Obama’s “conciliatory” personality

A quick follow-up to my previous post from earlier this week. Congressional Democrats are outraged about the tax cut deal that President Obama brokered with Congressional Republicans. Obama’s liberal base also feels betrayed. According to the chatter on the liberal blogosphere, they feel that they voted for someone who would fight for them, not someone who would cave to Republican “hostage-taking”. They’re also perplexed that Obama seems so willing and eager to cut a deal instead of taking an ideological stand on principle, even if that means that there is some “collateral damage”.

Psychologist Aubrey Immelman at St. John’s University studies the personalities of political leaders and published this in October 2008, one month before Obama was even elected:

Obama is the only high-level leader I’ve studied — foreign or domestic — who can truly be called a conciliator. That’s nice, but we live in a dangerous world and accommodating leaders have a tendency to be conflict-averse. For voters, the key question should not so much be whether Obama has the right stuff to move the nation in the right direction, but whether he has what it takes to prevail in the dog-eat-dog world of … politics. Accommodating personalities like Obama have a strong need to reconcile differences and are able to concede when necessary. … On the other side of the coin, cordiality and compromise characterize accommodating leaders; they are respectful and gracious, even with adversaries and people that they don’t like very much.

The field of political psychology has much to offer to the world of practical politics, especially in predicting how a person will act once elected to office. It seems that President Obama’s actions are fairly predictable given his personality. Thus, his liberal base should not be overly surprised when he puts a priority on negotiation and compromise.

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