It was one of the weapons that Donald Trump’s campaign wielded against Joe Biden: that the former vice president has been in politics for almost 50 years.
For Trump, Biden’s years as a senator and, later, as vice president, instead of adding merit to his quest for the presidency, made him a professional politician. That is, someone without experience in private business, far from the reality of the voters, of the workers, was not going to promote the policies that the citizens demand.
Although Trump’s argument was not enough to tip the balance in his favor in 2020, it is true that this position worked for him in 2016, when he defeated Hillary Clinton.
This is something that all of us, regardless of ideology, have considered at some point: What qualities should an ideal candidate have? An extensive academic background? Is it enough to have been a member of a political party from a young age and to have held public office? Are charisma and leadership more important than studies, work and political experience?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy provides the latest example of leadership and popularity worldwide.
A month ago, many perhaps, would have missed the question, “Who is the president of Ukraine?” playing a game of Trivial Pursuit. His inspiring role as leader of his people’s resistance since Vladimir Putin’s Russian army launched an invasion has made him a hero not only to his fellow citizens. His face monopolizes T-shirts, desserts and profile images of social networks around the world.
His approval rating is at 91%, according to the latest polls, three times higher than in December. An alien recently arrived on Earth might think that Zelenskyy is a military man decorated in a thousand battles, an experienced president who has carved out his legend for years, a successful business tycoon who made the leap to politics.
He was a comic actor before becoming a politician. Surely Ukrainians — like many other people in other parts of the world — saw in him an alternative to the traditional political class and gave him their trust in 2019. Journalist Anna Myroniuk, head of investigations at the Kyiv Independent, was not one of them.
“A few days ago, I commented in an article published in the Washington Post that, in 2019, I did not vote for him,“ she said. Like other Ukrainians, she did not believe that Zelenskyy, a comedian, actor and entertainer without experience in politics, was qualified for the position. “His campaign was idealistic but lacked substance,” she wrote.
Three years later, Zelenskyy’s defiant attitude to the invader, his courage, leadership and moral strength have changed Myroniuk’s mind, and those of the vast majority of her compatriots. Ukraine’s president has touched the hearts of millions of people around the world.
We see in him dignity in the face of the most decadent imperialism that Putin embodies. Therefore, it is not a question of looking for scholars or politicians who have held countless public positions or businessmen with a brilliant income statement. We need to believe in someone, someone close to us, someone who, in an extreme situation, shows empathy and steps forward to defend us from internal or external aggression.
We are in the era of storytelling. Ideas are overvalued, and the line that separates right from left is often thin and imperceptible. We need people whom we would trust in our daily lives, to whom we would leave the keys to our house without thinking twice about it.
The Zelenskyy phenomenon is going to affect the work of political consultants in the coming years wherever we have the privilege of participating in free elections. The first round of elections in France will take place on April 10, with Emmanuel Macron’s tenure as president at stake.
Macron has played skillfully with citizens’ emotions, taking advantage of a tactic he has used before that makes the difference between right and left ever more imperceptible. To defeat Marine Le Pen the first time, he appropriated many votes from the left. This time, he is looking for support from the right.
In recent weeks he has sought a leading role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and is one of the only leaders in the free world who has a direct line to Putin. For Macron, it is important for France to remain a leading player in international politics, something to which he has paid great attention during his presidency and with which the French are pleased.
Let’s keep an eye on the November elections in the United States. We will hear many inspiring messages, many stories that seek to move us. Our phones will be filled with video messages through social networks. Given the lack of ideas and ideological differences between the candidates, our most important mission is to detect the authenticity of those candidates, the veracity of those stories that want to move us before going to the polls.
But, please, think long and hard before you cast your vote.
Manuel Aguilera is founder and CEO of the HispanoPost Media Group. He is a former executive editor of Univision’s online platform and former top editor at Diario las Américas.