Trump and the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are often compared, as at first glance they appear to share some similarities. As we pointed out in this previous post, Italians are trend setters in many fields, and have already gone through the trauma of voting a business millionaire as a means to express discontent towards the establishment. There may be, therefore, a lot to learn from the recent past in Italy, but we also need to consider some important differences between the two businessmen turned politicians. Here are some of them:
Berlusconi really is a self made man.
He started as a singer and entertainer on cruise ships, moved on to door-to-door sales of electric brushes, and then became a real estate agent, where he somehow managed to gather enough money to kickstart his business empire.
Instead, Trump was born rich, receiving a million dollars from his father to start a business, and has managed to become a little richer. Not much of an achievement.
Berlusconi is actually funny.
Really. You may not like him as a politician, but his colourful exploits will make you laugh. From jokes about funny tasting apples to improvised singing, he is a born entertainer and people have fun when he is around.
On the other hand, being forced to spend time with Trump could conceivably replace waterboarding as a method of torture in Guantanamo and elsewhere.
Nobody seems to know what’s the deal with Trump’s hair. Is it a wig? Is it a transplant?
It’s true, Berlusconi also had hair-related troubles, but things are quite straightforward: he was bald, he had a transplant, he now has hair.
Italians didn’t really believe much of what Berlusconi said.
Well maybe a very small minority believed he went into politics to improve matters in his beloved country, but the vast majority of people just hoped that a businessman would somehow manage to deliver on tax reductions and other promises.
On the other side of the pond however Trump supporters really do regard him as the Saviour, and are sure that he really will build a big wall (and make Mexico pay for it), kick out the baddies, bring jobs back, cut taxes and make America Great Again.
Berlusconi is cooler.
Both political figures play to the nationalistic pride of their population. It may be somewhat atavistic, but some people get a kick out of seeing the leader of their country being rude to another leader. Especially when that leader is a German lady. Both Berlusconi and Trump behaved like spoiled brats when meeting Angela Merkel, but Berlusconi’s excuse of a phone call was less boorish than the loss of hearing that Trump recently faked.
Berlusconi wasn’t really racist or sexist.
Sure, he was a donnaiolo, or womanizer (at least that was the image he deliberately fostered), but he was never caught saying anything as remotely sexist as some of Trump’s outbursts. And he never targeted whole sections of the population on the basis of race or religion: he merely complained about the “communist judges persecuting him”. He even said that he liked Obama because they were so alike: young, handsome and tanned. (There is nothing intrinsically racist in this joke, we tend to be more relaxed about racial language and issues in Italy)
So, it may be nostalgia for the “good old days” that makes us forget some of the more outrageous things that Berlusconi did in his 20 years in power, but the former Italian premier and businessman wins the comparison with Trump wins hands down