So, you've heard it on the news, Donald J. Trump has been elected 45th President of the United States, surprising the world and the polls that showed Hillary Clinton may have become the first female president in American history.
Somehow, though, the story of a real estate developer tax evading millionaire clad in expensive smart suits with no political experience and a penchant for lying, but with a visceral hate for immigrants and a language drenched in the semantic field of misogyny and arrogance becoming the leader of a country is not new. If you are Italian or lived in Italy between 1993 and 2011, you have seen it all embodied in Silvio Berlusconi.
If you look at their lives in images, Trump and Berlusconi look like twins separated at birth: black and white pictures show younger versions of the two tycoons in front of newly developed properties - the Trump Tower and Milano 2; Trump and his wives Ivana, Marla and Melania, Berlusconi and partners Carla Elvira and Veronica (Ivana and Veronica representing in pictures the classic '80s ideal of blonde woman in Dynasty clothes). None of them had any experience in running a national campaign, but both had the ambition and the money to do so, in a nutshell, a tale of two businessmen with more than one shadow in their financial pasts, who managed to win the credibility of many voters - among them ordinary people from the working classes - fascinated by a combination of power, success, grandeur and money (well, especially money…).
While Berlusconi was Prime Minister he often attacked all those who were against him, especially satirists; during his campaign Trump often threatened those who opposed him and promised lawsuits against the media organisations who criticized him or the women who accused him of sexual assault. Berlusconi often thought with his guts (and with whatever was in his pants...) rather than with his brain, but this is also Trump's modus operandi, besides, Berlusconi's promises of a better Italy, more jobs and fewer taxes, resound in Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again".
Berlusconi transformed Italy into a sad playground where the interests and welfare of the nation were subject to one main priority, saving the ass of the Prime Minister from continuous scandals. His conflicts of interest, the fact that Berlusconi owned TV channels and spread his own propaganda through the media, followed him in the government in the same way as Trump's affairs will follow him in the White House.
Italy is still paying for the financial, social and cultural damages Berlusconi caused to the country and to its people. You may argue that the rising levels of violence against women in Italy can't be attributed solely to him, but his offensive language, behaviour (remember how in 2011 he called Angela Merkel an "unfuckable lard-arse"?) and multiple sex gates sent the country back to the Stone Age. Even the fashion industry suffered under Berlusconi with an excess of mini-dresses and semi-naked models on the runways, unstylish signs that had many foreign critics laughing at the Milanese shows.
Historia magistra vitae, history is life's teacher, Cicero said, but it looks like this time the Italian experience didn't reach the majority of the Americans. The words of Italian writer Indro Montanelli come to mind: according to him Berlusconi was a terrible illness, but Italians could only get cured after catching the bug. After suffering with a severe bout of "Berlusconism", Italians would have indeed become immune.
Maybe Americans will have to do the same: to become immune to Trump, they have to catch the bug and get infected, the problem will be surviving under his presidency and maybe get their minds cleansed after this collective brainwashing session. It may be a long process, though, after all it took Italians a couple of decades to get rid of Berlusconi and even now his zombified and mummified self, plastered in copious amounts of fondant cream and immaculately sculpted fake hair, appears on TV like a shadow from an embarrassing past.
Mrs Clinton maybe didn't represent a terrific change, couldn't win the trust of all Americans, and wasn't a model for the financially destitute ones. It didn't help that most news reports about her seemed to focus on her wardrobe, colours of choice and on the pantsuit being all the rage again.
Yet, surely, this choice represents a step backwards on gender progress and on politics in general, without considering the fact that this election unleashed a trend for unstylishly poisonous political campaigns. As business enters into politics in the States, a selfish era starts when Trump takes the oath of office on January 20th. Mind you, there was one thing that was great under Berlusconi: despite he hated comedians offending him and banned quite a few of them from TV, satire was rife.
The same will happen with Trump, in a way it is already happening: Marilyn Manson chose not to vote, but the preview video for his forthcoming track "SAY10" shows a decapitated Donald Trump-look alike and Manson standing before the corpse holding a blonde haired head (but don't do that, it is not worth turning Trump into a martyr...).
To promote his upcoming appearance at the "Day For Night" festival in Houston in December Aphex Twin released instead a short US election video featuring Clinton and Trump with their faces squashed and voices altered while Aphex Twin himself rides an A-bomb down on Texas.
When Berlusconi was in power Indro Montanelli compared "Berlusconism" to scum rising from the sewage; you may argue that Trumpism is more or less the same thing. It took roughly twenty years to Italians to get rid of Berlusconi; we will see how long it will take to Americans to clean the sewer line.