Thin Skinned Politicians

Nobody likes to be criticized. It’s uncomfortable. It can be troubling, discouraging and disappointing. But criticism, constructive and otherwise, is a part of life, particularly for those who serve an elected office.

With a few exceptions, I have tried to base my criticism of politicians or aspiring politicians to issues of policy or strategy. Those topics are fair game in my mind. People seeking an office should be comfortable enough with themselves and their positions to take criticism of these topics constructively. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Looking back to the 2006 CT-Senate race, Joe Lieberman took criticisms of his position on the war personally and eventually lost the Democratic nomination. His reaction to these criticisms as personal attacks led to his nomination loss. Quite simply, he got defensive, bunkered down, and got beat.

When politicians take criticism personally it raises questions. Are they taking it personally because they are so invested in their positions, or their position in office?

See, it takes a special kind of crazy to put yourself out there in front of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who, by and large, don’t trust the thing you’re about to go serve in (the gubament). It takes an ego, and egos are fragile things when the ego is wrapped around the office instead of positions.

When egos are wrapped around the office, criticisms suddenly take a personal turn for the worst. It becomes an attack on one’s livelihood. It endangers the power that one has amassed. It’s a threat that sends a candidate down a long line of irrational conclusions and decisions that, on their own, can take them down.

That’s what happened to Lieberman in 2006. Had Connecticut law not allowed him to add his name to the ballot after the primary, we might be talking about Senator Ned Lamont, but thanks to that weird bit of election law, and a whole lot of Republicans abandoning their party’s candidate, Lieberman managed to win. Next time he may not be so lucky.

The point of all this is, politicians are supposed to be criticized, compared and contrasted, that’s how they get the job. When suddenly, the politician translates these core principles of the election process as personal attacks, you gotta ask yourself why. Are they more married to their positions, or their position in office?

It’s just a question.

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