Published on January 3, 2008
Coming full circle: Politics as decision making: Coming full circle: Politics as decision making Politics: The inclusive process by which decisions are made relating to government. How do actors make decisions?: How do actors make decisions? Rationality Worldviews Personality Systemic pressures Interest groups Leaders make decisions: Leaders make decisions Presidents are at the top There are dynamics within elite decision-making groups that influence choices The president himself (herself?!) Presidential Character: Presidential Character Who the president is at a given time can make a profound difference in the whole thrust and direction of national politics. Since we have only one president at a time, we can never prove this by comparison, but even the most superficial speculation confirms the commonsense view that the man himself weighs heavily among other historical factors. Character helps predict behavior: Character helps predict behavior First, a president’s personality is an important shaper of his presidential behavior on nontrivial matters. Second, presidential personality is patterned. His character, world view, and style fit together in a dynamic package understandable in psychological terms. Character: Character Third, a president’s personality interacts with the power situation he faces and the national "climate of expectations” dominant at the time he serves. The tuning, the resonance-or lack of it-between these external factors and his personality sets in motion the dynamics of his presidency. Fourth, the best way to predict a president’s character, world view, and style is to see how they were put together in the first place. That happened in early life, culminating in his first independent political success. Style and World View: Style and World View Style is the president's habitual way of performing his three political roles: rhetoric, personal relations, and homework. A president's world view consists of his primary, politically relevant beliefs, particularly his conceptions of social causality, human nature, and the central moral conflicts of the time. Character: Character Character is the way the president orients himself toward life-not for the moment, but enduringly. Character is the person's stance as he confronts experience. James David Barber: James David Barber The total character of the person who occupies the White House that is the determinant of presidential performance. This method of analysis is difficult to do and open to interpretation Barber has 4 classifications of character. Active-Passive dimension: Active-Passive dimension The first baseline in defining presidential types is activity-passivity. How much energy does the man invest in his presidency? Lyndon Johnson went at his day like a human cyclone, coming to rest long after the sun went down. Calvin Coolidge often slept eleven hours a night and still needed a nap in the middle of the day. In between the presidents array themselves on the high or low side of the activity line. Positive-Negative: Positive-Negative The second baseline is positive-negative effect toward one's activity-this is, how he feels about what he does. Relatively speaking, does he seem to experience his political life as happy or sad, enjoyable or discouraging, positive or negative in its main effect? This feeling here is not grim satisfaction in a job well done, not some philosophical conclusion. The idea is this: is he someone who, on the surfaces we can see, gives forth the feeling that he has fun in political life? Active-Positive: Active-Positive There is a congruence, a consistency, between much activity and the enjoyment of it, indicating relatively high self-esteem and relative success in relating to the environment. The man shows an orientation toward productiveness as a value and an ability to use his styles flexibly, adaptively, suiting the dance to the music. He sees himself as developing over time toward relatively well defined personal goals and growing toward his image of himself as he might yet be. There is an emphasis on rational mastery, on using the brain to move the feet. Active-Positive Presidents: Active-Positive Presidents Washington Jefferson Lincoln T. Roosevelt? FDR Truman Kennedy Ford Active-Negative Presidents: Active-Negative Presidents The contradiction here is between relatively intense effort and relatively low emotional reward for that effort. The activity has a compulsive quality, as if the man were trying to make up for something or to escape from anxiety into hard work. He seems ambitious, striving upward, power-seeking. Active-Negative cont’d: Active-Negative cont’d His stance toward the environment is aggressive and he has a persistent problem in managing his aggressive feelings. His self-image is vague and discontinuous. Life is a hard struggle to achieve and hold power, hampered by the condemnations of a perfectionistic conscience. Active-negative types pour energy into the political system, but it is an energy distorted from within. Active-Negative presidents: Active-Negative presidents John Adams Lincoln Wilson LBJ Nixon Carter Passive-Positive Presidents: Passive-Positive Presidents This is the receptive, compliant, other-directed character whose life is a search for affection as a reward for being agreeable and cooperative rather than personally assertive. The contradiction is between low self-esteem (on grounds of being unlovable, unattractive) and a superficial optimism. A hopeful attitude helps dispel doubt and elicits encouragement from others. Passive-positive types help soften the harsh edges of politics. Passive-Positive Presidents: Passive-Positive Presidents James Madison Harding Reagan Passive-Negative: Passive-Negative Why is someone who does little in politics and enjoys it less there at all? The answer lies in the passive-negative's character-rooted orientation toward doing dutiful service; this compensates for low self-esteem based on a sense of uselessness. Passive-negative types are in politics because they think they ought to be. They may be well adapted to certain nonpolitical roles, but they lack the experience and flexibility to perform effectively as political leaders. Their tendency is to withdraw, to escape from the conflict and uncertainty of politics by emphasizing vague principles (especially prohibitions) and procedural arrangements. Where do Bill Clinton and George W. Bush fit?: Where do Bill Clinton and George W. Bush fit?