With the ever-so-quickly approaching presidential election of 2016, American politics is once again in the global spotlight. At first glance, this year’s election may present itself just like any other: a mixture of intellectual banter, endorsement conspiracies, and strategically driven policy reform. However, in 2016, political success within the American democratic system seems to be contingent upon outlandish character attributes and primetime entertainment value. For months now, European countries have watched in awe and dismay as figures such as Donald Trump have risen to the top of media and popularity polls throughout the United States. The Italian media, in particular, has begun to form an opinion about the Republican front-runner, and, according to a few recent articles, has one thing to offer: a warning.
Italy is no stranger to radical politicians, which only strengthens their claims about Mr. Trump. The Republican candidate even recently retweeted a quote from one of Italy’s most famous extremist dictators, Benito Mussolini.
While Trump’s tweet has earned non-stop coverage within American media, Italian journalists’ reactions have been much more circumspect. Instead, they more readily draw comparisons between Trump and one of Italy’s other biggest personalities, Silvio Berlusconi – Italy’s recent prime minister and the longest to hold the position since WWII. “The similarities between Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi are striking”, wrote Italian political columnist Beppe Severgnini, “both are loud, vain, cheeky businessmen, amateur politicians and professional womanizers. Both have a troubled relation with their egos and their hair. Both think God is their publicist, and twist religion to suit their own ends.” Similar to Severgnini, Barbie Latza Nadeau recently touched on the manipulative talent that connects Trump and Berlusconi in an article for The Daily Beast: “They also share a ‘leave-it-to-me’ wink wink, nudge nudge political style that plays into voters’ vulnerabilities and fears…they seek to hoodwink desperate dreamers into believing that if they just sign on the dotted line, the riches will be theirs, too.”
The Italian media is speaking from experience; they have seen what happens when “hustler politicians” take power. Perhaps it would be wise to heed their warning. Perhaps it’s time to take an objective look not at who Trump is now, but at the potentially uncontrollable, Berlusconi-esque entity he can become if victorious in November. Because as columnist Annalisa Merelli directly warned the United States, “on the brink of ‘Super Tuesday,’ your country risks becoming the butt of a joke”, and that is simply something that America’s already damaged international reputation cannot afford.