Silvio Berlusconi started out as a wealthy demagogue on the brink of bankruptcy, whose celebrity was — like Trump’s — rooted in both real estate and popular entertainment culture.
Silvio Berlusconi is a media tycoon known for his lavish lifestyle, Berlusconi made a late-career pivot from business to politics, winning four terms as Italy’s prime minister during the 1990s and 2000s.
Like Trump, he presented himself as an anti-politician, a man of business who could free his country from evil—promising to use his privilege and power to cut through the red tape that had made generations of Italians cynical about government.
Presaging Trump, the Italian media mogul cast himself as the only viable savior of a struggling nation: the political outsider promising to sweep in and clean up from the corrupt olygarchy that controls the media and the goverment and restore the country to its lost international stature.
In short, he promised to make Italy great again.
Italy’s political and media establishment underestimated Berlusconi. They viewed him as a joke, an ignorant buffoon, and he was widely dismissed as a comical figure, unfit to lead a serious country. None of that stopped him. The main stream media laughed at him and branded him as a racist idiotic buffoon who will never become the prime minister of Italy, one of the world's most powerful economies.
He became Italy’s longest-serving prime minister serving a total of nine years as prime minister.
Many Italians hoped his business acumen could help revitalise Italy's economy, as people in the US today hope that Trump's business acumen could help revitalise America's economy.
So effective was Berlusconi’s narrative that the electorate was willing to forgive — repeatedly — his utter failure to deliver on his economic promises.
For years he successfully brushed off sex scandals (the notorious "bunga bunga" affair) and allegations of corruption but it was the effects of Italy's burgeoning eurozone debt crisis in 2011 that finally spelt an end to his time at the top table of politics.
His support drained away in 2011, as the country's borrowing costs rocketed at the height of the eurozone debt crisis, and he resigned after losing his parliamentary majority, and driving the Italian economy to near bankruptcy.
He was later convicted of tax fraud in 2013 and ejected from the Italian Senate. Because of his age, a four-year jail term became a year of community service at a care home near Milan. Another conviction in 2015 and his political career was finally over.
All this does not mean that the same will happen with Donald Trump if he becomes the next US president. However, if Trump does become the next US president, which is a very real possibility, he would be wise to learn from Berlusconi, about how not to manage a country and its economy.