Monday, November 21, 2022

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Second Acts

The recent elections in Brazil and Israel illustrate

the phenomenon of a political comeback in an era

when such career electoral revivals in democratic 

nations are otherwise considered unlikely.

In Brazil, Luiz Inicio da Silva, known as “Lula,” 

was a left populist president from 2003 to 2010,

then defeated for re-election, later indicted for 

corruption, convicted and sent to prison in 2019. 

But in 2021 he was released when the  

Brazilian supreme court nullified his conviction,

enabling him to run for president again in 2022

against the controversial incumbent Jair

Bolisaro (a right populist). In both stages of this

election, polls predicted Lula would win by much

larger margins than he did, but Lula is once

again president of Brazil.

In Israel, long-time prime minister (1996-1999

and 2009-2021) Benjamin Netanyahu, known as

“Bibi,” led his party coalition, thus regaining the

premiership, to a surprise decisive victory when

the coalition formed to defeat him in 2021 

collapsed, and required Israelis to go to the 

polls for the fourth time in five years. Polls just

prior to the election predicted Netanyahu would

likely come up short of the necessary 61 seats in

the Knesset (parliament) to form a government, 

but Bibi’s coalition actually won 64 seats.

In the United Kingdom, former Prime Minister

Boris Johnson (2019-2022), returned to England

from a Caribbean vacation intending to run for

Conservative Party leadership, and therefore 

return as prime minister, when his successor Liz

Truss resigned suddenly after only three months

in office. Finding his former chancellor of the

exchequer Rishi Sunak probably already had 

the votes to win, he chose not to run now, but is 

expected to make a comeback attempt in the 


Although political career revivals are rare in the 

U.S. (only Grover Cleveland in the 19th century

lost his presidential re-election, but came back to

win four years later), they are more common in

the United Kingdom where prime ministers have

routinely lost, but had second non-consecutive

terms in office. Some of them did this multiple 

times, most notably Benjamin Disraeli and 

William Gladstone in the 19th century. After a 

shocking defeat in 1945, Winston Churchill 

returned as prime minister later in the postwar


Former U.S. President Trump, who was defeated

for re-election in 2020, announced, as expected,

his candidacy for 2024 just after the 2022 midterm 

elections. But although he has remained popular 

with a large base of GOP voters, and would be 

formidable for his party’s nomination, his sharply 

unfavorable standing outside his base make it 

problematic for him to successfully emulate 

Grover Cleveland. Mr. Trump will be over 80 

years old in 2024.


Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved. 

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