In Brazil and Israel, leaders show Trump that there may be next political acts


It’s the season for political comebacks, and don’t think former President Donald Trump isn’t watching.

Twice in as many days, in Brazil and Israel, former world leaders who simply cannot give up that tantalizing taste of political ambition are on the cusp of a return to power. Past scandals, their own legal nightmares and treacherous politics don’t stop them from recreating that dream of past glory. Trump would like to dig a similar furrow.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have both shown that the absence of power can be a springboard for unlikely political rebounds.

It may be a sign of hope for Trump, who has leveraged the midterm elections next week as a show of his own power within the Republican Party, anointing a crop of candidates who promote his lies about voter fraud. of 2020.

Trump has left no doubt that he’s looking forward to mounting another presidential campaign – not just because he’s missing the spotlight. He may see a new offer from the White House as a shield against possible indictment in multiple criminal investigations.

“I’m probably going to have to do it again,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Texas last month, raising the possibility of his third presidential campaign, which would be rooted in his still high popularity in the Republican Party but could collapsing on its much more uncertain position among a wider general electorate.

US presidents defeated after a single term have generally faded into history fairly quickly. Trump would need to emulate a feat achieved only once before, by President Grover Cleveland, who lost the 1888 election to return to the White House after exacting revenge on President Benjamin Harrison after his victory four years later .

Israeli Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest international friends, would love to reunite the group with Trump.

On Tuesday, the former prime minister, first elected in 1996 and who has dominated Israeli politics for most of the past quarter-century, was set to a stunning second comeback, as early exit polls suggested, he might have won a narrow majority in another election in a nation politically divided in the middle.

And on Sunday in Brazil, Lula da Silva, nicknamed “Lula”, narrowly defeated President Jair Bolsonaro in a second round of elections. While Trump would likely have preferred the opposite outcome since Bolsonaro is something of a protege, the former left-wing leader’s victory showed that former presidents can have second acts.

Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil for two terms, has, like Trump, had his run-ins with the judicial authorities. In fact, his long and winding road to a political comeback took a detour through a partial prison sentence for alleged corruption. The overturning of his sentences by the Supreme Court allowed him to stand for re-election.

It was feared that Bolsonaro was emulating his American alter ego and fellow Covid-19 mask rejecter by refusing to accept the outcome of an election that swung him from power after just one term. But if he didn’t give in, the man known as ‘Trump of the Tropics’ says he will uphold the constitution and has so far not resorted to incitement. uprising to try to keep his job. But he is unlikely to go away: he lost the election by the narrowest of margins, his political movement is still strong – and, like Trump, he may be looking to the future.

Bolsonaro and Lula da Silva are not the only figures from the past who have tried to regain power. In Italy, former three-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in parliament after a tax evasion scandal, although his bid to play the role of kingmaker in coalition talks was called off after he stood down. is bragged about his ties to old friend Russian President Vladimir Putin, who happens to be a hero to Trump too.

Like Lula da Silva and Bolsonaro, Trump enjoys the fervent support of loyalist supporters who are undeterred by their run-ins with the law.

Lula da Silva emerged from prison as a hero for his supporters, a year and a half after a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering handed down in 2018.

Netanyahu, however, remains embroiled in his corruption trial and faces one bribery charge and three fraud and breach of trust charges in three separate investigations. He took a distinctly Trumpian approach to his plight – calling the investigations a “witch hunt” and “coup attempt” and, like the former US president, raised doubts about the legitimacy of the judiciary.

As he travels the world, President Joe Biden told his allies that “America is back” or, in other words, the disruptive Trump administration that alienated allies and saw the US President closer to dictators, was over.

Yet many foreign diplomats — as they watch the vitriol and division in the United States and Trump’s strength with his base, not to mention the state-level candidates he has elevated this year who could overseeing the 2024 election – wonder how long they can count on the more traditional, multilateral brand of stable American leadership that Biden is trying to restore. Even if Trump doesn’t run in 2024, the power of his movement is so strong in the GOP that a possible future Republican president would likely share his populist, nationalist, and “America-first” instincts.

However, the path of return is not always favorable to the populist leaders who have fallen into power. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just seen his attempt to regain 10 Downing Street foiled after the brief but disastrous term as Prime Minister of his successor Liz Truss.

Johnson – once called “Britain Trump” by the former US president – failed last month to persuade enough Tory MPs to re-elect him as their leader and, therefore under the UK system, as prime minister.

The chaos, scandals and mismanagement of Johnson’s premiership were celebrated in Downing Street as the rest of the country was urged to adhere to strict Covid-19 protocols. Tory MPs opted instead for former finance minister Rishi Sunak, who has only been in power for a week but is already discovering what many observers believe to be the case – that the Conservative Party is ungovernable.

Johnson, like Trump, is not ready to cede the limelight. On Tuesday, he told Sky News he plans to attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt later this month. He made the announcement after Sunak said he would not attend due to bailout demands from the UK economy, although there have been reports in recent days that he may change his mind.

Johnson, unlike Trump, was not defeated in the general election. Instead, his colleagues decided he was a campaign liability, which is very different from how the GOP has treated Trump.

Johnson still believes he has a mandate to govern, given the landslide election victory he orchestrated in December 2019 – and it’s a safe bet he’d be ready to pounce if Sunak melts away.

Johnson’s hero is Winston Churchill, the original political comeback child who endured years in the political wilderness before his country turned to him for leadership in its darkest hour of World War II.

After his shock defeat in the 1945 election, the tall Briton didn’t leave either: he returned to 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister six years later.