From Subhuti’s desk: Enneagram of Famous People – Trump vs Biden.
So, the deed is done. The voters have spoken. Donald Trump is out of a job. The furore will continue for a while, but barring a spectacular political or legal backflip, Joe Biden will be sworn in as America’s new president.
Biden’s supporters, obviously, are pleased with the outcome, but still I have to scratch my head and ask the 77-year-old Democratic candidate, “Joe, how come you made it so hard?” Because it should have been a stroll, a breeze, a shoo-in. After four years of reckless presidential tweeting, Trump had alienated so many sectors of American society that if a charismatic Democratic candidate like JFK, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama had gone head-to-head with Trump it might have turned into a landslide Democrat victory.
Yet Biden made the task of removing him look nail-bitingly difficult.
The election dragged on, making us all sweat as both contestants predicted victory, with razor-thin majorities in a few key states eventually turning the tide in Biden’s favour. How come? To find answers, I invite you to look at Trump and Biden through the window of the Enneagram.
Straight away, I’ll say that, as I view them, Trump is tagged as an obvious Eight and Biden as a less recognizable Nine.
Now, I must confess, with embarrassment, that during the vote counting, as I kept checking the Trump vs Biden scoreboard, I found myself wondering, “Which of these two guys would I trust to stand beside me in a gunfight?”
I could hardly believe that I was allowing myself to consider such an all-American cultural cliché. But it showed me something: Visualizing the scene at high noon, on the hot, dusty main street of some old Western town, I could easily feel Trump’s energy and strength as a support. He might end up shooting a few innocent bystanders as well the bad guys, but he wouldn’t back down.
On the other hand, I couldn’t feel Biden’s presence beside me. I could see him as an influential fixer who might smoothly broker a backroom deal to avoid the showdown – no mean feat in itself – but I couldn’t see him taking the long walk down main street with me to face our foes.
This gave me a clue to Trump’s appeal to his white male supporters and also to those male African Americans and Latinos who chose to ignore his ethnic insults and voted for him. As several American newspapers have pointed out, Trump’s tough guy image won cross-racial appeal because it reflected the so-called “honour culture” found in poor, working class communities – especially among immigrants – where men are expected to project an image of individual strength. According to the “code of the street” a man must never back down or let even the slightest insult pass unchallenged. To do so would be regarded as weakness.
In a poll taken as they left the voting booths, people were asked to identify the quality they considered most important in a president. About 32 percent answered “a strong leader” and in this group 71 percent voted for Trump. The figure was even higher among male Latinos, rising to 81 percent, and their collective macho attitude proved crucial in delivering the state of Florida to Trump.
I must admit, when I saw the Sunshine State go red, I thought Trump had won.
“Whoever wins Florida wins the presidency,” I commented to a friend, recalling Al Gore’s narrow and highly contentious defeat in Florida that gave the 2000 election contest to his rival, George W. Bush. But on this occasion, twenty years later, I was proved wrong. Americans who looked for other qualities in their president, especially “good judgment” and ability to “unite the country” voted for Biden and in the end this proved decisive.
In the nebulous world of the Enneagram, where arguments over typing are common, few people would disagree that Trump is an Eight, commonly known as “The Boss.”
Indeed, his much-quoted personal recipe for meeting life’s challenges reads like a definition of the type:
“It’s all about strength. Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied. There is no choice.”
As we are now seeing, this self-image can create difficulties, especially when the Eight seems to have lost the battle. To extract from Trump’s lips the words “I concede the election to Joe Biden” is almost like pulling teeth – worse in fact. It is exactly what Eights have fought all their lives to avoid: a public admission of defeat.
As for Mr Biden and his type, I have read on several Enneagram sites that he is tagged as a Seven. I beg to differ. He’s not flamboyant enough, not irreverent enough and not narcissistic enough to qualify as the so-called “Epicure.”
For me, it’s significant to note that, even though Biden has on many occasions articulated what he stands for in political life, I can’t recall any of it. Why? Because he doesn’t embody it.
When I reach out to him, so to speak, I can’t touch him. The man has no substance, which to me feels like a Nine who has numbed his own inner voice and therefore cannot stand with conviction behind his own words. This may be the reason why, early in the race for the Democratic nomination, a couple of media commentators started referring to him as “Sleepy Joe.” They urged Biden to wake up and ignite his campaign before Bernie Sanders grabbed the nomination from under his nose.
Sanders, even though he eventually withdrew from the race, was adored by his followers for being true to himself and to his passionately held convictions. The man lived and breathed his own message.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, didn’t beat Sanders because the voters adored Joe Biden. He won because a majority of Democrats considered Sanders’ policies too socialist, too far to the Left, and they needed a moderate to take the guy out.
Similarly, in the presidential contest itself, Biden didn’t beat Trump because of his personal charisma. He won because everyone who hated Trump rallied behind him as the man most likely to oust Trump from the White House.
This was the perfect role for a neutral Nine, known in Enneagram circles as “The Mediator,” a man who doesn’t offend people and tries to create harmony among disparate groups. Another Nine trait is the tendency to slip into a routine and stay there for years. They are creatures of habit and Biden is no exception.
In 1972, at the age of 29, Biden became one of the youngest senators in American history when he was elected to the US Senate from Delaware.
And what has he done since then? In a nutshell, the same old thing: being re-elected… and re-elected… serving on congressional committees… managing legislation… pursuing a comfortable political lifestyle that went on and on and on.
Nines thrive in routines such as this, but Sevens get bored and restless, which is another reason why I’m tagging Biden as a “not-Seven.” A Seven would be unlikely to remain contentedly within the humdrum world of Washington DC politics for so long.
By the way, I’m not denying that Nines can be charismatic. They certainly can. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan have been tagged as Nines and in my view they all did a much better job than Biden in projecting a popular image.
But there’s a difference. Bill Clinton was 47 when he was elected president and Barack Obama was 48. They were young, good-looking and charming.
If Joe Biden had succeeded in his first run for the presidency, back in 1988, he would have been 46 years old and boasting the same fresh, vigorous qualities. Thirty-two years later, he didn’t look so sexy. He didn’t have the same youthful appeal.
Reagan was much older, of course, being nearly 70 when he entered the White House. But he had his tough-guy, cowboy acting career in Hollywood to help him look like the right man for the job, as well as his cheerful “there you go again” way of ridiculing the more seriously-minded incumbent president, Jimmy Carter.
Nevertheless, charisma or no charisma, Joe Biden has been declared the winner of this election and he may prove to be a more effective president than any of his above-mentioned predecessors.
Why? Because Biden knows Washington like the back of his proverbial hand and has vast experience in preparing legislation and negotiating political hurdles. He may even be able to persuade the Republicans to work with a Democrat president – something they refused to do when Obama was in office.
There are skeptics who say that there’s little difference between a powerful businessman like Trump and a professional politician like Biden.
Maybe so, but on several key issues, like the right for women to choose whether or not to have an abortion, like recognizing the reality of climate change, like better protection of the African American community against police brutality, like making sure the wealthy elite pay their taxes, Biden and the Democrats have a better track record.
In short, there are differences that make a difference.
One final comment: it’s a little strange to think of a mild-mannered, harmony-seeking Nine winning a fight with an aggressive, take-no-shit Eight – but that’s what has happened in this election.
It may take time for Donald Trump to admit it. In fact, he may never admit it, preferring instead to insist that fraudulent voting tactics denied him his well-deserved victory. Even if Trump’s legal challenges come to nothing, even if no evidence of wrongdoing is found in any state, he may doggedly stick to this, his very own personal version of the election: he didn’t lose, he was robbed.
But, in the end, he’s going to have to walk out of the Oval Office and, at that moment, Trump will experience the anguish of what Eights fear most: looking like a loser.
- Who is Kamala Harris, what is her relationship with Joe Biden and how do they measure up to Donald Trump – Shantamo examines, using his knowledge of the Human Design system, the characters and potentials of the protagonists of this year’s US elections
- More in this series: ‘Enneagram Famous Figures’ by Subhuti