While Americans are somewhat thunderstruck by an independently wealthy person, like Donald Trump jumping headlong into the presidential race, and gaining traction, it’s happened in other places in the world.
One recent ego-centered and financially independent figure on the world scene to seek political power was mightily successful. We refer to former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who led Italy for nine years through four cabinets, often embarrassing that country with his escapades and outright peccadilloes, and was eventually forced to resign.
Berlusconi has been pictured as a “brash, bruising, billionaire businessman” who didn’t care in the least about the way he was pictured. He was his own man, independent, and often sought to run roughshod over even his own political party. As Trump, he originally made his fortune in real estate, and later parlayed his dollars in controlling a private television empire, the most successful in Italy, raking in billions. Even his own television managers could not keep his sometimes embarrassing private movements when president out of the news.
Though caught up in all sorts of sordid behavior, often involving women, no matter what happened, Berlusconi seemed to come out ahead while in office. One person recently described him: “Nothing stuck. He had a gift of gab. He had a tone. He connected. He owned a soccer club, for heaven’s sake. Many Italians thought they saw in him one of their own. He served four terms and nine years as prime minister before an ignominious downfall.”
The publication Foreign Affairs termed his serving in this manner:
“The latest bout of political instability hasn’t just triggered a standard round of name-calling among Italy’s political class; it has dramatically worsened the outlook of Italy’s already fragile economy, scaring off investors and bringing economic reform to a grinding halt…. Berlusconi seems more than willing to risk his country’s future to save his own neck, even if just temporarily.”
Another publication called it “a party in the service of a leader.”
Berlusconi arrived in power as the head of his own Forza Italia Party, and in the parliamentary fashion of Italian politics, cobbled together a majority to give him the prime minister’s position.
Should the independent Donald Trump become the candidate of the Republican Party, he will still have to convince Congressional members of his own party to back his proposals. With Trump an “outsider” something like Jimmy Carter was, that won’t necessarily be easy.
Should somehow the Grand Old Party deny Trump the nomination, there’s even the outside possibility he could become president through an unprecedented third party. Should he happen to win, that would really create problems for Trump with the Congress, not necessarily giving him cooperation as president.
Of course, the likelihood that Trump, either as the Republican nominee or as an independent, becoming president is unlikely. The Democratic nominee, probably Hillary Clinton, would most likely easily defeat a GOP led by Trump, or dispose of Trump if he ran as an independent.
Yet the possibility remains that Donald Trump could be the next Berlusconi coming to power. We saw how rough that was for Italy when Berlusconi was prime minister. It would be even worse for the United States with Trump as president.