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Like Berlusconi, Trump's Big Man Politics Pose A Serious Threat

02/03/2016 03:07 EST | Updated 02/03/2017 05:12 EST
Luca Bruno/AP
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2010 file photo, Italian Premier and People of Freedom (PDL) party leader Silvio Berlusconi delivers his speech on the occasion of a party rally, in Milan, Italy. A furious Silvio Berlusconi called into a TV show Monday, Jan. 24, 2011, discussing his alleged prostitution scandal, traded insults with the host and said the program was like a "brothel.'' His supporters said Tuesday that the Italian premier had a right to defend himself from accusations made during the show. Critics said the call was a show of aggression from an increasingly desperate man. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

With the continuing ascendance of Donald Trump (and despite a recent setback), a widening swath of America is embracing "big man" politics. It's loud, proud and largely without substance. However, if we step back just a few years in history, a similar character emerged on the scene in Southern Europe -- and things went from bad to worse.

Echoing the rapid rise of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and despite the $1-million start-up loan from his father, Mr. Trump seems to be widely accepted as a self-made man by his supporters. The kind of man that America can look up to.

His histrionics and empty policy promises purportedly offer a new way of doing politics. Mr. Trump, a billionaire several times over, has managed to tap into an underlying contempt for the American political and business elite -- perhaps more successfully than has ever been done before in the United States.

He uses this contempt to enthrall throngs of supporters from the middle and working classes. Therein lies the irony. This massive power base can't be unaware that Donald Trump has for years been at the very nexus of America's power corridors -- and, frankly, was largely unwelcome there.

According to the "Trump Doctrine," his is a politics of the individual and not the politics of appeasement. Mr. Trump doesn't kowtow to big oil or big pharma, and certainly not to the democratically elected Congress and Senate.

"While a Trump presidency is unlikely to be marred by allegations of sex parties, it would be marred by the kind of cronyism and macho magnanimity that was the downfall of Mr. Berlusconi."

Mr. Trump claims to understand the wants, needs and desires of a struggling middle class, and his qualification to lead seems to rest squarely on his rather chaotic accumulation of wealth. Underneath the thin veneer of veracity supporting his assertions is a clearer truth: Quite obviously, Donald Trump is not a member of the middle or working classes, and moreover is a man clearly bereft of any genuine empathy.

To be fair, Hillary Clinton isn't a housewife from the Midwest and Bernie Sanders isn't a labourer from the Rust Belt -- but neither indirectly hint towards a firsthand understanding of poverty or underemployment. They do, however, claim to want to enact positive change based on close consultation with average Americans.

Donald Trump stands for greed and corporate supremacy. He stands against welcoming new Americans to the country, simply on a personal belief that a desperate group of people could (and likely ARE) terrorists.

However, this could be simply another example of Mr. Trump's chameleon act. Like Mr. Berlusconi before him, President Trump would lead the nation as far from the doctrines of the founding fathers as one could imagine.

America could quickly become characterized by introverted foreign and economic policy -- underpinned by a suspicion of the wider world. This is from the very country that created the modern concept of offering a home and a chance to succeed for the downtrodden and oppressed.

In the end, the policies and regressive actions of Berlusconi put Italy at the brink of bankruptcy, forced Mr. Berlusconi out of government and saw the installation of a technocratic government.

Italy's virtual collapse was considered a disaster throughout Europe and the world -- but put into perspective, Italy's GDP in 2013 was just under $2.2 trillion. America's was $16.77 trillion. Swift intervention by the EU and the actions of Mario Monti's government stemmed the financial meltdown of the Italian markets.

But quite honestly -- what and who could save America when isolationism, fear-mongering and self-reliance return the U.S. to a recession? While a Trump presidency is unlikely to be marred by allegations of sex parties, it would be marred by the kind of cronyism and macho magnanimity that was the downfall of Mr. Berlusconi.

I believe that the world would become more nasty and brutish under President Trump -- but hopefully spared from anything resembling Berlusconi's infamous Bunga Bunga parties.

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