Italians provide perspective on Trump’s popularity


“I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent,” Donald Trump said in a Fortune magazine interview from 2003. Does it seem unfortunate that there are people who would say Donald Trump is intelligent?

The situation is looking bleak for us non-Trump supporting Republicans. Following the Super Tuesday primaries, the boisterous candidate was well on his way to scoring the Republican nomination, earning 319 of the 1,777 delegates’ votes available. The next closest candidate was tea-party Ted Cruz with 226 delegate’s votes. Hillary Clinton has a large lead for the Democratic nomination.

Is there any way I can stay in Italy after my semester of study abroad ends and thereby avoid America for the next eight years?

It is easy to question how we got to this point, where political dynasties such as the Clintons rule and media spotlight hogs are front-runners in our reality-TV obsessed nation. It is easy just to laugh at the whole situation.

Unfortunately, we Americans might be laughing a little too often. Many Italians are watching the U.S. presidential race with great interest.

Italian columnist Annalisa Merelli points out that Trump really is not a joke or laughing matter anymore, something that rings especially true with the results of Super Tuesday now final. His rise to power and fame is the mirror image of Silvio Berlusconi, a prime minister who recently presided over Italy.

Merelli writes, “Like Trump, Berlusconi consistently seemed too absurd to be true. And yet he was. He won elections again, and again, and again, thriving off any and all attention. People didn’t take him or what he said seriously. Then one day we woke up to find our government overrun by criminals, our economy destroyed, and our cultural mores perverted to the extent that the objectification of women was commonplace. There was no more laughing left to do.”

Berlusconi was an Italian media tycoon who rose to prime minister. The Italians loved to laugh at Bersculoni much like many Americans enjoy laughing at Trump.

Ethics of Communication Professor Fabio Binarelli echoes Merelli’s sentiments: “Trump is not a joke … his program is alarming … he is a wealthy, extravagant man who would govern (the United States) as a private corporation. He constantly claims that he will ‘make America great again,’ but he forgets to tell people that he wants this for few.”

Many Italians are watching America as a country headed down a treacherous path they have already traveled.

In general, the U.S. election process is appreciated here. Binarelli expressed appreciation for the passion and popularity of the United States but said he was concerned with the influence of “big money” in the campaigns.

“I find American’s election process very intriguing,” he said. “Of course, United States politics has a strong impact on international balance, so I hope that Americans will vote responsibly.”

Italian businessman Alessandro Guidice also expressed his concerns over the large amount of money on the American campaign trail.

“The expensiveness of the election process raises strong barriers to the emergence of independent candidates,” Guidice said. “Access to fundraising is crucial, and connections with the establishment are very important. The longevity of family dynasties like the Kennedy, the Bush and the Clinton shows how important it is being part of the mechanism.”

This year money has obviously had an impact in the primaries as two extremely wealthy candidates from each party are now the front-runners. The power grip of money in our elections seems to deter well-intentioned candidates.

We tend to take for granted our free ability to elect leaders, something Italians do not. In Italy, the last three prime ministers were not elected through a vote because of a call to overhaul electoral law.

“Don’t think about that like a dictatorship, it’s more like a broad-based government,” Binarelli said. “Nevertheless, this is a pretty unusual situation and surely it’s a case of suspended democracy.”

Merelli warns of the dangers of a potential President Trump.

“Don’t let Trump troll his way to the presidential candidacy,” she said.

Guidice also expressed his concern over the Republican Party’s track so far.

“I am very surprised that the GOP is failing to support a credible candidate,” he said. “It seems they are going to waste a great opportunity to elect an effective President in a race with no incumbent, and if Trump gets the nomination, this might even question the near future of the party.”

Even if you are one of the many people who view Donald Trump as “intelligent,” consider the responsibility you have as an American voter to elect a candidate who will be seen as a team player among world leaders.

We Americans have power over what happens within that time. We have the power to research, the power to vote and the power to educate others.