How frequently have we encountered the assertion that the current crop of politicians falls short of expectations? This critique spans all levels of governance, from local municipalities to the global stage. Often, it’s nostalgia employed in a subtle manner, aiming to discredit contemporary leaders by juxtaposing them against the seemingly flawless image of past figures, all under the guise of today’s complex landscape.

The perceived moral integrity of politicians from the democratic transition era, much like those who governed Europe during its late 20th-century prosperity, looms like a shadow, casting a grim light on present-day leaders. They are depicted as honest, intelligent decision-makers, in stark contrast to the perceived shortcomings of today’s politicians.

What’s striking about the present scenario is that the widespread disillusionment with the political establishment ironically fosters the very behaviors that have fueled this disillusionment in recent decades. To grasp this, let’s engage in a thought experiment: if social media and its capacity to manipulate and distort information had been prevalent 30 or 40 years ago, would certain mayors, regional presidents, heads of state, or global leaders who are still revered today have managed to maintain their esteemed status?

When we factor in the heightened administrative scrutiny to combat corruption, it becomes apparent that today’s politicians face significantly less leeway and assume far greater risks than their predecessors. Adding to this predicament is the prevalence of precarious majorities, exacerbated by the pervasive influence of social media and widening economic disparities, which have fueled rampant polarization.

Given these challenges, it’s understandable why many capable individuals prefer to remain on the outskirts of politics—serving as advisors, commissioners, leaders of public enterprises, or union members—rather than subjecting themselves to the scrutiny and intrusion of public office, which often entails sacrificing their privacy.

In such a climate, the erratic actions of contemporary leaders can be interpreted within context. Despite the inherent demands of their roles, politicians today are expected to navigate complex challenges with courage and generosity. Currently, it’s Pedro Sánchez under scrutiny, but others will undoubtedly follow suit in the relentless cycle of public accountability.

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