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US Presidential Elections from an Enneagram Perspective

As some of you know, I have a keen interest in politics, something instilled at an early age by my family. Growing up, our garage was the local polling venue, and I stayed up late into the night observing the process. Democrats (my parents and others) and Republicans (all neighbors and friends) worked side-by-side to make sure every registered voter who showed up had their votes count and were tabulated in a transparent way (these were the days of hand tallies). This process was even more important to them than whether or not their side won. Our neighbors were friends before the elections, treated one another with dignity for their differing views, and remained respectful once the results were final.

As a result, I follow elections closely and with the Enneagram as a framework, I think I understand them even better. Because identifying another’s type is always speculative, my educated guess is that Obama is a social subtype 9 and that Mitt Romney is a 3 (I used to think a self-preserving 3, but after the election came to completion, I now think he is more a social subtype 3). I can give my reasons for each guess, but that would make this a very long blog, and there are other areas I want to cover. I prefer to act as if my speculation is accurate and proceed from there.

Much has been made of Romney’s shifting positions – for example, who was the real Romney? Where did he really stand on health care? Was he really a centrist Republican or more to the right of center? Did he really mean what he said about not caring about the 47% of Americans? What were his positions? How could he come back so strongly at the first presidential debate

However, if he is a 3, it all makes sense. He may or may not have had personal beliefs and strong positions on a number of topics, but his need to win (and to not lose or fail) had him vacate himself in chameleon-like form and be whoever he thought he needed to be at that moment. With right-to-lifers, he was that person. With neo-cons (neo-conservatives who believe is a militaristic show of strength in foreign policy), he became that person. With affluent donors who wanted to hear how they had earned their money and so anyone who wasn’t wealthy must be a drag on American society, he professed that. His problem became the communication environment in which we all live. Nothing is private anymore, everything is shared and available, and adjusting one’s persona to the group at hand no longer creates success. People saw, heard and worried about who he really was. But on the other hand, the performer in Romney allowed him to muster up every ounce of self-confidence he had and to go full throttle in a controlled way at the first debate. He even looked, to some, presidential, and for the first time during this overly prolonged process.

Much has been made on Obama’s performance at the first presidential debate. Why was he looking down instead of looking at his opponent? Why did he seem so passive or low energy when he needed to be more assertive and challenging? How could he make such a strong comeback in the second and third debates?

If Obama is a 9, his reaction makes perfect sense. In the world of 9s, direct conflict is avoided, people are not rude to one another, and their anger is of the slow burn variety. I think Obama was taken by surprise by (1) Romney’s tacking to the political center, (2) his (as a 9 would perceive it) aggressive interpersonal stance, and (3) the lack of nuance, context or full veracity of Romney’s accusations. In short, I think Obama got thrown off his personal center and he was furious about what Romney was saying (as in it was just not true) as well as how he was saying it (as in dismissive and aggressive). The looking down and writing of notes was, in my opinion, simply a way to not feel his own anger and even more, to suppress its public expression.

By the second and third debates, Obama was no longer going to be surprised by anything and was going to be prepared for everything. More important, Obama was not only in touch with his anger, he was deeply connected with the power of focused anger. And so, there Obama was, in full command of himself and the stage.

Much has also been made about why Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, was so appreciative and effusive in his praise of Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that ensued. Those supporting Obama perceived it as Obama simply doing his job and Christie’s simply showing gratitude. Some of those supporting Romney perceived Christie’s behavior as more devious – for example, Christie’s wanting to run for US president in 2016 and, therefore, throwing his tacit support toward an Obama victory so the Republican candidate slot would be available since Romney had not won in 2012. For most people (except for the unidimensional professional political class), their minds and hearts were on those suffering from the storm.

Here’s what I think occurred. I do think that Chris Christie is an enneatype 8, full of bigness, bravado, energy, truthfulness, with a big dose of needing to protect those for whom they feel responsible. Welcome the unwelcome hurricane Sandy, decimating New Jersey among another areas, and making Christie have to take charge of something almost impossible to control. Add to that he had not slept for three straight days, and Obama comes to scope the scene, support Christie and offer not only federal resources but also emotional support. All of this was done without Obama grandstanding or taking the stage away from the victims, the rescue workers, or from Christie. According to Christie, Obama never once mentioned politics or the election to him. And something special happened between them when they discussed and surveyed the situation from the presidential helicopter. Exactly what happened is not known, but photos of the two men show a connection or resonance that defies the fact that Christie was one of Romney’s most vociferous supporters.

Here’s my guess about what was occurring with Christie. He found in Obama someone who was strong enough to have his back in a time of terrible duress, who held no grudges in a time of need, and who took care of business in real time (apparently, Obama was giving non-negotiable directives to various Washington DC agencies while riding in the limo with Christie). Man to man, person-to-person, Christie received what most 8s long for and rarely receive. The people I know who know Obama say that he has a quiet and still strength that is awesome in person.

I don’t think Christie won the election for Obama, but I do think their odd-couple relationship set the stage for more humanness, fewer vendettas, and more collaboration in Washington. This is, at least, my hope.

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Martin Snapp
9 years ago

Fascinating and very perceptive.

9 years ago

Excellent analysis. Spot on.

9 years ago

So engaging. Marina

9 years ago

Excellent one

9 years ago

Great analysis. Thank you.

9 years ago

Great Analysis.

Ann Graham
Ann Graham
3 years ago

Studying enneagram in a Sunday School class. Love your breakdown of what happened between Obama and Christie. I believe spot on

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