Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption
Routledge – 2011 – 388 pages
Every new president raises many questions in the public mind. Because Barack Obama was a relative newcomer to the national political scene, he raised more questions than most. Would he prove to be a pragmatic centrist or would his politics of hope ultimately flounder on the rocky shoals of America’s deep political divisions? What of his leadership style? How would the uncommonly calm character he demonstrated on the campaign trail shape Obama’s political style as commander-in-chief?
Based on extensive biographical, psychological, and political research and analysis, noted political psychologist Stanley Renshon follows Obama’s presidency through the first two years. 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 been fueled by a desire for redemption—his own, that of his parents, and ultimately for the country he now leads, which has enormous consequences for his choices as president of a politically divided America.
"This is a brilliant portrait of Barak Obama. Renshon combines psychology and political analysis in a way that we see the man and president as the same. The political context is sketched and we see how Obama, the person and the politician, is bent on redemption for his parents, for himself, and for the nation. The personal theme of redemption is joined with politics as Obama sees himself as a ‘transformational’ leader. This caused him to misjudge the 2008 election as a call for reform when it was not, and led to overreaching by the president and disenchanted public responses. The question now is whether Obama will be able to adapt to a divided politics to win reelection."
—Erwin C. Hargrove, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
"Barack Obama and the Politics of Redemption is rich in political and psychological insights. Stanley Renshon offers the politics of redemption as a crucial key to Obama’s ideals and performance conveying an exciting new understanding of Obama. His insights into Obama’s personal and political complexity, his ‘Rorschach style’ of ambiguity which allowed people to project their wishes on him, make a compelling read that is a must for any modern American."
—Peter Loewenberg, Professor of History Emeritus, UCLA and Dean Emeritus of the Los Angles Psychoanalytic Institute
"Professor Renshon’s provocative analysis of Barack Obama’s personality and early presidential performance is to be recommended to anyone who wants to take the measure of ‘no drama Obama.’ All future Obama biographers should consult it."
—Fred I. Greenstein, Princeton University
"As he did for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Stanley Renshon has now shed important new light on the personal presidency of Barack Obama. Noting that Obama’s life story is more a part of his presidency than was true for Clinton or Bush, Renshon probes the links between his psychology and personal development and his leadership style and policy choices. The result is the clearest explanation yet of a man and a president who remains an enigma to many."
—Bruce Buchanan, The University of Texas at Austin
"Stanley Renshon, the noted presidential psychobiographer, educated in political science and trained in psychoanalysis, is a one man interdisciplinary team. Through rigorous research combined with psychoanalytic inference, Renshon has systematically explored Obama’s journey in pursuit of a consolidated identity, and has taken us beneath the cool, cerebral surface to illuminate the sources of the passionate ambition that has propelled the meteoric career of the 44th president. Renshon's analysis will richly reward readers seeking to understand 'the Rorschach President.'"
—Jerrold Post, M.D., George Washington University
"As with his profiles of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Stanley Renshon offers a psychological analysis of Barack Obama. Featured is a crisp framework—a structure of redemption ordering an unstructured early life. The reader is invited to test the utility of Renshon’s well-researched synopsis as the Obama presidency continues to unfold, thus justifying this early inquiry. Students at all levels will relish the workout. A bonus is a welcome methodological appendix for analyzing Obama’s presidency."
—Charles O. Jones, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison and former president of the American Political Science Association
PART I: FOUNDATIONS 1: The Early Obama Presidency: From Campaigning to Governing 2: The Puzzle of Obama’s Political Identity 3: The Arc of Ambition and the Development of a Style PART II: UNDERSTANDING THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY 4: Obama’s Presidential Leadership: Transformation and Redemption 5: The Moral Thrust of Obama’s Ambition: Fairness 6: The Question of Leadership Integrity 7: Ambition’s Confidence 8: A Zen-like President’s Emotional Undercurrents 9: Psychology in the White House PART III: THE FUTURE OF THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY 10: Transformation’s Demise and the Redemption of the Obama Presidency Appendix A: Analyzing Barack Obama: A Note on Theory, Method, Evidence and Inference Appendix B: A Mysterious President: Puzzlement from the Left, Right and Center
Stanley A. Renshon is a Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York, Herbert Lehman College and the Graduate School and University Center. He is the author of over 100 articles and sixteen books and is a certified psychoanalyst.