Why did The One win by a landslide?

When we feel powerless, we project “power” onto Obama. As much as we celebrate a savior — being one, or looking for one — is a delusion


BY DAVID RICKEY — For many of us, (I’ll admit myself into this group) our great hope was pinned on Barack Obama winning this presidential election.

The scale and depth of the victory points to what political strategists and CNN analysts, who are stuck in their heads and the obvious, are missing about elections: they’re driven by a chemistry between a leader and voters that runs far deeper than a linear series of tactics, the financial crisis or rational or wedge issues.

Where does the Hope about Obama come from? As with Jesus, we the people who look to Obama see him as the embodiment of a “solution,” to a “problem.” Obama is the Great (Black) Hope — or as the McCain campaign mockingly put it this summer, “The One.”

The question about Hope is another way of asking why we feel we know public figures, whom we rarely meet in person, so intimately. If it’s that we project our secret fears and desires onto them, then in 2008 our collective projections are based on an overwhelming sense of powerlessness.

We project power onto this presidential figure, hoping he will do what we feel incapable of accomplishing ourselves.

As with Jesus, it is possible that Obama’s history as a black man, raised by a virtually-single mom , helped develop in him a sense of “calling” to reach out in empathy to others who were outcasts from the system. Probably all politicians have a modicum of “Messiah-complex” — the sense of being Savior to the people.

Who they seek to serve depends on which tribe, caste or class they have personally identified with — through the binary prism of what has become Election 2008, either the poor and disenfranchised, or the wealthy and tax-threatened.mens-health-obama.jpg

Being a Savior is always a delusion. No single person can save others.

However, in the case of Jesus, and perhaps Obama (whose image, above, is cast as a saint on votive candles on a San Francisco street vendor’s sidewalk kiosk), a deep awareness of inner struggle with identity can lead to a sense of divine calling. And it can morph into a deeper awareness of a power to empower others.

Jesus didn’t say:

Follow me and I’ll make it better.

Rather, he said:

You are the salt of the Earth, the Light of the world.

The Buddha, Lao Tsu, even Eckhart Tolle call others to find within themselves the power to transform life.

If we are indeed seeing Obama as a Messiah, may we be inspired by him to live better, more self-offering lives. John Kennedy, the Messiah for many of us in the 60’s, uttered one of the iconic mantras of “the American Century”:

Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

The actual meaning of “messiah” isn’t “savior,” but “anointed”. Anointed with Spirit means awakened to the spirit that is within each of us, the true identity of all of us. An awakened one inspires the rest of us to awaken — and to then awaken each other. This is how true, valuable change happens.

I hope that the upshot of America’s presidential drama is that we as humans around the world will look, not to another to save us, but reach within to find that truth. And reach to the deeper truth of those around us, so that they, too, may awaken. May we each be in-spired — Latin for finding the spirit “in” us.

That is the Truth that can save us — the Truth that is already in us.

David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.

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8 Responses to “Why did The One win by a landslide?”

  1. I just wrote a check to Barack Obama for $100, even after reading your description that I may be plugged into an unconscious pattern :)

    I may be projecting, but my projection is that he’s extremely brilliant. He even knows that the $300-billion electrical grid of the U.S. has to be seriously up-graded to go green, and wind:

    It’s absolutely true. McCain probably doesn’t even know the issue. All of the wind resources in the U.S., multiples of the coal deposits that Palin loves, are in the great plains states. But the transmission capacity to get that juice from mega-wind farms to places where people actually live, does not exist.

    You never, ever hear Palin or McCain discuss this shortcoming. Critics of anything that exists in America — except when it comes to Hollywood and media-bashers — are terrorists. McCain is a walking pain-body. Palin is probably suffering from a clinical dissociative disorder.

  2. I hope my article didn’t come across as critical of Obama. I agree with you and am quite excited about the possibility of his election. McCain/Palin frighten me. (I suppose because they embody to much of our unconsciousness.) You can almost gauge the level (or lack) of evolved consciousness in the arguments you hear from both the GOP candidates and those who support them and attack Obama. Of course, making that kind of a judgment is tricky too.

  3. David thank you for your though provoking article. I’m a “come lately” to the Obama party as I supported Hillary and was greatly disappointed when she didn’t make it. I didn’t believe Obama was “ready”. I feared he’d lose and we’d face more years of the same. However, I am impressed with how Obama has taken on the mantle of “light” of which you speak with apparent humility and veracity. I see the halo of Saviour being projected upon him and I wonder if he can carry the heavy load and responsibility of that archetype. We know no one can truly embody an archetype without eventually faltering and we’ve all seen what happens when our chosen one’s don’t live up to our expectations. As much as we love to put people up on pedestals we also seem to love to watch them fall off.
    So I’m surely hoping that we who are striving for a better world will remember the true meaning of messiah and will swiftly withdraw any projections we’ve placed upon Obama; thus, allowing him to be a human being who just might be “anointed with Spirit” and could awaken and inspire each of us to be better. We do so need someone such as this, don’t we?


  4. From the beginning he was on the trajectory and now he is on the cusp – I hope that he can pull it off and bring morning into America. He is a wonderful person with a real vision not mired in the politics of yesterday

  5. I like it, and wanted to share this:

    “The only alternative is to take Jesus at his word, and his claims at their face value. In this case, we must respond to his Sermon on the Mount with deadly seriousness. For here is his picture of God’s alternative society. These are the standards, the values and the priorities of the kingdom of God. …Only when the Christian community lives by Christ’s manifesto will the world be attracted and God be glorified. So when Jesus calls us to himself, it is to this that he calls us. For he is the Lord of the counter-culture.”

    - from John R. W. Stott’s book, “Sermon on the Mount”


  6. I think that Barack Obama is keenly aware of the mass projection/transference you describe. I got an email signed by him with the subject line, “How this Happened,” seconds before his victory speech in Chicago. Equal parts humility and gratitude, note how he repeatedly shifts attention — on a night when *he’s* the center of public attention — back onto “you,” as in, each of us:

    Paul –

    I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

    We just made history.

    And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

    You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

    I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

    We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

    But I want to be very clear about one thing…

    All of this happened because of you.

  7. maybe bama will be the tom joad for our age – without the homicidal behaviour.


  8. David,
    You need to read the piece by Robert Stolorow, Ph.D., noted psychoanalyst,
    on the Huffington Post called, “The Economic Crisis as Colletive Trauma.”
    It will lead you to the another piece he wrote, called, “Portkeys to 9/11″ on how Americans have become more susceptible to resurrective ideologies that promise to restore grandiose illusions that have been lost. I think you will see how it furthers your wonderful warning to beware of looking outward only for salvation!