Read: Britain’s political chaos shows everything is okay
A common denominator is that once in office, these politicians have found that charisma does not translate smoothly to power. In his rise to the British premiership, Johnson argued that his predecessor, Theresa May, had simply not been staunch enough in her approach to Brexit—either with members of Parliament or with the European Union. He positioned himself as the man with enough spine to stick with it, and even demanded that the EU compromise—though he held little leverage over Europe—and expressed optimism that it would give in. In his first speech to Parliament, he boasted of his Conservatives, “We are now the party of the many.”
No more. As Johnson spoke on Tuesday, one of his lawmakers left the party—physically and practically—depriving Johnson of his majority. By the end of the day, he had expelled another 21 members of the party, among them Parliament’s longest-serving member; the man who served as the powerful chancellor of the Exchequer until July; and the grandson of Winston Churchill, of whom Johnson wrote a hagiographic biography. Johnson says he will not resign and is seeking a new election. If the past three years have taught us anything about Johnson, it’s that he has a knack for coming back from apparent death blows. But if he does manage to cling to power, polls suggest he will do so weakly, in a coalition government. Sticking to a path in the face of repeated failures may be courageous, but it may also be insane.
Netanyahu is not a newcomer to power—in June, he became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister—but his populist, nationalist appeal is similar, and so is his message that he is the indispensable leader for Israel. Israeli voters, however, are no longer as convinced as they once were. After elections in April, he failed to build a governing coalition, which is why there are new elections this month. Even within his own Likud Party, there seems to be some appetite for moving past Netanyahu—which could pose a problem for him, because losing the premiership might expose him to prosecution. Trump, a close ally, is reportedly working with Netanyahu on a grand gesture to help him before the voting, but having moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, the president has already used many of his most potent tools.
Read: Italy’s transition from one weak government to another
Finally, there is Trump himself. He, too, portrayed himself as both the representative of a “silent majority” of Americans and a singular figure who could succeed where no other politician could. “I alone can fix it,” he said as he accepted the Republican nomination. More than three years later, there is little evidence to back up that claim, even on Trump’s own terms. Few of Trump’s top priorities have been fulfilled: His border wall is unbuilt, the flow of migrants to the U.S. continues, Obamacare remains in place, the trade war with China remains unwon, and his NAFTA replacement is still in limbo. More broadly, America remains riven with the tensions that existed before Trump entered office. Trump’s approval rating continues to hover around 40 percent, right where it’s been throughout his presidency. Whatever it means to make America great again, it doesn’t seem to have happened.