Friday, October 31, 2008

Politics: John McCain and Type

PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA - Over the course of the campaign, his opponents have attempted to paint John McCain as an unstable individual. From a personality theory perspective, most of the ammunition has come from the apparent reality that John McCain comes from a different "world" than that of generic US culture, which is in the "emotional" world. John McCain appears to be a "physical" type, more specifically a "heart" type, and that seems to explain much of his behavior.

"Physical"-world types in general are known for having a duality between love and anger--more often than not, they will be exhibiting one or the other emotion. Obviously, in a contest, love for one's opponent would not be preferred, so too often anger rises to the surface. Many observers felt that McCain seemed angry throughout the campaign, especially during the first two debates. This would not be surprising for someone from the physical world.

The grace of the specific "heart" type of John McCain is that they flip between love and anger quite easily, at a rate that can seem disconcerting to other types. This would explain why McCain could go between condemning Obama to cautioning his audience that Obama is a respectable man during the same speech, and why he can bounce back from intense exchanges with a smile on his face.

Many consider the selection of a vice-presidential running mate to be the first real insight gained into how a candidate will make decisions. By making a last-minute decision in favor of Sarah Palin, McCain demonstrated a classic trait of the "physical" world, that of living in the present as opposed to the past or the future. As often happens when "physcials" make such decisions, this decision proves to have been great for the moment when he needed to energize the base, but not so great for the long-term future, in which Palin has come to be regarded as a drag on the ticket.

The next big decision for which McCain has been questioned was the suspension of his campaign during the financial crisis. Again, this can be explained by the perspective of the "physical" world. The physical world is fundamentally about power and control, so while the most extreme control freaks are at the other end of the world amongst the "lung" types, even the "hearts" like to demonstrate that they can exert control over the situation. Unfortunately for McCain, the "emotional"-type electorate was more interested in how they felt about the situation than whether McCain seemed in control, so the tactic instead fed the stereotype of instability.

Interestingly, though, McCain has not succumbed to the classic flaw of a "heart" type--the flip-flop. Because they can change their emotions so rapidly, they can change their political positions quite rapidly as well. In contrast, McCain has stuck to his positions more than his opponent, who is not a "heart" type.

The "heart" personality is generally regarded as the "classic politician" personality for that same reason. Healthy hearts are willing to adjust their positions to match the position of majority of the population more easily than other types and in that sense best represent the public. However, if John McCain is defeated next Tuesday, he would become the second straight "heart" to lose a presidential election--John Kerry was a heart as well.

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