For the past eight years, Americans have been dreaming of Barack Obama, and not just in an aspirational sense. At every step in his presidential journey, people across the United States have been seeing him in their sleep—in rapturous fantasies, skin-scrawling nightmares, and all sorts of weird situations in between.
This phenomenon first came to light during the 2008 primaries, when the novelist Sheila Heti solicited dreams about the Democratic candidates on a website called The Metaphysical Poll. As hundreds of dreamers submitted reports, the dreams about Obama gradually outnumbered the dreams about Hillary Clinton and painted a glowing portrait of the Illinois Senator. Dream Obama was a loyal husband and a generous friend, a cool-headed decision-maker, and a scorching-hot lover.
“At a time when no one knew who was going to win the Democratic Primaries, I was certain it was going to be Obama,” Heti remembers. “I had seen the dreams.”
She closed The Metaphysical Poll on June 10, 2008, three days after Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee. But the site’s spirit lives on in the work of Kelly Bulkeley, a psychologist of religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. While completing American Dreamers, a book about the dream lives of American voters, Bulkeley became an enthusiastic supporter of Heti’s project. In 2009, he launched his own Sleep and Dream Database, a digital archive where he has continued to gather Obama dreams over the past eight years, amassing the internet’s largest curated collection.