Shrinking O

Justin Frank: The Psychological Foundation Of Obama’s Political Problems | The New Republic

[D]issociation is at the core of some his greatest political strengths. It helped him become intellectually nimble, and acutely alert to his surroundings. It’s only by adapting this kind of psychic position his entire life that Obama was able to easily joke at the White House Correspondents Dinner while knowing there was an active mission underway to kill Osama bin Laden.

But assuming this perpetually peripheral role has also taken a lasting toll. The anxiety of not belonging has grown to occupy an ever-greater part of his psyche. He writes in Dreams From My Father that when, as an adult, he was walking through the most dangerous parts of Chicago late at night, the greatest fear he had was the fear of not belonging. But now there is a new tension, between his need to belong and the demands of standing up for what he believes.  The former is driven by his related fears of not belonging and being abandoned; the latter carries the risk of alienating others irrevocably. 

In material reality, his concern with alienating conservatives is wholly unproductive: it is unlikely that he can be more hated by the Tea Party than he already is. Nonetheless, he continues to relentlessly pursue compromises with Republicans that will never happen. Indeed, so concerned is he with his own degree of belonging that he jeopardizes the sympathies of those who actually have felt a natural and authentic connection to him. Whatever other political and personal advantages it confers, Obama’s observational caution doesn’t give jobless participants in “Occupy Wall Street” or Wisconsin’s striking public employees the sense that he is concerned. 

Again, it’s not that the President lacks passionate emotions. Indeed, given the onslaught of personal provocations doled out by his political competitors, his stores of rage are sure to be filling up. But the question of what will happen with that anger will likely be closely bound with his reelection campaign in 2012. Previously, he has found an outlet for aggression on the campaign trail: The only times he has felt comfortable being truly rhetorically confrontational are when he’s standing behind a teleprompter or a podium and before a cheering audience.

There are hints of this campaign persona in the unusually blunt talk coming from the president recently, as when he warned that there “will be no easy exit ramps” for Congress as it tries to escape painful spending cuts. But it remains to be seen whether this is merely a temporary ventilation of Candidate Obama, or a more lasting change in the psychology of the President.


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    • Don’t know what’s funny about it. However, the link on W was interesting. I had never heard the story about the coat-hanger branding hijinx before. It would fit with the drug abuse, too, and makes you wonder about Laura Bush, , and the psychic economy of their relationship.

  1. Actually, Dr. Frank couldn’t be more accurate. He’s stating the obvious, really, with his point about O being so different in front of a crowd and his explanation for it standing out as the one notably illuminating insight. I can’t imagine what Bob finds “dissociative” about his statements. They couldn’t be more connected to the reality we have all witnessed. It always surprises me when the otherwise thoughtful and intelligent Bob suddenly comes up with something so bizarre. Really, Bob, what’s there to even disagree with about this article, much less refer to as dissociative? It’s basically what every mental health professional I know says about O, and I’m sure it’s what most psychologists in the country think.

  2. Sometimes the good doc, just makes things up, that was from his fraternity days if I recall, and he imbibed a fair amount, then at age 40, he turned his life around, by focusing on a higher power, the last is the real scandal.

    • I’ll play CK here. Miggs, what is made up? He backs up all of his ideas with clear references to Obama’s own writing. What more substantiation is needed. Yes, he could be wrong. He’s not but he could be. Yes, he may be a born again recovering drunk ex-frat-boy like W. But he’s clearly not just making things up. I’ll just make something up. I feel like the guy in Poltergeist when he goes over to the next door neighbor’s house to ask the guy if he’s seen any ghost. The neighbor comes to the door and right when he does, there’s a mosquito attack. The guy decides to ask his neighbor about the mosquitos just to break the ice but the neighbor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s never noticed the mosquitos. So the guy realizes it’s hopeless. The real issue is the ghosts but his neighbor is so blind to reality that they can’t even discuss mosquitos. How are they ever going to discuss ghosts when the neighbor doesn’t even recognize the bugs? But here, there’s a twist. You see bugs everywhere. We can’t get to the ghost issue because you’re seeing bugs everywhere and that’s made it impossible to discuss ghosts. Now, I just made that up. You see the difference?

      • You should click on Miggs’ link to Frank on George W and his Dick. That’s what the Don is referring to regarding frat days.

        The mosquitos v ghosts thing is very good. Did you really just make that up? Or did you make up making it up?

        • I made up making it up. The scene is real. I’ll do the click but I knew that was what Miggs was referencing. That’s fine. But as you always point out, it would be nice if Miggs would point out what he thinks is made up in the actual posted piece.

          • Huh – that really happened in the movie? I remember that a critical theorist professor type friend-mentor of mine was a fan of that film. I saw it once a million years ago and was more impressed with its historical sub-text – the suburban development built on Indian burial grounds, the occupants driven to distraction/destruction.

        • I remember the jokes about Ferraro being Mondale’s “bush,” but for some reason the Dick-Bush pairing never hit me before. I recall also that Clinton-Gore was a popular duo for gay fantasies. There’s probably a book, or at least a blog post, well maybe just a blog comment, to be written about the Butch-Femme dynamic among “running mates.” I think on the surface Obama is anima and Biden animus, but it could be one of those relationships in which the roles turn out to be the opposite of appearances.

          • I agree that O and B roles might reverse in private. Kind of like the Calamity Jane (I think) and the Brothel Owner lesbian relationship in Deadwood. Remember? They reversed roles in private really brilliantly.
            The Dr. Frank video was great. Thanks for the encouragement. Miggs should note that he backs his statement up, telling us he got the info from a news paper and didn’t just make it up. Granted, the Bush is cruel, Cheney is mean idea is more out-there than what he wrote about O. But even that idea is not dissociative. He connects it to the reality we all experience, with indisputable aspects to the point like Bush being a frat-boy. He was. We all know that. He didn’t make that up. Did he make up the hanger branding thing? It could be researched and I’ll be he’s not lying about it being in the paper. This would be the kind of thing worth betting on. I would say to Bob and Miggs; “I’ll bet we can find the branding article in the paper. Let’s put a 100 bucks on it and the loser has to admit that it proves that Frank either dissociates or he doesn’t. It wouldn’t really be proof, but that wouldn’t be the point. In fact, I bet neither Bob nor Miggs would take the wager.

            • If you do a Google search of “george bush coat hanger branding yale,” you’ll turn up plenty of references, including a thoughtful article from a classmate of Bush’s on the atmosphere at Yale in those days, that mentions the branding ritual at Bush’s fraternity. The more effective defense would be not that “Bush didn’t do it,” but that it was “normal.” However, the fact that a certain kind of sadism and dissociative reaction to it was “normal” for a certain group of young men doesn’t rob it of psychoanalytical significance, especially when joined to specific testimony from the individual being examined. The point isn’t to indict Bush, but to understand Bushism. It should go without saying that man millions of people either identified with or were in some way attracted to whatever he was or is.

  3. He drank a fair amount, which wasn’t atypical of men of that age, the drug allegation, came from a convicted Attempted bomber named James Hatfield, who ultimately killed himself, but his slanders are displayed in most libraries, The spanish edition of his book, ‘Nero of the 21st Century, features commentaries by Saramago among others

    • W essentially confessed, Don Miguel. It was one of the most famous pre-emptive confessions ever. Anyway, Frank doesn’t go into the drug thing, or the drinking. You’re the one who provided the video. Take another look at it. Drugs and drink aren’t in it, and Bush’s “what’s the big deal?” reaction has nothing to do with them either.

  4. I provided the Frank video, to show how generally without insight he is, I bring up Hatfield, because it illustrates the depths to which the media will float a certain ‘meme’ I could have added Pete Singer, who thinks infants but not animals should die, as
    a judge of his mindset.

  5. “Psychoanalying” from newpaper articles what could go wrong?

    For starters there’s Frank’s own anysis of the limitations of his approach.

    The limitations, however, of doing it without knowing the person personally is that I don’t get to use a firsthand relationship with the patient, which is really essential to a good psychoanalysis. Also, I don’t get to use my own counter-transference directly, meaning my feelings towards the patient that get evoked throughout the time of the sessions. I was concerned that I had built in antipathy towards President Bush that I worried would make it much harder for me to do a balanced psychoanalytic approach to him. So I was worried about being a prisoner of my counter-transference, if you will.

    This actually shows some insight.

    At any rate, I object to Frank’s sloppy and self serving (or not being able to use his coutertranference directly) use of the term “disassociation”. This can have a wide range of meaning, from daydreaming to the fugue state. But it sure sounds real scientific. And real insightful. And according to what the reader thinks Frank means by the term, maybe really really bad.

    Ths is junk sicience.

    • Had no suspicion you’d stand up as a defender of psychoanalytical science.

      Since I’m agnostic about the idea of psychoanalysis as “medical science,” I’m not bothered much by someone using psychoanalytical frameworks in political contexts. The objective here isn’t an individual diagnosis with a view to cure or therapy, but an articulation of one or another very public individual’s psychological profile in relation to a political (social and historical) context.

      The idea of “the return of the repressed” is or was important in psychoanalysis, but the mechanism or idea pre-existed psychoanalysis, and when we apply it to social-historical events we’re not practicing “junk science,” we’re making a “testable” argument about how the world works. That the concept may have been appropriated by psychoanalysts doesn’t mean we can’t think about it any longer. Meanwhile, psychoanalysis isn’t particle physics: If I say I’m applying a psychoanalytical precept, I don’t expect anyone to treat my argument with much greater credibility than if I I say I’m pulling it out of my… study of medieval theology. The typical methods and language of psychoanalysis offer ways of talking about Bush’s cruetly, Obama’s coolness, and comparing them to our understandings to Bush and Obama as public personalities, that may or may not yield interesting insights. Those insights will have to stand on their own, not because they come with a “psychoanalysis-certified” stamp.

      One of my favorite analyses of this type – I may have mentioned it here before – is THE MIND OF STALIN. The author makes several arguments justifying the use of psychoanalysis, including the idea that the history of a state under a totalitarian dictator is by definition a personal history. You could argue more generally, and perhaps in relation to this question of “counter-transference,” any public figure comes into contact with each of us through his or her public action, including every aspect of that figure’s self-presentation. Every analytical result may be affected by the difference between that mode of contact and so-called “direct personal contact” in a therapeutic setting, but it still is a mode of contact involving human personalities, with an inescapable psychological dimension.

      • Ithought I might be unclear on this point. I don’t mean to defend psychoanalysis, I regard especailly the orthodox Freudian variety pretty discredited, havng little predicative power and having theraputic power maybe over the course of a lifetime when so many other factors are at work.

        I objsect to Frank’s sloppiness or bad faith in his chosen discipline. That is to say, if one were to accept his “science”, then it still is the case that his practice of it is not up to snuff. He is wrapping himself in the cloak of science, and this article is such a poor example of his field that I didn’t even get to my problems with the field.

        So I can agree with your broader point and object to his medical/scienific stance.

        Years ago I subscribed to the Journal of Psychohistory. While I enjoyed the articles and found them thought proviking, I found the approach unstaisfying, If you’re not familiar with it, the website is worth checking out

        • Love the psychohistory graphic:

          But I’m constitutionally incapable of taking such a poorly designed web site very seriously. It looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1995 or so. Really, he could at least bring it up to ca. 2000 web design standards.

      • He does make certain assumption, not least of which that Lenin was interested in liberating Russia,

        books.google.com/books?id=fyADXOXVF9cC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=Rancour-Laferriere&source=bl&ots=O6V-Zj3frY&sig=ZohaX7dkImxxI5ZD0cyWlAZOXRM&hl=en&ei=bubXTs24OabCsQKr2qSQDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=12&ved=0CGgQ6AEwCw#v=onepage&q&f=false

    • That’s a much more reasonable point, Bob. Your ego keeps you from just retracting an overstated accusation, but I appreciate the fact that you pretty much admit that since Dr. Frank gives factual backup for his statements that even if he’s wrong he obviously wasn’t dissociating. He was neither daydreaming nor speaking from a fugue state, or anything in between those extremes. I disagree with you still, but now you’re at least stating an opinion about the validity of his statements from a scientific perspective. You’re opinion is your opinion and I will refrain from “psychoanalying” your misspelling of the word psychoanalyzing from a Freudian perspective not because I don’t consider it junk science but because it’s just too easy from a Sphinxter perspective.

        • Again, I’ll play CK here and ask you to state specifically what you disagree with about Frank’s analysis of Obama. I realize you think there’s a problem because he doesn’t really know Obama and that his science is junk, but please humor me if you can and point out what you think he’s actually wrong about specifically.

  6. Well the fact remains that we’re 24 comments into this thread, and neither bob nor Don Miguel has actually addressed a particular argument of Frank’s and explained why it’s invalid or unpersuasive.

    Frank uses pscyhoanalytical language to explain, or to frame, a familiar problem in Obama’s presidency. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Shelby Steele’s simplistic claims about two types of African American public profiles, Obama supposedly falling into the Uncle Tom/Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan rather than Malcolm X/Al Sharpton/Tupac mode, but I don’t see Frank trapping himself like Steele did when he predicted that Obama couldn’t “win.”

    It turns out that Steele might have been right in a deeper sense than he realized at the time: Obama obviously could win the presidency, but maybe his presidency couldn’t be experienced as a “victory.” The same coolness that made him acceptable to the centrist element of his coalition, and that seemed like a positive and desirable characteristic during the onset of crisis (“no-drama Obama” vs unstable McCain picking Palin or suspending his campaign) produces certain identifiable political limitations and deficiencies. Frank argues that Obama’s public conduct has deep psychological sources – that Obama doesn’t just come across as but really is a cool character doomed to seek acceptance from his enemies rather than victory over them, and to leave his authentic friends dissatisfied, even while storing up a supply of rage that he will have to do something with.

    You can reach similar conclusions by other means – for instance by an appeal to political realism and history, as from the esteemed analyst Chris Rock :

    There’s a f——— art to the first term because you’re always running for a second term the whole time. It’s like Clinton’s first term. You can’t really do your gangsta sh— until your second term. … Even Bush couldn’t really f—- up the world until his second term. That’s when he put the hammer down… I’m like everybody, I want more action. But I understand that he’s trying not to piss off a lot of people. But I believe wholeheartedly if he’s back in, he’s going to do some gangsta sh—

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/67980.html#ixzz1f78A3DvB

    It’s an interesting question to me, as I was getting at the other day, whether Obama is even capable of acting as an effective partisan or ideological warrior if that’s what the ripening situation, a chronic rather than acute crisis, calls for. Is he, as the common phrase goes, playing multi-dimensional chess in the big progressive v conservative game of games, or is he really a pushover, or is he really a neoliberal lackey from the Party of Wall Street, or is he some peculiar combination of all of those summoned forth by our contradictory political situation… Frank may not tell us where it’s going, but I think he helps define the psychological or even tragic dimension of the ongoing, not yet resolved public drama.

    • Right. I would further the point by making it even clearer that Frank disagrees with CR and does a good job of explaining why he believes Obama is not capable of any gangster shit even in a second term. And we will probably see that reality play out so at the end of Obama’s second term, everyone remember this thread. Frank will be proven right.

      • Frank leaves himself an out with the rage issue. To dissolve the public-private dichotomy: It could be that the situation makes accomodationism impossible – forcing Obama to become the raging Kenyan socialist of Miggs’ nightmares and Rock’s dreams. Put differently: In a true crisis, the only accomodation would be conflict, peace would be war, disintegration and integration would become the same thing, going-along would be the same as fighting-to-the-death, and so on.

        Now it could be that Obama himself couldn’t adapt to that extent. If so, then we’d have to invent a successor.

        • It’s true that Frank leaves himself an out. He’s a smart guy who realizes that what plays out with people is complex. But I think you might have tried to be sneaky here. Jumping from Rock’s dreams to “In a true crisis, the only accommodation would be conflict” is a leap that maybe you’re just trying to slip in here. Nice try.

        • Again, it’s not that the President lacks passionate emotions. Indeed, given the onslaught of personal provocations doled out by his political competitors, his stores of rage are sure to be filling up. But the question of what will happen with that anger will likely be closely bound with his reelection campaign in 2012. Previously, he has found an outlet for aggression on the campaign trail: The only times he has felt comfortable being truly rhetorically confrontational are when he’s standing behind a teleprompter or a podium and before a cheering audience.

          Stores of rage sure to be filling up….based on people hae been mean to him and what else could he feel? Now that we’ve so compellingly established the rage thing, what will he do with it???? And the telepromter thng, if that’s not revealingI don’t knowwhat is.

          My personal measure of the man is basedon inchoate imressions and I don’t defend them as anythingmore. But Frank’s are nobetter,and worse for the cloak of authority.

          • bob: based on people hae been mean to him and what else could he feel

            Based on everything that Frank’s audience – New Republic readers and people like us – have observed at least since “I hope he fails.” That it’s a commonplace observation, or a version of it – that Obama has tried everything to placate or work with the opposition, and has met a brick wall of opposition arguably unprecedented in American governance – doesn’t make it an insignificant one. Obama seems to have opted for confrontation – either because he needed to set a predicate, and has now done so, or because it’s the only path open to him, or both – but how high he turns up the heat may depend on numerous other factors, including his own ability to withstand it.

            • The critical part ofmy statement is “whatelse could he feel”. Rage is not the only response open to him. He may be full of rage, I don’t know, but neither does Frank. Maybe Oprah has taught O some equaniminty practice based on her own wonderfulness.

              • Frank explicitly takes the psychoanalytical position that rage is a given. So maybe I misstated his premise. The argument would be that, In addition to to building up Obama’s supply of repressed rage, the Republican opposition has given Obama multiple opportunities to vent against them that he has, at least until perhaps recently, he has consistently turned down in favor of getting what he could quietly and non-confrontationally, and that, regardless of what was objectively possible or advisable, it has resulted in a loss of sympathy or connection between Obama and his base. Others would say that he missed another great opportunity: Some significant portion of the rage that went on to fuel the Tea Party should, some believe, have belonged to and been exploited by his side. The angry masses needed scapegoats and enemies, and, since he failed to give them any, he and his allies took their place.

                All that Frank brings – and to my mind all that he claims to bring – to the table is that Obama’s psychological profile suited him to precisely this role. So, to repeat the argument in a different form, if he doesn’t “accomodate” the rage of his own base by expressing, channeling, embodying it, then he must become the object of it and eventually be consumed by it. This could happen anyway. He may not be able to accommodate the rage or the contradiction adequately, or his base may not be powerful enough compared to the other side.

          • My wife and I have an agreement that when one of us asks the other for a clarification of why we feel a certain way, and the other person complies, then that has to be respected. If it’s not, we say, “Asked and answered.” I asked Bob to clarify his position. He has done so. It’s not easy but I’m going to recognize the “Asked and Answered” reality.

  7. I think Frank misses the point, Obama had his father walk out on him, then he was whisked over half way around the world,
    to Indonesia, to another complex relationship, so he was more personally alienated. when he returned to the states, he came under the influence of Frank Marshall Davis, who channeled his personal discontent into a more explicitly political one, Chapman at Occidental, Edward Said completed that pattern, not to mention, Ogletree, Bell and Tribe at Harvard Law.

  8. The fear that the center can not hold is a good one and saying that Obama cant oppose those of the worst of us that are full of passion doesn’t follow.

    Frank is babbling and trying to determine the actions of the public figure from an analysis (sans sufficient contact) of the person….

    They’re not the identical person. Official Obama is not an individual

    • Dead wrong. You’re playing both ends against the not holding center there, Frog. What doesn’t follow is that psychoanalysis can only work with personal, “sufficient” contact. It’s actually the reverse. When a therapist sees someone cold off the street and can only work with what the client presents in session, it’s very difficult to determine how they would act out in public. It’s easy to determine what’s happening psychoanalytically when you get to see how a person behaves in such a wide variety of situations and you get to read all of his books and know so much about his history from other peoples’ perspectives. The idea that we’re incapable of reading someone publically in a way that gives us insight into who they are is itself dissociative and once again lacking in creativity. You’re a creative being, Frog, but you do your absolute damndest to deny how insightful humans can be. And, yes, I’m dragging up the Cornel W thing again. He’s a “gasbag.” Frank’s “babbling.” Anyone who speaks through inspiration and creative instinct is a problem for you. It’s threatening. You’re threatened easily because you have an internal voice that is disapproving. I can know that even though I’ve never met you. But I’m probably just babbling.

      • Scott, my experiences with psychoanalysts are quite limited……

        my girlfriend was having a problem long time back and decided to go to one. I went with her, sat in the waiting room in the eighth floor of this really nice building and as we were riding down the elevator, she told me that the guy agreed that she needed help and he would help her if she came twice a week.

        I go back with her on Thursday and decide to hang around outside for the hour, glorious spring day and all.
        and she comes out after only about 10 minutes, with an expression on her face I’ve not seen before or ever.
        The analyst had jumped out the window to his death the same day she had first seen him.

        I spent a lot of time wondering if the guy was really really insightful and really empathic
        or not.

        • That’s horrible. Unfortunately, it is true that a lot of mental health professionals are very troubled. It makes sense, actually, because troubled people get interested in mental health on a personal level and then pursue it on a business level. Same thing happens with yoga. Lots of yoga teachers are really troubled. Again, it follows because they took up yoga to help themselves out, got good at it, and then became teachers. Their intensions are good, but they don’t really have any business being yoga teachers because even though they’re a lot better off than they were before taking up yoga, they’re still troubled. It’s an age old issue, though. People who have experienced trauma understand the experience directly and can work with people as therapists or yoga teachers because they can relate to the problems clients and students have. People who have not been traumatized are healthier. They don’t generally jump out of windows.

          • In psychotherapy, the combination of the training and ongoing “supervision” issuppossed to mange the negtive aspects. But I think changes to both the economics and culture of the field is making such supervision somewhat rare.

          • Scott Miller: People who have not been traumatized are healthier.

            Who hasn’t been traumatized? Speaking loosely here – i.e., with a non-technical definition of “trauma” – psychoanalysis begins with the assumption that everyone is born into trauma. According to some, birth itself is the first and central trauma, and all of life amounts to an incomplete convalescence further impaired (and extended) by a series of fundamental frustrations.

            Of course, it’s in the interest of psychoanalysts and therapists in general to envision as large a market for psychotherapy as possible, and it’s usually comforting for the insulted and injured to imagine they’re not alone, but that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong.

            • There’s trauma and then there’s trauma. Rape, molestation, witnessing murders, etc. are things not everyone experiences and there’s degrees of those trauma-traumas too. My bet is that the therapist who leapt out the window had experienced more than the trauma of birth–way more.

              • Scott Miller: My bet is that the therapist who leapt out the window had experienced more than the trauma of birth–way more.

                Among those who emphasize the centrality of the birth trauma, none of those other horrors can compare, by definition. The theory posits birth as the one, unique, absolute shock, the infinitely painful separation from the pre-experiential experience that we spend our entire lives vainly seeking to re-capture or duplicate. The regression to infancy expressed by victims of torture or extreme injury – grown men crying out for their mothers (which really occurs) – is taken as evidence for this theory. The only step beyond crying out for your mom, is simply to become a desperate, helpless being who doesn’t even know how to distinguish himself from his agony, and simply wails and wails until one or another autonomic need (to breathe, to sleep, to feed) asserts itself in place of a consciousness that otherwise is only fear, rage, and pain.

                • I think that birth is as variable as death. I agree that it is a huge deal. So is death. That’s why they both matter so much from a spiritual perspective. But I think both things can be equally radiant and beautiful for some people. The Buddha’s death was supposed to have been amazingly glorious. Then his mom died and do think that trauma affected everything after that. Some Buddhists believe it caused him to be relatively misogynistic for a realized being. His death wasn’t so great. We all know about Jesus’ death. I still believe some are radiant and beautiful. I witnessed my father’s passing and it was more than peaceful. It gave me a tremendous amount of hope.

              • So the therapist may have lost the ability to repress the pain, became too sensitive to it – like a human version of those instruments said to hear the echo of the big bang – although it fits within this idea, which amounts to an ontology, to describe all existence, all “noise,” as an echo of the big bang.

                Similarly – perhaps identically – the whole of the individual human life, from the point of view of the individual human being the same as the entire universe, would likewise amount to an echo which on closer examination eventually becomes indistinguishable from the original sound, in a sense never leaves the moment of the birth trauma.

                • There’s a strange beauty to that picture. Maybe we agree really, and are saying the same thing because in that way, trauma is itself beautiful. I think that’s fair in connection with your description. It would only be relevant however to births and deaths that are a natural reflection of the big bang. Trauma without extra traumatization. Peaceful trauma.

  9. What doesn’t follow is that psychoanalysis can only work with personal, “sufficient” contact. It’s actually the reverse. When a therapist sees someone cold off the street and can only work with what the client presents in session, it’s very difficult to determine how they would act out in public.

    ‘President Obama” is an artificial person and not the same os the natural person barack Obama….the actions and perceived emotions of the President are crafted by several people.

    • Even assuming the strong “artificial person” perspective wouldn’t necessarily make a psychoanalytical approach invalid, even if it presumes the possibility of a “social psychoanalysis.” That artificial person would still be created by natural people for natural people.

      • The examples I’ve seen, certainly the Frank piece, do noteven attempt to acknowledge the “group known as x individual”. Do you have an examples in mind of the approach you describe?

        At the other end of the spectrum, certainly there is a tradition of psychoanalyzing whole nations or cultures. My favorite example of this is Reich’s “Mass Psychology of Fascism”. The Nazi’s were especailly ripe for this approach.

        But I can’t think of any examples between the poles of specific individual and entire nations.

        • bob: Do you have an examples in mind of the approach you describe?

          that approach would be known as “political analysis”.

          and that tradition of analyzing whole cultures was found to be …..not good….. it lead to unsavory regimes taking power in Europe and a couple of other places…..and has been moved out of philosophy and sent to the anthropology department.

          • Ithink the explicitly psychoanalytic approach would be specific form of political analysis that I wondering even exists in the form Colin is suggesting ie psychoanalyzing the Pres persona as crafted by several people.

            Analyzing whole cultures is aliveandwell Ithink altho I’m not vouching for the results. Islamophobia and American exceptionalism come tomind. In a PA vein, the characterizatonof the Reps as the daddy party and the Dems as the mommy partycome to mind.

        • Well, you might begin by taking Frank’s article, and inserting the word “artificial construct” before every mention of Obama, and seeing how it affected the argument. Without actually performing that operation, I’d assume that the key points of divergence would be wherever an actual decision was said to be based on the intrinsic needs of the artificial personality, rather than the intentions of the designers. But the designers would themselves be psychoanalyzable. If there is a such thing as a valid psychoanalysis, then sooner or later you’d hit valid psychic paydirt.

          But I originally defined the issue as I see it as follows: “The objective here isn’t an individual diagnosis with a view to cure or therapy, but an articulation of one or another very public individual’s psychological profile in relation to a political (social and historical) context.”

          It might turn out that shared psychic needs and assumptions among the theoretical “constructors” and the “audience” were sufficient to sustain the exercise – all the more so if we assume that there isn’t some cabal of perfect image-makers and behavior-programmers behind the Obamaton, but instead a vast collective process one of whose moments is the individual Obama in relation to the whole, another the primary Obama artificers in relation to a perceived audience, and so on.

          And it might turn out that the frog is right, and that all “political analysis” already consists of “social psychological analysis.” What would make it “psychoanalytical” would be the successful application of psychoanalytical frameworks and methods to the social subject.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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