There are lots of reasons politicians venerate Winston Churchill. His wartime leadership is the epitome of how great politicians can summon citizens to higher causes. No leader of the past century has used his or her oratory and character to greater effect. He was also hilarious and a natty dresser.
But Sir Winston’s cardinal virtue in the eyes of many politicians may be his refusal to ever give up on his political career despite many, many setbacks. The 1930s saw him deep in the political wilderness, only to be proven right about the Nazi threat. He ascended to the premiership in 1940, and ultimately became quite probably the greatest prime minister in British history.
Political history is full of phoenix-like rises, such as Richard Nixon’s journey from a presidential loss and a humiliating California gubernatorial defeat to the greatest popular-vote presidential landslide in history or Joe Biden’s trip from fifth-place Iowa finish in 2008 to the White House more than a dozen years later.
More often, as with Hillary Clinton, the burnt birds stay in the ashes. But despite all of the two-time losers and perennially frustrated candidates, these return-from-the-wilderness stories are irresistible to politicians. It’s a brutal business. Even the most successful politicians have to have superhuman endurance for public embarrassment and perseverance in the face of reversals. And when they’re down, the thought of Churchill, flashing “V” for victory and chomping his cigar, must be a comfort.