Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption

Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption

Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption

Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption


Every new president raises many questions. Because Barack Obama is a relative newcomer to the national political scene, he possibly raises more than most. Will he be a pragmatic centrist or will his politics of hope ultimately flounder on the rocky shoals of America's deep political divisions? What of his leadership style? How will the uncommonly calm character demonstrated on the campaign trail take shape in Obama's political style as commander-in-chief? Obama takes office with extraordinarily high expectations and a palpable hunger in the American psyche for a new national direction. Inflated expectations, however, are often a recipe for disappointment. Based on extensive biographical, psychological, and political research and analysis, noted political psychologist Stanley Renshon follows Obama's presidency through the first year. He digs into the question of who is the real Obama and assesses the advantages and limitations that he brings to the presidency. These questions cannot be answered without recourse to psychological analysis. And they cannot be answered without psychological knowledge of presidential leadership and the presidency itself. Renshon explains that Obama's ambition has an undercurrent in its developmental history of the fear of failure that has enormous consequences for his choices as president of an America that remains politically divided.


This analysis of Barack Obama is the third in a series of psychologically framed analyses of a sitting president, each of which began with both a psychological and political question. The first, High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency and the Politics of Ambition, took as a fact that this president had almost always been able to rescue himself from the brink of disaster, but asked why he so frequently found himself in that position. The political question was how this very smart and loquacious president would be able to bridge the gap between his own liberal instincts and a public that had grown increasingly skeptical of large-scale government solutions to pressing social problems.

The second book, In His Father’s Shadow: The Transformations of George W. Bush, began with the question of how this man, who woke up with a hangover on his fortieth birthday and had a history of more effort than success found a way to become both a successful adult and a president in a relatively short period of time. The political question that originally animated that analysis—how would a rightcenter president try to bridge the same governing divide that Bill Clinton faced, soon gave way to the question of how he would respond to the unprecedented national security implications of the 9/11 attacks.

Barack Obama and his presidency present their own unique questions. The political question that frames this analysis is whether Mr. Obama can succeed in his quest to be a transforming president, one whose accomplishments reframe, redirect and then consolidate major policy departures, as he did in passing historic health care legislation and hopes to do with energy production and consumption, economic distributions, and foreign policy without further damaging the increasingly frayed fabric of American social capital and political community.

David Broder may well have been almost right on target when he wrote more than a year into the Obama Presidency that . . .

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