Column: The Psychology of Elected Officials

West face of the New York State Capitol in Albany. By UpstateNYer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

What makes elected officials lose their minds?

Some electeds see themselves endowed with powers no others possess. They can right the wrongs. Only their words and deeds have truth.

Makes you wonder what those people eat for dinner and what pills they take before sleeping. 

Hank Sheinkopf

Those we elect have become a separate unique social class. They do little because action can offend and doing nothing offends no one. Lips moving and blabbing rarely chase away writers–check writers–who keep the system oiled. And good words keep believers happy. Citizens keep filling out ballots the way those electeds want.

Everyone feels good. No eggs broken; no omelets made. Electeds pick up their paychecks, healthcare most couldn’t afford, and a pension at the end of the career. Meetings. Everyone’s feeling great. We have process. We have inclusion. And we have lots of photos. Nobody made trouble. And trouble makers don’t get meetings.

History however respects governors who are trouble makers, and imperial. And defames them. Nelson Rockefeller, first and only New York State governor to be elected to four consecutive four-year terms — governors once served two-year terms in many states throughout the nation including New York — built the campus surrounding the State Capitol, modernized, expanded and funded SUNY, supported the Port Authority built the World Trade Center, created the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to build housing, and the MTA to rescue the failing NYC transit system and bankrupt commuter railroads. 

He also gave us the Attica riots, dead inmates and correctional officers, moral obligation debt — which led to the 1975 city and state financial disasters. Rocky left town in the middle of his term and served as Gerald Ford’s vice-president. No one cried.

Hugh Carey used his power — the governor is called His Excellency in the NYS Constitution — to save the city and state from bankruptcy. The banks would have gone belly up I975 if Carey hadn’t pushed the players around because city and state debt instruments were then large parts of bank holdings. A true crisis. Carey the hero became Carey the goat after the miracle save. 

Eliot Spitzer was the self-described steam roller tough guy prostitute patronizer who escaped the cops by leaving town.

Mario Cuomo. Constructed more prison cells some say than anyone in history. Stopped the Sing Sing prison riot bloodlessly. Great orator, and defender of the State. They hated him. The three-term imperial governor was defeated by a Republican. Yes. In New York State. 

Like Rocky, Carey, and Spitzer, and Mario, Andrew Cuomo was an imperial governor. He built airports, train stations, subways. He not only twisted, but probably broke arms. This imperial governor had to be threatened and yanked out almost by force. And the cops aren’t finished with him.

Conclusion: tough guy imperial governors are so over. They do and do and do, they think. Until they always undo themselves. They just lose their minds. Average men and women love the blabbers and glad handers much more.

Hank Sheinkopf worked as a meat cutter and a police officer before being introduced to political consulting as a union organizer. Sheinkopf founded Sheinkopf Communications Ltd., a political-strategic communications firm, in 1981. Over the course of his career, Sheinkopf has contributed to more than 700 political campaigns across the United States including presidents, governors, mayors, and numerous elected officials.