Politicians can be disliked, yet stay in office for many years.
To some extent, even democratically-elected leaders can be feared by those they lead.
They do not even need to be popular – as long they retain enough people’s respect.
But being laughed at? Well that can be fatal.
Today, even Australian Prime Mnister Tony Abbott’s cheer-leaders seem to be sniggering at him. Forget what those on Twitter think. Most who use social media forums do have a ‘small-l’ liberal outlook; a lot of what they write can dismissed - as Tony Abbott has - as “electronic graffiti”.
More significant is that it’s Abbott’s core supporters laughing at him too.
The Australian newspaper normally bleeds the same values and opinions as Abbott's right-wing Liberal Party. But on Tuesday morning, its columnists were full of scorn: Dennis Shanahan wrote of Abbott’s “blind spot”; how he had "shot off his mouth and severely damaged his own foot”.
Peter van Onselen says the PM is being "mocked". One writer to the normally hilariously right-wing letters page, says he is a "lifelong Liberal voter" but Abbott is a "national embarrassment".
And all for what?
For awarding a knighthood to the Prince Philip.
Let me write that again. Tony Abbott has formally recommended to the Queen that she make her own husband a knight - that she give him the highest honour Australia can bestow.
Abbott may have thought he was merely continuing a once-lost tradition. Prince Charles was made a knight of Australia in 1981 before the honour was - temporarily, as it turned out - abandoned as anachronistic.
Perhaps having reinstated 'knights and dames', Abbott felt giving the hounour to the Queen’s husband was the ‘done thing’.
But come on.
I’m British. Living in Australia I marvel the relationship between the royal family and Australians: its members seem to have more of a profile in the media here than I ever noticed living in London. But most who support the monarchy, it seems to me, do so because they do not like the idea of the disruption that would come with the alternative.
Australians are quite a conservative bunch deep down and sceptical of a 'politicians president'. Younger Australians meanwhile like the ‘celebrities’ of the monarchy. They are more interest in Catharine’s clothes than the than the 'continuity' she and her husband represent.
Monarchists I’ve talked to also seem to enjoy the conditionality that monarchy has here: even if they don’t choose to use it, Australians feel they have the power to ditch the monarchy.
The fact Australians could have cut ties in 1999 - and could choose to do so again in future - helps keep the monarchy in check; it keeps Australians in control.
The prime minister's view of monarchy is very different. He seems to see himself and his countrymen in the traditional way, as under the monarchy. Giving an award supposedly based on merit to a man whose merit stems from his marriage suggests Abbott thinks Prince Philip is a special category of person.
As a monarchist, that is logical, perhaps. But most Australians aren't logical monarchists. They are conditional ones. They like the monarchy if they - collectively - can be its master, not its servant.
Abbott's actions are at odds with all but the staunchest, most traditional Australian monarchists.
All except them are laughing at him now.
It is a dangerous place for Abbott to be.