History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce, Karl Marx once wrote. What then to make of the possibility that Italy’s disgraced and discredited former leader Silvio Berlusconi has announced he will undertake his sixth election campaign in hopes of becoming prime minister for a fourth time?
In Berlusconi’s case, tragedy and farce were both present at his astonishing entrance onto the political scene in 1994, and both have grown since then in equal measure. The farcical elements reached legendary heights by the accumulation of Berlusconi’s off-color remarks and diplomatic disasters, facelifts and hair transplants, sexual escapades and seamy legal problems. At the same time, the full tragedy of Berlusconi’s political legacy has also become increasingly apparent: A major European country has been effectively paralyzed for nearly twenty years by its richest citizen. Berlusconi has proven remarkably incapable of governing Italy, but extremely capable of preventing Italy from being governed by anybody else.