The 2016 presidential campaign started with an unusual count. For the last few weeks, pundits and political rivals were trying to count every single hair Donald Trump had sprouting in random directions on his head. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I, too, have spent long hours reading and counting the numerous efforts to find a “bad hair” in Trump’s otherwise seemingly abundant crest. They were endless – at least as many as Trump’s wild hairs, I tell you! Most people were trying to find something – an offence, an insult, a proof of some wrongdoing – that could undermine the real estate magnate’s bid for the presidency. In other words, everybody is trying to pull a hair off of Trump’s head. Everybody wants to see what the bold magnate has to say, if anything at all. The more popular Trump becomes, the harder his rivals look for dirt, becoming increasingly desperate.
Perhaps their attempts would be more successful if they tried to challenge Trump’s very vulnerable ego. Something like the following little story: four years ago, my friend attended a big event organized by the White House. Her table was not far away from Trump’s, and since Trump is married to Melanija Knavs, a Slovenian like me, my friend trusted me with her observation. Over the course of the event, she got the impression that Trump’s wife does not love her man. Hoping for some juicier story, I was surprised when she told me, “If Melania loved him, she would insist that he change his horrible hair look. His hair more than anything resembles a bird nest and nobody really knows if it is fake or real,” she added.
Four years later, I continue to appreciate my friend’s wisdom. Donald Trump, a self-absorbed man who obviously spends a lot of time in front of the mirror, would definitely get upset if he heard that his wife was not completely devoted to him. A shadow of doubt that he might not be loved and desired would terrify the salesman, deeply convinced that he can seduce anyone, even a crocodile.
For the same reason, Trump would be thrown off balance if he was told that he is not the only sun in our galaxy. As Frank Bruni observed in his column in the New York Times, Silvio Berlusconi – former Italian prime minister, media tycoon, and above all a wonderful salesman – is Trump’s older twin:
They have the same obsession with their wealth. Same need to crow about it. Same belief that it’s the irrefutable measure of their genius. Same come-on to countrymen: If I enriched myself, I can enrich you.They’re priapic twins, identical in their insistence on being seen as paragons of irresistible lust. If hideously sexist utterances ensue, so be it. Loins before decency. Pheromones over good sense. And the vanity. Oh, the vanity.
Previously, as a reporter in Rome, I had a chance to observe Berlusconi from day one, when, in late 1993, he decided to step into politics. A year before, Berlusconi, first a real estate businessman and later a media mogul, had lost his political protection. Italian socialists, led by Bettino Craxi and other major political parties, were crushed by the biggest corruption scandal in Italian history. Because of the political vacuum it created, Berlusconi was forced to rush to the front lines and protect his empire by himself. A few months after he created his own political party, Berlusconi won the parliamentary elections and formed a new government, backed by his own, new political majority which, for the first time after WWII, included a neo-fascist party. While this event triggered many protests and temporary European sanctions, Italy passively watched the rise of a dictator who did not hesitate to imitate Mussolini. With all the necessary political and legislative tools at hand, Berlusconi was now able to create a string of laws that protected his media empire and legalized many of his dubious business practices.
And yet, just a few years earlier, things had looked great. Italy enjoyed a booming economy, and as the Cold War ended, the country finally freed itself of being an American protectorate. If not for the corruption scandal, followed by Italy’s political paralysis and later domination by Berlusconi’s wild politics (which in two decades completely depleted the country), Italy would be a different place today. At a certain point, Berlusconi controlled the country to the extent that he started to believe that he was untouchable. Then the news about sex parties in Berlusconi’s Rome headquarters started to leak. We learned about obscene details and conversations recorded in the prime minister’s gigantic bed, Putin’s gift to his friend Berlusconi, who also served as the Russian dictator’s spearhead when he still hoped to conquer Europe. With Berlusconi, Italy sank to its knees, to the point that political commentator Giovanni Sartori called Berlusconi regime a “sultanate.” Even now, with the aging Berlusconi turning 79 years old in September and gradually retiring, it’s hard to foresee when Italy will get a new chance to start marching again.
So in spite of their many similarities – their embarrassing, even vulgar behavior, their racism and explicit anti-intellectualism – there is a difference between Trump and Berlusconi. It’s not just the hair (Berlusconi, in addition to many plastic surgeries, had a hair transplant, while whether Trump’s flourishing crest is fake or natural, we do not know for sure). Currently, the main difference between the two is that Trump has never attained the political power Berlusconi enjoyed for two decades. Luckily. Because judging by his recent actions, one can imagine how Trump would use his executive power as a U.S. president. Would he lead the U.S. as his own corporation, the same way Berlusconi did with Italy?
Thankfully, Trump’s chances to get in the Oval Office are minimal. But among the predictions of Trump’s political future are a few elegant theories. These theories grant a touch of rationality to Trump’s reckless and insulting behavior.
“To many centrist politicians and mainstream political observers, Donald Trump is a boastful, insensitive egomaniac spouting populist rhetoric. Whether such a characterization is true is not worthy of debate, which may explain why the rantings of enraged career political pundits have no impact on Mr. Trump’s popularity among Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across America,” Paul Brodsky opens in his his analysis for Macro Allocation Inc.
“Donald Trump is a threat not only to the nattering nabobs in the press corps and the Republican Party,” he continues. “His day in the sun may be symbolic of a broader dynamic: the declining power held by historically powerful institutions. Ask yourself if Trump’s campaign is making a mockery of the political process or exposing the mockery that the political process has become. A not-insignificant percentage of Americans away from the coasts, are looking past his utter lack of decorum and political savvy to hitch their wagons to his outrage.”
So why would Trump be an appropriate person to start some sort of iconoclast revolution within the Republican party? How is it possible that a boastful outsider could lead a process that threatens to upend one of the country’s two major political parties?
“Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so – from birthers to race-based hatred of immigrants, from nihilists who shut down government to elected officials who shout ‘You lie’ at their commander in chief,” Timothy Egan writes in his opinion piece for the New York Times. “It was fine when all this crossing-of-the-line was directed at president Obama or other Democrats. But now that the ugliness is intramural, Trump has forced the party leaders to decry something they have not only tolerated, but encouraged.”
Matt Purple of the National Interest adds to this narrative in which Trump transforms from a presumptuous and reckless person into some sort historical figure: “conservative hatred [largely from Tea Partiers] of GOP squishes has reached such a pitch that they’re willing to cheer anyone who trashes the likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, no matter how caustic the terms. Many of Trump’s defenders don’t expect him to win the nomination. They view him instead as a blimp packed with explosive flying malevolently towards the core of the Republican party. And they can’t wait to watch the pyrotechnics.”
If the above is true, the 2016 elections, which initially looked to be anything but fun, might turn into a prairie fire. If Trump really does manage to bombard the GOP Headquarters, the attack could start a spark in the aging Democratic Party, too. Or would a GOP in shambles just guarantee Hillary Clinton a landslide victory? Truthdig had some interesting comments on Clinton’s apparent tough position when, “Earlier this month, she said, ‘there can be no justification or tolerance for this kind of criminal behavior’ that has been seen on Wall Street… Her campaign echoed the message with an email to supporters lauding Clinton for saying that ‘when Wall Street executives commit criminal wrongdoing, they deserve to face criminal prosecution.’” Writer David Sirota implies that there is a dark side to the leading Democratic candidate:
Clinton’s outrage sounds convincing at first—but then, audacity-wise, it starts to seem positively Trump-like when cross-referenced with campaign finance reports, foundation donations and speaking fees. According to an Associated Press analysis, Clinton has already raked in more than $1.6 million worth of campaign contributions from donors in the same financial sector she is slamming on the campaign trail. Additionally, Clinton’s foundation took $5 million worth of donations from at least nine financial institutions that secured special deals to avoid prosecution—even as they admitted wrongdoing. The Clintons also accepted nearly $4 million in speaking fees from those firms since 2009.
Oh, and that anti-Wall Street email from Clinton’s campaign? It was authored by Clinton aide Gary Gensler, a onetime Goldman Sachs executive who later became a government official.
It seems that for some, there is not much difference between Trump and Clinton. Considering the spontaneity and impulsiveness of Trump’s character compared to Hillary’s disciplined and methodical mind, I do not share this opinion. But at the same time, Sirota’s analysis suggests that the sclerosis within the Democratic Party might be – with a possible boost from the changes within Republican Party – an opportunity for radicalization amongst rank and file Democrats. Bernie Sanders and his widely accepted populism seem to indicate that this diagnosis is exactly right..
However, neither Sanders nor Trump has any serious chance to travel far in this election campaign. But as I said before, they are capable of stirring the pot within the two major parties.
And as it looks now, Trump’s inability to debate without arguing and his lack of important Republican sponsors (many of whom have deliberately turned their backs on him), seems to indicate that Trump’s campaign might actually end much sooner than that of Sanders. Let’s drop Trump’s vanity and his boasting about money, hinting that he is able to finance his own campaign. He could, and yet he won’t, because Trump is the kind of person who bargains for the lowest price even when he marries If what the New York Times and Zero Hedge are reporting is true, then Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers’ lack of interest could mean that Trump’s political career is doomed. . In short, Trump is not a generous man and always makes sure that the bills are paid by others. Maybe that’s why the bad hair persists.