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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Political Comedy, Ukraine-Style

It’s time to brush up on the new hot personality in the news: Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Elected in April by a landslide, Zelensky is a comic actor who named his new party for the long-running TV series, Servant of the People. He seems well cast in the farce that has become Trump’s Last Days.

Here’s some background from The New York Review of Books:

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky
Wikipedia

“Some observers have compared Zelensky to Trump. Apart from the obvious—the TV shows, the blurring of entertainment and politics, the exploitation of popular disgust at perceived government dysfunction—there are a few other common features. Trump’s famous line on The Apprentice was “You’re fired!” On Servant of the People, one of Vasyl’s first acts when he [the character played by Zelensky] takes office is to attempt to fire 90 percent of government functionaries—though he is motivated by the wish to pay the back wages owed to teachers and other more useful public employees. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington, while Zelensky’s main campaign issue was government corruption.

“Trump, however, ran on a platform of hate, fear, and aggression. Zelensky, who is charming, engaging, and just forty-one years old, ran on a platform of reconciliation. His last name derives from the word for “green,” and his impressively produced campaign videos featured two dots in the Ukrainian national colors, blue and yellow, merging to become a single green circle. Trump’s vision is of two Americas engaged in deadly battle; judging from Servant of the People and from his real-life campaign statements, Zelensky seems to imagine his ideal Ukraine as a happy family whose members accept one another’s differences and do their best to get along, behaving honorably and managing their households responsibly. National finances bear little resemblance to home economics, but Zelensky’s small-government rhetoric appealed to voters disgusted with the political status quo. In his inaugural speech, he quoted Ronald Reagan, another actor-turned-president, saying, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is our problem.”

David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

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