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MT 27 March 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2016 24 Opinion 'Personality cults' only work with personalities I t may be a figment of my imagination, but following the US Presidential campaign I can't help but notice a vaguely familiar pattern. Consider outgoing US President Barack Obama, for instance. In 2008 he cruised to victory against a woefully disjointed Republican party on a spectacular promise of change. The campaign itself had all the glitz and glamour (and even some of the costumes) of a Disney film. There was a sense of history in the making, too. Not only was the USA electing its first black President, but there was also widespread discontent with the direction of the entire country… arguably, the entire world. Above all, however, there was the central personality of Obama himself: witty, sophisticated, self-assured, and simply overf lowing with infectious optimism. He seemed to step out of a chink in the fabric of space and time, precisely at a time when 'something completely different' was needed most. All that seems a long time ago now. Eight years later, all the glitz and glamour seems to have evaporated. Gone, too, is the cockiness of a man who promised (literally) to 'change the world'. Obama now looks tired and frustrated: a man in whom the fire is spent. The world has not 'changed' in the sense we were promised. If anything, the international security situation has considerably deteriorated since then. Even worse for Obama, the security of his own country has lessened under his presidency… unaccountably, in one of the areas that relate most closely to his own election. Racially motivated violence has soared in recent years, and hardly a week goes by without stories of white US cops shooting black civilians making the headlines. Meanwhile, the USA has got itself bogged down in an another war in Libya… which is, in a sense, an extension of the wars waged by President George W. Bush in 2004… and there has been no discernible departure from a foreign policy rooted in interventionism. Not all of this can be laid at Obama's door, naturally… the extent of his actual legacy will have to be be determined at a later date. So far, however, the most that can be said for his Presidency is: "Yes, he tried." And this illustrates something that should really have been obvious all along (but never is… judging by every election ever held, any where in the democratic world). 'Personality', on its own, does not deliver promises of change. No one human being can possibly undertake any meaningful reform singlehandedly… not even if he or she towers over the entire world like a Colossus. This brings us to today's US election, which is arguably just as historical… albeit for rather different reasons. With so many issues unresolved since 2008, the desire for change is arguably even more acute today. It remains debatable, however, whether this would be a change for the better. Whatever the outcome, however, the USA will almost certainly emerge a fractured, internally divided country. And the differences are largely unbridgeable. Regardless which of the four contenders win their respective parties' nominations, it will be a race between two runners sprinting at maximum velocity in clean opposite directions. Like Obama, the incoming President will find it impossible to achieve the support he or she will need to securely govern. This incidentally might explain why some candidates (especially, but not only, Donald Trump) are free to make such wildly unfeasible electoral pledges: walls across the Mexican border; a ban on all Muslims entering the country, etc. I have little doubt Trump is perfectly serious with all that nonsense; but he also knows he doesn't have the Raphael Vassallo Full Colour Version C: M: Y: K: 0 0 0 100 C: M: Y: K: 0 100 100 0 C: M: Y: K: 50 100 100 20 TUNA AQUAMED MFF Ltd. - Hangar, Triq it-Trunciera, Marsaxlokk MXK1522 T: 2247 5000 E: Farmed in Maltese offshore waters and delivered to you with special attention to freshness and to the highest standards. LOOK FOR OUR QUALITY MARK IN YOUR SUPERMARKET, FISHMONGER OR RESTAURANT FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. EAT FRESH EAT HEALTHY ENJOY OUR SEA BREAM I hate to say it, but this too looks like it will end in tears. The 'cult of personality' works, yes… but only if your party leaders have personality by the bucketful

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