"It is as sudden as death. The only thing different is that you do not have to walk into a funeral home, peek into the box and say, 'Well, he was a nice guy'.
It is like the phases of death.
You have loss, anger, sadness, and then you come to accept it."
- a defeated Liberal.
Political life is also exhilarating.
Immersed within its subculture, politicians readily believe that they are affecting change in a needed direction. As they are socialized into this subculture, they become convinced that they are becoming better at doing what they are supposed to do.
Initial feelings of uncertainty and confusion are replaced by confidence and determination. In the process, their status as politician becomes their master status, overtaking the various other statuses they occupy. However, while self-assured at this point, they are particularly vulnerable. It is within this context that political defeat at the polls is experienced as death.
The imagery of death rings true for yet another reason. The defeat generates a series of sympathetic telephone calls and visits from family members, friends and constituents offering words of solace and comfort.
As incapacitating as defeat may be, the defeated member must make sense of it. Expressions of mourning and grief are not experienced to the exclusion of other lines of thought, notably those helping to make the loss more understandable and palatable. In time, and with the assistance of others, a series of explanations for the loss -- rationalizations -- are embraced which serve to reduce the individual's culpability.
We now turn to the types of accounts employed by the defeated politicians to assuage their bruised egos. In short, they rely upon a variety of rationalizations which, whether recognized or not, serve to deflect responsibility for the outcome. These are presented as justifications for their defeat and situate the outcome of the election as being outside of the politician's control.
The Party and the LeaderIn terms of party dynamics, ex-politicians may also blame their loss on their leader, the organization of the party, unpopular political decisions, or the calling of an election at an inopportune time. In this way, when the entire party is "swept" during an election, it supports the sentiment that the defeat was the result of the party platform or leadership issues rather than anything the politician could control or be responsible for.
In the process, ex-politicians distance themselves from responsibility for the loss and attempt to shield themselves from the negative repercussions accompanying the political defeat. In looking at party dynamics to explain their defeat, some politicians argue that the party did not have a sufficiently sound infrastructure in place to support its members. For instance, some maintain that proper educational mechanisms were unavailable.
In comparing their party to other parties during the election campaign, the competition, in their view, was better organized, thereby disadvantaging them in their quest for victory. Tied to the issue of party organization is a belief that the party leader can either make or break one's own political campaign.
Therefore, in an attempt to distance oneself from the defeat, ex-politicians also look to place some of the blame on the leader of their party.
Once again, cues from the public often supply the ex-politician with the ammunition necessary to re-direct the blame for the loss. While believing ahead of time that a loss was imminent may bring some consolation by providing the politician some time to plan and prepare for the defeat, there are still accompanying feelings of anger and possibly sorrow and guilt that need to be dealt with. However, if these emotions can be displaced onto something external to the politician, it helps to dampen the assault on one's ego.
By developing a rationalization which situates blame on a variety of seemingly external factors, the ex-politician if offered a more convincing justification as to why he or she was unsuccessful. At the same time, it allows the ex-politician to save face and deal with negative feelings experienced as the result of the defeat.
Having people encourage the belief that the loss had to do with the government as a whole and not the individual, allows the ex-politician to accept this rationalization. In the next example, we see that having friends indicate that the defeat was the result of her party affiliation rather than anything which she could have controlled, helps the individual come to terms with the defeat.
** IMPORTANT NOTE:
Please refer to earlier post Crouching Monkey, Wounded Tiger Pt I.
The above are comments from the article "Trauma of political defeat." It was written in 2002.
For those who wish to give Political Defeat Gifts to Grieving Parties please click here.
"Crouching Monkey, Wounded Tiger Pt III" will be coming to this blog soon .....