Unlike a lower functioning (Level 5 or 6) Seven, Biden did not avoid his responsibilities when his personal life got difficult, but found his own honor and integrity by remaining committed to his family and being focused on his work as a Senator.
8w9, Social Instinct Dominant ("The
McCain comes across as grounded, stable, and secure with himself. His campaign bus was called the “Straight-Talkin’ Express” and the personal quality he most often emphasized throughout his career is that he is a "Maverick.” (“Straight talking” and “maverick” are two key words that we have independently used for many years to describe the average Eight.) McCain is also a well-known risk- taker, someone who loves to test his mettle by taking on the thrill of danger, going against the rules, and pulling victory from the jaws of disaster.
“Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John’s life, says John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. Taking a chance, playing against the odds….McCain’s campaign, like his life, has been marked by its embrace of living dangerously and by clear runs of fortune and disappointment….McCain’s passion for gambling and taking other risks has never been a secret....He was a Navy flyer, trained in the art of controlled crash landings on aircraft carriers. He spent his youth sneaking booze behind the backs of his schoolmasters and reveling in his stack of demerits. He came of age on shore leave in the casinos of Monte Carlo, in a Navy culture that had long embraced dice in the officers’ clubs.” (Time magazine online, Election ’08: “Candidates Vices: Craps and Poker” by Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf.)
McCain also demonstrated a strong will and the determination to resist control and defeat by his captors during the Vietnam War; he survived captivity and torture as a POW—indications that he is a fighter, a physical and emotional survivor, and probably courageous enough to be considered a bona fide war hero. Throughout his political career, McCain has demonstrated a high level of courage, personal honor, and respect for others—along with toughness, the ability to be decisive and to wield power, and to go against popular opinion in pursuit of what he thinks is right—all qualities of the high-average Eight.
The theme of honor is important for all Eights, and unfortunately, McCain’s honor was tarnished during the campaign when he frequently misrepresented Obama (and allowed others on his staff to do so as well). However, McCain's concession speech on November 4th showed real strength of character and magnanimity of spirit—hallmarks of the healthy Eight, which he once again has embodied after the rough and tumble of the election was over. (As many have noted, had he been able to communicate these qualities throughout the campaign, he might well have won.)
The Nine-wing (“The Bear”) makes McCain more willing to be conciliatory and work across the aisle, and to communicate with an easy-going affability and warmth. Contrary to some Enneagrammers, we don’t think that McCain is a counterphobic Six—even with counterphobia, there would still be a palpable undercurrent of anxiety which affects this subtype's ability to make quick decisions, to trust one’s actions, and to be relaxed and at ease. McCain is simply not coming from fear but from perhaps an excess of self-confidence in his ability to survive against the odds, as he has done many times in the past. Further, McCain is clearly not a "head type" (Six) but a "gut type" (Eight)—one piece of evidence for this is his impulsive and short-sighted choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President. This is a good example of McCain's tendency to go with his "gut instincts" rather than carefully and methodically thinking through his options—something Obama tellingly pointed out by calling McCain "erratic under pressure."
7w8, Sexual Instinct Dominant ("The
Palin is an example of an average Seven who gets herself into trouble by talking about things she does not know about and then attempting to change the subject, or by trying to talk her way out of her missteps. In short, like average Sevens, she can be too talkative and unfortunately, and during the campaign, she kept putting her foot in her mouth. Like many Sevens, she is also unpredictable, perhaps one of the reasons why the press gives her so much attention since they never know what she will say next.
We see Palin as someone who is funny, perky, and sassy—a fast-learner, and who has a lot of self-confidence. She is also energetic, ambitious, and is not afraid to speak her mind, even when she is ill-informed. However, like other average Sevens, she also tends to be superficial and glib, attempting to “wing it” with answers to reporters, even when she has been briefed by her staff. Two noteworthy examples: Palin said of Russia that “They’re our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” While true, this is not a credible basis for claiming to have international relations experience, as she seemed doing. The other similar fracas had to do with the false allegation that she did not know that Africa was a continent, not a country. This false accusation was started by Martin Eisenstadt, allegedly a McCain supporter who goes on to say:
“Did we outright give her a geography quiz when we started the prep? No, of course not. But yes, in the context of the prep, it slowly became apparent that her grasp of basic geo-political knowledge had major gaps. Could she have passed a multiple choice test about South Africa or NAFTA. Probably. But it was clear that she simply didn’t have the ease of knowledge that we come to expect from a major party political candidate. Other slights came up, too: Not knowing the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas. Or the difference between the Shiites and Sunni. Or when it came to international terrorist organizations, knowing that the IRA was in Northern Ireland, and ETA in Spain.” (from Eisenstadt’s website: www.Eisenstadtgroup.com/2008/11/10.)
Despite these shortcomings, Palin brought a certain upbeat energy to the political scene and to McCain's campaign. One of the political commentators said that Palin was the “energizer bunny” of the Republican Party, which is close to the Social Role that we have assigned for many years to the average Seven (“The Energizer”).
Palin is also aggressive and dislikes being without options. On a Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC), Palin said that she prays to God to show her a little crack in the door and then she will push right through. Palin is always looking for an opening to push her way into new opportunities for herself, for the excitement of the new, as well as to further her own personal ambition. Palin is all about action and movement, although often impulsively so. She also seems to be interested in using power to influence society with her religious and political agendas and to have little compunction about using her political position to punish her political enemies (for example, as in the Trooper Gate and other scandals as Alaska governor.) These attitudes and behaviors can be attributed to her Eight-wing, which is a personality component that she and John McCain share.
A few overall comments:
1) Differences in Obama /McCain Campaigns
In Obama’s campaign, his advisors often told him to fight back and that he was being too cool. This difference between the two candidates was graphically illustrated on a Newsweek magazine cover: “Mr. Hot vs. Mr. Cool,”.(October 6, 2008) This is a very apt distinction between an Eight and a Three.... Throughout the campaign, McCain, an Eight in the Intensity Harmonic Group (a triadic grouping discovered by us), followed his gut instincts and was accused of being erratic and impulsive, even choosing Palin after only one telephone interview. By contrast, Obama, a Three, in the Competency Harmonic Group—he is rational, shrewd, and thinks things through, even to the point of potentially being overly rational and premeditated. As long as Obama stays healthy and close to his personal ideals, he will actually embody and foster the values he talks about, the very thing that McCain failed to do (and which may have cost him the election).
2) Both McCain and Obama called for "Change."
As a Three and an Eight, both Obama and McCain are in the Assertive Hornevian Group (another triadic grouping taught by us). Assertives are always interested in making change happen; it is therefore not surprising that both would be advocating "change," which would not likely be the case if Obama were a Nine and McCain a Six—two of the most psychologically conservative types of the Enneagram. Further, it is noteworthy that all four of the major candidates are Assertives—Three (Obama), Seven (Biden and Palin), and Eight (McCain). In this Group, the Three is most outwardly restrained in his or her personal assertion—the style is more about personal ambition, not willful self-assertion, and the quest for personal excellence, especially when the person is healthy.
3) Anyone who is successful in politics, particularly in national politics, would do well to have a high Social Instinct.
Everyone in this group of 2008 Candidates is Social Instinct Dominant, except Sarah Palin, who is Sexual Instinct Dominant. In our opinion, those politicians who are not Social Instinct Dominant will have a hard time in the national political arena. For example, Adelai Stephenson, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and many others who were not Social Instinct Dominant had difficulty connecting with the electorate or dealing with the press. They also found the act of campaigning itself to be especially draining—this in distinction to Ronald Reagan, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Gerald Ford, and FDR, among others, who are all Social Instinct Dominant and who seem to be energized by the act of campaigning itself.
4) It’s interesting to note that both V-P running mates are Sevens(Biden and Palin).
For better or worse, both Obama and McCain unconsciously chose Sevens as their VP running mates. Sevens can make good spokespersons for the main candidate, as well as bring energy, new ideas, humor, curiosity, and candor, among other qualities depending on their Level, Instinct, wing, and life experience. The downside is that Sevens tend to be impulsive and may be too candidly outspoken for their high- visibility position.
We speculate that Obama may have chosen Biden because he intuited that he needed someone with more experience and who has a lighter spirit than he has. Obama is inspiring, but is often too professorial and serious—Biden is funny, a story- teller, folksy, and can reach the common person. On the other hand, McCain may have intuited that he needed someone strong like him, but who is also younger, a "fresher face" who can make his "straight talking" seem conservative and statesmanlike by comparison. Also, because of his age, McCain may have felt that he needed someone who could energize younger people and women, attracting the Hillary Clinton votes.
As noted at the beginning of this piece, this kind of analysis could go into much more detail. Understanding the personality types of candidates for public office is of extreme importance to voters. Likewise, understanding the personality types of foreign leaders is of extreme importance to President-Elect Obama, and in this, the Enneagram can play an important role. Using the Enneagram to understand the personality structures, particularly of anyone in power, is one of its most important and legitimate practical uses.
- —Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson with input from Katy Taylor, Joyce Stenstrom, and Jessica Dibb
- The Enneagram Institute
- January 12, 2009
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