Archetypes / Contemporary / History / Recent Events

Archetypes of the presidential debate 2012 part I

This US presidential election is a (no-) choice between two similar masks  for the future of America: One for mirage of an European pipe dream state run by the Great Mother Archetype (like cruel Kali).  But Obama actually  backed off March 2009 when he had some power over the banks and did not touch Wall Street ever since. After that the financial empire became unstoppable and started to attack Europe on its weakest link (Greece) and used subsequently the crisis they induced themselves to take over positions in Europe – essentially taking over Europe.

The other choice is a more open-ended King Archetype  of entitlement due to personal virtues (or more likely personal wealth) who likes to fire people:

The Vice Presidents debate left the impression – if not if a father son conflict – at least between an old cynical and a fresh (likable) Hero. The media too likes this sensationalism and the neck on neck horse race at 48%.

Both President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney come with years of history, political and otherwise. One has a history of good rhetoric, and cool if not arrogant attitude. The other has a long history of deception, and ruthless business practices. One event – the media would like us to think it was the first debate – created myth and archetypes. Even the VP debate was influenced by it. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s workout photos were shot late last year, but Time delayed their release to achieve maximum embarrassment: It published them online just hours before the vice presidential debate, to discredit the young Hero (and make him look foolish).



There is a long tradition of using archetypical images of male candidates—in most presidential races, the only kind—to illustrate their faults. Think of John Edwards fixing his hair, Michael Dukakis grinning from his perch on a tank,



John Kerry windsurfing, and Nixon strolling down the beach in a pair of wingtips.

These photos gained traction because they conformed with the electorate’s unconcisous idea of who these guys were: Edwards was all ego, Dukakis was a softie, Kerry was effete, and Nixon was the kind of unnatural creepy. And the Time photo shoot squares with Ryan’s vision of himself as Wisconsin’s own superhero, living at the peak of emotional and physical control. All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes,” Jung wrote in his book The Structure of the Psyche. “This is particularly true of religious ideas”, but the central concepts of politics, science, philosophy, and ethics are no exception to this rule.

Interested in the US election, I asked myself what are the archetypes used in the American election debate. Especially for the election debates pictures seem to be important, because they have a distinct advantage over the language effects: images transport more quickly archetypes than words – although they do – think of “Yes we can” of the last election. A further key stimulus is the (cross/specific) cultural body language, for which every human being has a genetically or by learning established. C.G. Jung drew up a picture of layers from personal unconscious to collective unconscious. He thinks that in all cultures, at all times and everyone was influenced from the collective unconscious expressed by those archetypes e.g. King. Warrior, Magician, The Great Mother, The Temptress, The Hero, Lover, Serpent, Dragon and many more, manifested by symbols. Those symbols are, according to Jung pictorial or gestural manifestations of archetypes.

These symbols often find themselves in fairy tales, whereof politics is one of them. Jung says psychology was not necessary in the past because all cultures had their rituals and symbols to integrate these archetypes in the conscious living. That seems to be true for Religion, where psychoanalytic sessions replaced the confession. Many psychological problems exist only since there is the psychology before some religions ditched their symbols. However, rituals, the use of symbols, and the experience of the churches were not forgotten by the politics (and the politicians). Jung said also, that totalitarian systems want to replace and also ask for (and receive) religious worship. That was certainly true for Hitler, Mao, and Stalin not to speak of the Roman Caesars or Egyptian Pharos. I believe we move in this direction again also in the secular and so-called democratic states, especially at time of crisis. In today’s debate the Christian Division of good and evil and the symbol of fallen angel Lucifer symbolize the secession of evil from the good. We unconsciously lived this perception. A related feature of archetypes is that, while they shape our perceptions and behaviour, we only become conscious of them indirectly, as they are manifest in particular instances. It is rather like Schopenhauer and Kant’s notion of the inaccessibility of the “thing-in-itself”, upon which Jung drew: you can’t experience archetypes directly but only when they are manifested in symbols and images. Religious believers relate to the archetype of the wise man via the images available to them in their culture (given, for the sake of argument, that wisdom is what Jesus or the Buddha represent).

But what does this mean? Look of the disastrous readings Obama got from the – traditional left leaning – media after the first election debate, almost a image of the fallen angel Lucifer crossed my mind. We often even do not understand why we reacted this way, and we feel guilty even if we are aware of it. At the case of presidential debates, what we see is an image but of the following plot we unaware. In history stories arise and figures emerge which made or broke the bid of presidency. One should interpret this flood of images and, it’s about experience the unconscious and not to interpret, because the unconscious is not fully open to rational analysis, logic, or form in otherwise. The most important task is to understand the dualism of good or evil in us. With other words we have to differentiate between Ego and Persona and recognize our Shadow and our Animus/Anima.How far you might want to follow Jung along this path is up to personal (i.e. cultural) experience. The shadow is a useful concept to many, as that side of our character which is often buried and sometimes, suddenly emerges. The notion of the animus and the anima, say, evident in Taoism.

Seen from Europe, now what is the difference of the two presidential Egos in psychological terms after removing the mask? Answer, Nil.   Mitt Romney ran hard and successfully to the centre, and the president’s pathetic overall performance in the debate mirrored his economic performance the last four years.The same pathetic motivation speeches, but this time with bad bottom line economic figures on Obama’s watch. I have to admit, I liked the rhetoric four years ago, but it has become stale. The magic authority, his wisdom and magical transformation mantra (Yes we can) was not there anymore. Mitt Romney won the debate because he actually at least gave a convincingly impression, that he understands the issues and knows how he’s going to tackle them, not just presenting some empty rhetoric like Obama. Substance won over form, for a change. President Øbama was smart enough not to touch Wall Street the last four years, instead he left his US voters on dire street and supported the neo-con agenda in Europe to get better numbers at home  In foreign affairs, we will see. There Obama has not more to show, than his (correct) drone and terrorism strategy (i.e. Osama Bin Laden). That is not little, but in Europe and the Middle East he did not well and China does not take US (fiscal) policy serious anymore, working on plan B.

This election is, as has been said, a (no-) choice between two similar masks (Persona) who both hide  by a plutocracy of wealth and corporate power; underway for 4 years by President Empty Chair or incoming President Cooperate Raider. Both  means that government would no longer serve the interests of the community but collaborate with their clients to establish a separate set of laws that entitle them to preferential treatment while creating barriers to competition by eliminating opportunities for others.

The King seemed more centrist and plausible at the debate is because he crafted an exceptionally smart and pointed attack against the President’s record, and that stood in stark contrast to the lame deceptions of the Great Mother’s 30-second ads, sound bites and false and mischievous spin if the opposition intention. Mitt played actually quite reasonable and sophisticated the King’s role. For many Americans – including in my family – it was the first time they got a good impression of Mitt, and we will see if he can continue to ride on the white horse as the election approaches. Paul Ryan comes across young and authentic – not a superhero. He has potential. President Øbama was not helpful – if present at all – in Europe’s crises, Mitt could only be improvement but than he needs a steep foreign policy learning curve.

Note October 16, 2012 – to be continued With no podium to hide behind in Tuesday’s debate, the candidates’ style and body language will be in the spotlight. In the shadow always wins the bank.