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What Italy can teach Democrats about running against Donald Trump

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

In other words, the paper argues that the spread of entertainment TV competing with the comparatively sedate government-owned channel made a new generation of voters less prepared intellectually to resist or question simplistic, emotional appeals to beat "the elites."

So, does TV make us stupid? After reading the paper, I am not totally convinced, although it is tempting to think so. Nevertheless, similarities between the successes of Trump and Berlusconi offer important lessons to aspiring candidates in democracies everywhere.

First, regardless of how sophisticated the voters may be about the issues, it is essential to let them know that you hear them in their own words and respond as though you really care.

Second, populism -- the rallying of "the people" against "the elites" -- is not limited to one party. Both sides can play this game and often do. Berlusconi's party ran into its toughest opposition when populist voices rose up on the left, particularly the Five Star Movement, led by Beppe Grillo, a comedian, actor and blogger who could match Berlusconi's showbiz appeal with his own.

Three, a direct, simple and candid-sounding appeal works best to draw the largest support, leaving the details to be hashed out later. Look for an example in the mileage Trump gained from such slogans as "Build that wall" and "Dump Obamacare," even after the details proved to be more complicated than he apparently expected.

 

Finally, voters need to beware too. If the slogans and plans sound too good to be true, they probably are. Candidates of whatever party aren't going to deal with the tough questions unless we demand it. That's not too much to ask, whether the answer entertains us or not.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2019 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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