The scene – a billionaire family man, who always looked after his image more than his wealth. Berlusconi among the models, using politics as the place where he could satisfy his huge ego. The numerous shades of his career were not weighed in the least against the key message that the electorate, horrified by the effects of globalization, wanted to hear: “The establishment has betrayed you.”
The American Silvio Berlusconi. Many have described him like this, comprising the brightest analysts in the U.S. media, which also include some Republican columnists. So this is where we should begin. Donald Trump, who has just been elected president of the United States, has never really invented anything, except for a great television show, “The Apprentice” – but he has studied the winning models. Berlusconi is one of those, but other more local figures include Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura (in decline).
A great entrepreneur and brilliant businessman. Or, a mediocre businessman, serial crook, bankrupt, tax evader. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, basically. The truth about Trump is always elusive. As a developer, he wasn’t alone: He inherited a small fortune from his father, and according to the most accurate estimates of his fortune (which are extremely opaque), he would not have added much wealth to that fatherly gift. The Trump Towers found in New York, Las Vegas and Florida haven’t been Trump’s for a while. The large New York developers consider him a minor character in their business. Trump however, has taken care of the brand, leaving his mark even on things that don’t belong to him anymore. He invested in casinos, but even there, he has had less success than anticipated, with multiple bankruptcies.
Trump has numerous merchandising lines, clothing brands and wines, which are always useful when feeding his celebrity guests, but not necessarily generous in terms of revenue. He has possessed and managed the branding of various international beauty queen contests, like Miss Universe, where even there he had more imagination than substance. He is no Bill Gates, nor is he Steve Jobs, but in the world of American capitalism, he is a microbe. Only as a showman has he demonstrated an undeniable talent. Trump’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” whereby he chooses aspiring entrepreneurs, has been one of the biggest successes in American TV.
Trump has always been drawn to politics. Probably because he felt that he could satisfy his ego and his overwhelming narcissism. He was originally a Democrat before becoming a Republican; he followed the Clintons and all the notable members of the New York Democratic Party. However, he has known for a while that his fortune could be tied to the Right. He pursued the more radical and racist routes. His real entrance on the national political scene occurred when he headed the Birther movement four years ago, during the 2012 electoral campaign. Trump began to accuse Obama of being born in Kenya, and being therefore ineligible, a usurper. The lie became a national legend, also adding the claim that Obama was Muslim. It didn’t matter that these were lies; it was a subliminal message thanks to which Trump became the favorite of all white and angry Americans who couldn’t accept an African-American national leader. Trump realized that by manipulating social media, he quickly gained an enormous and enthusiastic following. So he started to intensely and obsessively use Twitter. Even though he didn’t run, the 2012 campaign became the general practice run for what was to come.
Nobody took him seriously when he announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015. The other Republicans hesitated to attack him. They thought the Trump phenomena would fizzle out on its own. They courted him, certain that the moment would come to inherit his fans. But he fooled them all; one by one, professional politicians like Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all fell like bowling pins. He destroyed them by ridiculing them. He hit the nail on the head with all the winning words: the Wall; condemning the free trade treaties. To an America that suffers as a result of globalization he said, “The establishment has betrayed you, it has sold you to China and Mexico.”* He interpreted, better than anyone else, the air of the time.
A rebellious, revolutionary campaign, a hostile takeover of an ancient party that has had leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Trump has even managed to make the Mormons and Evangelicals vote, when he is on his third marriage and has boasted about numerous extramarital achievements, including the former men’s magazine model who is now his wife, Melania. The revelation that Melania worked as a model violating immigration laws didn’t damage him. It didn’t harm him when illegal immigrants were found working in his hotels. While all of Hillary Clinton’s scandals plunged her into an image of dishonesty, he has become president after being a “Teflon candidate,” like Reagan.
*Editor’s note: This quote, while accurately translated, could not be independently verified.