For Some Politicians, Defeat Can Be Like a Public Death, for Others a Relief

Friday, October 5, 2012

Years ago, too many for me even to guess how long ago it was, I heard a former state senator from Connecticut, a man who had grown up in Lowell, Massachusetts, describe how one felt after losing an election.
“It is like a public death,” he said.
When you lose an election, especially a re-election fight for a seat you’ve held for a long time, he said, “You feel like you are both experiencing and witnessing your own humiliating demise before the world’s eyes, and that your family and friends are there with you, watching, horrified, as you die.”
Then it gets worse, said the former senator, who was making his living then, post-politics, as a consultant and speaker:  “You are struck dead in public one day, and within shouting distance of your still-warm body, the guy who killed you is having his victory party.”
That long-ago speaker’s point was that life in politics is a lot harder, at a personal level, than most of us could ever imagine.
By implication, he was also saying that we should have a little more compassion for those we elect and un-elect to lead us, because they are exposed to a degree of pain on the public stage that would shatter most us if we were venture there.
Since that day, I have never read of a politician’s defeat without immediately wondering, “Is that guy suffering a public death?” 
And like a little kid reading a story and hoping for a happy ending, I always look for evidence in the accounts of lost campaigns that the defeated party is not taking the loss too hard.  I prefer consoling myself with the thought that someone’s pain is not terrible, and that he’ll be just fine in no time at all, as opposed to imagining myself in the shoes of some poor soul devastated by his loss.
This is why I was relieved to read the story online in Wicked Local Yarmouth, after the September primary, concerning the defeat of 14-year incumbent Democratic state representative Demetrius Atsalis of Hyannis.  In an upset, Brian Mannal beat Atsalis, 1,777 votes to 1,402, a decisive victory margin of 375 votes, almost 12% of all the votes cast.
While stating, accurately, that he “did a good job for the district,” Atsalis hit a distinct note of relief in his comments to the local news medium.  “I’m tired of looking over my shoulder and having a lens pointed in my face,” he said.  “I’m not a career politician.”
Atsalis is 48 years old, with a wife and three children, and holds a business degree from Northeastern.  With his wealth of experience and contacts, both on the Cape and in Boston, and his first-class temperament, I can see him enjoying success soon, and becoming very happy, in some kind of business enterprise or venture.
I will always remember him fondly, and gratefully, for the support he gave a client of ours, the Fishing Partnership Health Plan, a federal- and state-supported health plan for Massachusetts fishermen and their family members, whenever I was up on Beacon Hill, lobbying for the Plan.  Atsalis was a true friend and a dignified representative of the fishermen.  I wish him the best in the next phase of his life.

“The Case Against a CEO in the Oval Office” – That was the headline on a recent (10/2/12) opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton University professor and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, an article that might have shaken the perfect mane of Mitt Romney for a minute or two earlier this week as the former Massachusetts governor was preparing for the debate with Barack Obama -- you know, the one the president didn’t show up for.   
“Sound companies dote on efficiency,” Blinder wrote.  “They’d better, for the competitive marketplace  is a tough environment.  If you’re less efficient than your competitors, you’ll founder and probably fail…While there are niches in the federal government where efficiency matters a great deal, such as in defense procurement or running the General Services Administration, the White House isn’t one of them.  Hoover (President Herbert Hoover) was a sterling manager.  But as he learned painfully, the big decisions aren’t about efficiency at all.  It may even be critical to cut people a little slack here and there.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing..

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