Clinton Versus Trump: An Archetypal Perspective
One week out from Election Day and the U.S. remains sharply divided. The more politicians and pundits argue, and more friends discuss articles on our Facebook feed, the more separated we feel. While elections are designed to bring up differences and debates between candidates and issues, the 2016 campaign season has touched our collective humanity on a deeper (indeed Archetypal) level, illuminating the inmost desires and darkest fears of voters across the nation.
In Jungian Archetypes we find timeless stories about human beings being human. Each Archetype has both strengths and shadows that we understand on an unconscious level; they are the same characters and dramas we encounter as we fight demons and create meaning in our own lives.
Earlier in the season, we profiled the potential Archetypes of Hillary Clinton (as a Ruler) and Donald Trump (as a Revolutionary). As their campaigns wind down, I want to reframe that analysis slightly, profiling Clinton as a Sage-Ruler and a Trump as a Revolutionary-Ruler. Here’s a quick reference to how these two Archetypes might connect or collide.
But before we get into Sages and Revolutionaries, let’s look at Ruler since it’s an Archetype both candidates embody. Clinton and Trump have each become well-known for their leadership roles in politics and business. Both are seeking the highest office in the nation – which only a Ruler would step up to do.
Even the endless controversies of this year’s election can represent the shadow side of Ruler – from sex scandals to email hacks, Rulers can be blinded by their power and unconsciously perceive that the same “rules” don’t apply them.
So the question Americans are answering on November 8th is: “What kind of Ruler do we need now – Sage or Revolutionary?”
As Plato remarked long ago, Sages live “according to an ideal which transcends the everyday”. For the Sage, this unique and transcendent gift is intelligence. Voters drawn to this Archetype long for wise leader, and they fear ignorance.
Often the smartest person in the room, people trust Sages because they do their homework, understand the facts and carefully weigh consequences before making decisions. They are cool-headed and can rationally defend their positions – even if you don’t agree. They are unafraid to take advice from other smart people, and willing to change their point of view as new facts are uncovered.
From Ivy League degrees to the Senate and then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has built her knowledge base over the long-haul of her career. She’s got a strong handle of the facts and takes the time to truly understand situations and people involved. Just consider her performance on the Presidential debates. And over 25 years in the public eye, she has evolved her thinking – on marriage and war and energy, among other issues. A 2016 NPR article claims “she has been consistent to her values, but has adjusted her positions based on cultural changes.”
Speaking about her Sage-like expertise and experience, President Obama said, “There has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as the next US president.”
And it should not be a surprise that Hillary is criticized for not being relatable. On their shadow-side, many Sages struggle to fit in with mere mortals. Others can find them overly serious or socially awkward. Blame it on their scholarly brains.
Trump: The Revolutionary-Ruler
When it’s time for change, bring in the Revolutionary. Their gift is dissatisfaction and their biggest fear, the status quo. Voters drawn to the Revolutionary are ready for something new, anything new.
Operating outside of the establishment, Revolutionaries overturn what isn’t working, acting first and cleaning up the pieces later. They stir up shared frustrations to rally support and to break the mold of limited thinking. With bold confidence in their own opinions, they have no emotional attachments to the past, or to people who might get in their way.
Does this sound like Donald Trump? He’s built his campaign around a vision of toppling the policies he believes are broken – from immigration to healthcare, from trade deals to tax deals. He’s polarized his own party while attracting a whole new base of Republican voters eager to break down the systems that compromise their success.
Revolutionaries are often seen as troublemakers by contemporaries. Sometimes called the “outlaw,” a Revolutionary’s belligerence can border on hostile, and clearly, Trump doesn’t care who he offends. He continues to make headlines for a constant stream of controversial statements.
Beyond the 2016 Election
As we’ve seen in the debates, Sage and Revolutionary bring different energy to any situation. In one week, one of these Archetypes will be voted in the highest office in the country. Either way, a large number of people are going to be disappointed.
Will we be able to collectively move beyond this highly-contested contest? Even in casual conversations, I’ve heard friends speculating about how many relationships this larger-than-life election has damaged. People on both sides are angry, wondering how others who they thought they knew can favor a different candidate. And there are plenty of news stories predicting negative reactions on a national scale.
Could reframing the 2016 election through an Archetypal lens offer us a bridge to shared understanding? These stories remind us that we are all beautifully flawed human beings being human. They challenge us to become aware of how we show up in the world and to appreciate the lessons of Rulers and Sages and Revolutionaries (and all the other Archetypes) that show up in our lives.
In the words of Carl Jung, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”