Lynch is no Di Pietro

The theory that Donald Trump is neither quite a Hitler nor truly a Mussolini but an American Silvio Berlusconi is increasingly popular and invariably superficial. (Politically; psychologically, who knows?) It seems to ignore the constants of Trump’s campaign, which occasionally get lost amid the fireworks. Although Trump speaks in hyperbole and seems unsafely volatile, he is consistent in his concern for two issues, free trade and immigration. The solutions he has offhandedly proposed are no good, in the same way as most ideas proposed at a brainstorming session are little good, although some end up as raw material for workable policies. What matters to Trump supporters is his unrelenting focus on the core issues. “We need to do something about it” is more important than having a detailed plan at once.

I doubt that immigration and trade featured big in Berlusconi’s 2001 “Contract with the Italians.” He had promised to get tougher on illegals but that was essentially small print. The background to Berlusconi’s political ascent was the aggressive, largely self-serving “anti-corruption” campaign – known as mani pulite, or clean hands – waged by a group of Milan prosecutors and judges in 1992. The most famous, if not originally the most influential, of that group was Antonio Di Pietro, who would later assemble a small political party of his own.

The anti-mafia legislation of the 1980s had expanded the powers of judges and prosecutors. These powers were vigorously exercised – and abused – by the magistrates who led the “clean hands” campaign. Within a few years, it destroyed both the Socialists and the Christian Democrats as well as the Social Democrats and the Liberals – all the four parties that had founded the First Italian Republic.

Berlusconi stepped onto the field cleared for him by the activist prosecutors.

(To be continued.)

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