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Election day

I was once an eager student. In my early school years, I worked tirelessly to be the best in class and was often shut down for having too much initiative. It seems ridiculous today, but the statement "we know that you know, let the other students work" was something I heard often.

By the time I went to a boarding school, I decided to try a different approach of doing as little as I possibly could. I got good at it; in fact, I got so good that I failed the entry exams at my super-competitive university. Nothing a bit of bribery couldn't fix, though.

It was unexciting to go back to working hard, so I decided to embrace a new approach - politics. At some point in my second year, we heard that, as students, we could form something called "a student's council". It was meant to be a vehicle for conversations between the school and the students on important matters, such as scheduling, rules of conduct, extracurricular activities and most importantly for me - events.

My mind went "ka-ching" when I heard that a school budget would be allocated for events. So, for the next six months, we went back and forward with the school, which tried to make it sound like this was an unimportant bureaucratic matter that we shouldn't get too hung up on, which only made me push harder for it in a student forum.

Eventually, the format was agreed upon, the composition of the group established and the election procedure scheduled for early next year. Little did I know that I would remain a second-year student in my third year of studies. It wasn't even due to my excess partying; I was too bright for my own good. Following the core principles of "doing as little as humanly possible to pass", I've found a hack to my main exam. You could pass with flying colours if you knew the most complex topic well. Sadly for me, I wasn't the first to notice, and after a few years of abuse, my year was the year they changed the format.

Anyhow, here I was in my second year again, figuring out how I would benefit from being one of the two people elected to represent my class in the student council when I was told that my class couldn't vote for me. In our original negotiations, we set it up so that each class could only vote for its representatives.  As I fell behind a year, I had about a week to harness the support of classmates I hadn't met. My attendance was never excellent, but after realising I had to wait a whole year to have another go at the exam I failed, I stopped going to the school altogether.

For a moment, I thought there was no hope, but life handed me a lucky break. The day before the election, there was a celebration of some anniversary and a student party. That party was hosted in a space where we used to organise events a long while ago, meaning I knew all the staff there. After a short consideration, I decided simplicity is king and went for a very straightforward last-moment campaign execution.

My whole campaign was a two-step process.

  1. Step one - I announce on the student forum that I'm running for a spot on the student council, and I promise to take great care of my classmates, especially regarding parties.

  2. Step two - buy enough vodka for my classmates to vote me in.

I didn't give it much thought. However, my gut was telling me that it was a robust setup.

On the night of the party, I brought in three or four bottles of vodka. My history with the place allowed me to buy it in-store instead of paying the total bar price. A strong politician is as efficient as his campaign, and boy, was I getting bang for my buck. As the night grew momentum, I felt the party was nearing its peak, after which the people would start bailing out. I asked the bartender to pour all the vodka into a battery of shot glasses that covered the whole bar.

As he was doing it, I asked my partners, famous in Moscow for their parties, to introduce me. I was nervous, so while my Greek friend was rambling from the stage about me, I downed three shots from that battery and stumbled upon the pedestal.

"Democracy is essential to a successful society, and tomorrow, we are having our very first election. We better not fuck it up." - was my opening - "Students of the second year. You might not know me very well, but I know you. And if you vote for me tomorrow, I promise to make sure that it's not just working hard in our school; it's also playing hard. And to give you a glimpse of what's about to come, I welcome all of you to the bar; those shots are for you." - to complete the cheese fest, I dropped the mic and walked off the stage.

The next afternoon, the count got in, and I was the second most-voted student-elect in my class by a significant margin from the third place. It secured both my position on the council and my understanding that democracy is easily manipulated.

Fifteen years later, Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale reenactment of my straightforward approach. The day after the results were announced, I found LA residents shellshocked and in disbelief that his campaign worked. I observed them struggling through their day in doubt and couldn't help thinking: "How could it not?"

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