Editorial Comments -
Laurie Hutzler, a convert to Catholicism, is a writer and a consultant who helps writers, filmmakers and the television programming creators around the world. The drama of the 2008 US presidential elections continue to dominate the news coverage over the past weeks. So, we thought it would be fun to introduce an article she wrote that describes the difference in the personalities of two of the main characters invilved in this primetime spectacle.
The American Election Drama:
Two Character Types Contending for U.S. President
By Laurie H. Hutzler
A candidate’s Character Type determines how he or she believes the world works and how the candidate defines his or her role in the world as a leader. Clinton and Obama each have a unique and contradictory philosophy.
Nine Character Type analysis works because it is drawn from real life and real people, and from how people actually clash in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. For example--
Although candidates may try to massage their message based on polls and trends, a character’s fundamental understanding of the world and leadership does not change. If you look at how a candidate frames the issues, what slogan the candidate picks and the major themes in a candidate’s speeches, his or her Character Type becomes clear.
No Character Type is inherently good or bad, an excellent leader or a poor one; but each is profoundly different from the others. Each sees different challenges, opportunities and threats and each views the world and his or her role as a leader from a unique perspective.
First we’ll take a snapshot view and then look at each candidate in more depth.
Political Slogans and Keywords
As a Character Log Line
Barack Obama: “I’m asking you to believe.” The words Obama and others use to describe his campaign are: hope, inspiration, unity, belief and common ground. When he is criticized, his opponents often use words like naïve, inexperienced, fairytale or dreamer.
These keywords are used to describe or deride a Power of Imagination character.
Hilary Clinton: “Ready for change. Ready to lead.” The words Clinton and others use to describe her campaign are: best choice, experienced, tough, knowledgeable and backbone. When she is criticized her opponents often use words like: steely, strident, scowling, dull and uncompromising.
These are keywords used to describe or deride a Power of Conscience character.
Let’s take a deeper look at each Democratic candidate and their respective Character Types.
Power of Imagination
Barack Obama’s big dramatic moments this month were the size of his unexpected victory in the Iowa Caucuses and his inspiring victory speech, which many compared to John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King at their best. Click here to watch the YouTube video of his speech.
Power of Imagination characters see deep internal connections that others don’t see. These characters believe they have a big message or urgent call to inspire belief in others. They want others to embrace the unity and common good that they so clearly see. The power of this character’s idea, message or dream gathers others (who would seem to have nothing in common) in a common quest. Examples of well known fictional Power of Imagination characters are: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.
David Brooks writes about Obama’s ability to bring people together in his January 8, 2008 Op Ed piece in The New York Times: “Out of (Obama’s) perceptiveness comes a distinct way of seeing the world. Obama emphasizes the connections between people, the networks and the webs of influence. These sorts of links are invisible to some of his rivals, but Obama is a communitarian. He believes you can only make profound political changes if you first change the spirit of the community. In his speeches, he says that if one person stands up, then another will stand up and another and another and you’ll get a nation standing up.”
The Power of Imagination philosophy might be stated as: “We all must be inspired to work for the elevation of the whole.” Or, more succinctly: “All for one. One for all.” Leadership, for these characters, is building consensus, seeking reconciliation and facilitating harmony and unity. They lead by empowering others.
David Brooks writes about this quality in the same Op Ed piece: “The key word in any Obama speech is “you.” Other politicians talk about what they will do if elected. Obama talks about what you can do if you join together. Like a community organizer on a national scale, he is trying to move people beyond their cynicism, make them believe in themselves, mobilize their common energies.”
Barack Obama, expressed this philosophy it his victory speech in Iowa:
“They said this country was too divided; too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose…
For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope… Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it…”
Power of Imagination characters can seem innocent, naive and somewhat child-like in their approach to leadership. Hillary Clinton, a Character Type who sees the world and leadership very differently, has criticized Obama for exactly those traits.
Bill Clinton, speaking on behalf of his wife last week, criticized Barack Obama by saying "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.”
Power of Conscience
Hillary Clinton’s big dramatic moment this month was her teary vulnerability before the New Hampshire primary election. This moment was responsible, some say, for her close victory over Barack Obama. Click here for the YouTube video of this vulnerable moment contrasted with her strength in earlier debates.
Here’s what a teary Hillary had to say: "It's not easy. It's not easy. I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do… I just don't want to see us fall backwards. You know, some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds, and we do it, each one of us, because we care about our country… But some of us are right, and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready, and some of us are not."
Power of Conscience characters are not natural facilitators or consensus builders. They believe more deeply in absolutes-- there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. They believe that leadership is earned by hard work, thorough preparation and devotion to duty. Leadership must be deserved. One must be worthy in order to lead. Examples of well known fictional Power of Conscience characters are: Erin Brockovich and Norma Rae.
These characters want to be the best person they can be. Diligence and responsibility are their highest values. In doing good, they also want to better the lot of others and improve the world around them. These Character Types believe that the way to lead is to correct, improve or reform individuals and society.
Hilary Clinton is a polarizing figure in politics precisely because of her strong sense of right and wrong, and her seeming view that: “It’s my way or the highway.” (Meaning: I have the correct answers and if you don’t do it my way you are wrong and need to just get out of my way.)
Power of Conscience characters have great difficulty taking a step back, relaxing and laughing at themselves or showing their vulnerability. As a result, they can be perceived as strident, uptight and severe. The break in that façade is what made Clinton’s moment of vulnerability such a powerful image. And that emotional break was played over and over on all the major news channels. That moment, what she said and how it was perceived define her as a Power of Conscience character.
Maureen Dowd, writing in a January 9, 2008 Op Ed piece in The New York Times, said: “There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one… What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her.“
Here’s how Hillary put it later in the emotional interview: ““Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act.” This is a character that believes in forceful browbeating and arm-twisting for what is good and what is right (which was what LBJ did to pass that legislation). Power of Conscience characters would rather be effective than well-liked.
All week the Clintons had been complaining about the “unfairness” of the press coverage of Obama. This frustration toward others for not seeing how much more prepared, worthy, experienced and deserving Hillary is as a candidate, is a typical complaint of the thwarted Power of Conscience character.
Imagination and Conscience in Conflict
Power of Conscience characters depend on rousing moral outrage to prevail. Hilary Clinton seems to have done that in New Hampshire, particularly among older women, who may have felt the male candidates were “ganging up on her.” Pollsters and pundits also cited a humiliating moment during a recent debate when Clinton was asked why she is unlikeable. Older women seemed to change their votes at the last moment to support Clinton, after her outburst. According to Brian Hartman writing for ABC News, “Among older women, it was no contest. Women over the age of 65 supported Clinton by a huge margin— 57 percent to Obama's 27 percent.” Moral outrage divides good from bad and right from wrong. It is fueled by a sense of injustice and unfairness. If voters get angry that should favor Hillary Clinton.
Power of Imagination characters prevail by riding a wave of rising common feeling and desire for unity. These characters depend on something (or some “Force”) bigger than themselves to carry them to victory. They try to find areas where people who are divided can agree and they unite people by building bridges and finding common ground. If the desire for national reconciliation is strong enough, that should work in Barack Obama’s favor.
Two Very Different Choices
The value you see in each approach and each style of leadership depends on your Character Type. Do you believe leaders should be inspiring or pragmatic? Is change most effective when it occurs from the bottom-up (grass roots organizing and community building) or the top down (laws and programs from leaders making changes they deem right for the country)? Is this campaign about the changes we all make or the changes a leader can make? It all depends on how you see the world.
It’s too bad this election isn’t a romantic comedy. Passionate sparks would fly as the dreamy inspired man meets the pragmatic take-charge woman. In a comedy, they would exchange gifts and two imperfect halves would come together to make a more perfect whole!
Laurie H. Hutzler
Laurie Hutzler is a writer and a consultant who helps writers, filmmakers and the television programming creators around the world Get to the Heart of the Story® Visit her website at www.emotionaltoolbox.com or contact her with any questions or comments. firstname.lastname@example.org