Similarities and Differences Between Sarah Palin and Silvio Berlusconi

A recent article by Newser founder and Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff tried to explain the similarities between Silvio Berlusconi and Sarah Palin.

Their success, he says, is easy to explain:

It’s pure shamelessness, a total absence of self-consciousness, combined with entrepreneurial zeal. These are extraordinary self-reliant salesmen, Berlusconi and Palin. Id people. Media creations, it goes without saying. He was a cruise-ship crooner; she a beauty contestant.

These are all good points, although I think Wolff glides over a fundamental difference: While Sarah Palin wittingly adapted all the cliches the media wanted her to fit in, Berlusconi modeled his image to his liking, having the power to do so with a big chunk of Italy’s television channels and quite a few influential daily and weekly publications.

Wolff then goes on to explaining why this Palin-Berlusconi model is so attractive to voters.

It’s about living the life. More: Their life is a fantasy of the life people would live if they were in a position to live the life. The life larger than life. In the past, show business people got to live like this, and drug dealers, and, in small towns everywhere, there’s always one outsized specimen of sui generis crassness.

This is true, but I’m afraid Wolff once again forgets a fundamental difference between the two.

So far, Palin has been able to attract a more extreme faction of conservative voters – the so-called Tea Party movement. There is no indication that Palin, were she to run for president in 2012, would be able to attract independents and moderate Republicans.

I need to add one more thing: Palin has not been able to keep up her push for more visibility with her institutional duties as governor of Alaska. So she resigned.

Berlusconi, on the other hand, has been able to gain the sympathy (and votes) of a large part of Italy’s moderate electorate. He’s also been able to keep up the child-eating communist opposition scare tactics while staying in office for long stretches of time.

There is no doubt that without his media empire Berlusconi would not have lasted as long as he has in politics. (16 years and counting)

That is why I’m convinced that once Palin stops getting all the media attention she is getting, she will politically fade away, at least on the national stage. In her case, the media owns her image and can do what it wants with it.

Berlusconi doesn’t need to fear the media. He owns it.


  1. Lorenzo Viti

    Again. TO THE POINT!!

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