There's Something The American Democratic Party Can Learn From Italy... But Won't

It will take a while before Italy has a coalition government announced but what’s clear from yesterday’s election is that it will be a far right government headed by fascist Giorgia Meloni. Her Brothers of Italy party drew the most votes— 26%. And her 3 far right partners— the League, Forza Italia and Noi Moderati— brought in another 17.8%. So that adds up to 43.8%. Enrico Letta’s center-left coalition won 26.1% of the votes. He announced today that he won’t run for party leader again. The alliance of 2 centrist parties that broke with Letta’s Democratic Party took 7.8% and the left-populist Five Star Party took 15.4%. A handful smaller regional and one-issue parties that will be able to enter parliament took in 6.9%. In theory, the fascists could be stopped… but almost certainly won’t be.

For Americans who travel to Italy, the fascists didn’t do well in most areas American tourists visit. In fact, the left won in Florence, Rome, Genoa, Milan, Bologna, of course, and Turin. The whole Naples area went for the Five Star party. I might also add that Venice, in many ways the worst of the touristic places to visit in Italy— and with the shittiest restaurants— was a mega-fascist bastion (over 50%); you should be avoiding that place even without the fascism. And if you’re looking for some bad news, fascist Isabella Rauti, the daughter of the founder of the pro-Mussolini MSI won a Milan seat over Jewish centrist deputy Emanuele Fiano, son of Auschwitz survivor and writer Nedo Fiano.

This morning the NY Times reported on the reaction in the rest of Europe, noting that Meloni’s 26% victory “sent a tremor on Monday through a European establishment worried about a new right-wing shift in Europe. European Union leaders are now watching her coalition’s comfortable victory in Italy, one of its founding members, with caution and some trepidation, despite reassurances from Meloni, who would be the first far-right nationalist to govern Italy since Mussolini, that she has moderated her views. But it is hard for them to escape a degree of dread. Even given the bloc’s successes in recent years to agree on a groundbreaking pandemic recovery fund and to confront Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the appeal of nationalists and populists remains strong— and is spreading, a potential threat to European ideals and cohesion. Earlier this month, the far-right Sweden Democrats became the country’s second-largest party and the largest in what is expected to be a right-wing coalition.”

This should sound uncomfortably familiar:

The economic impact of Covid and now of the war in Ukraine, with high national debt and rocketing inflation, has deeply damaged centrist parties all over Europe. Far-right parties have not only pushed centrist parties to the right, but have also become “normalized,” no longer ostracized, said Charles Kupchan, a European expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“The direction of political momentum is changing— we had a wave of centrism before and during the pandemic, but now it feels like the political table is tilting back in the direction of the populists on the right,” he said. “And that’s a big deal.”
Under the outgoing technocratic prime minister Mario Draghi, Italy played an important role in a Europe of weak leadership, both on vital economic issues and the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Italy has now turned away from the European mainstream.
…“These elections are another sign that all is not well with mainstream parties,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and spell a complicated period for the European Union.
Even the victory a year ago of Olaf Scholz in Germany, a man of the center left, was ensured by the collapse of the center-right Christian Democrats, who had their worst showing in their history, while in April, France’s long-dominant center-right Republicans fell to under 5 percent of the vote.
“People in Brussels are extremely anxious about Meloni becoming an E.U. prime minister,” Leonard said. “They’ve seen how disruptive Orban can be from a small country with no systemic role in the E.U. Meloni says she won’t immediately upend the consensus on Ukraine, but she could be a force for a much more virulent form of Euroskepticism in council meetings.”
…Luuk van Middelaar, a historian of the bloc, also urges caution. European leaders know two things about Italian prime ministers, he said. First, “they are not very powerful at home, and two, they tend not to last very long”— since World War II, an average of about 18 months.
“So they will wait and see and not be blown away,” van Middelaar said. If she lasts longer, however, she could energize other far-right Euroskeptics in other big countries like France, he said, “and that would make a real difference.”

The Democrats here in the U.S. are sleepwalking right into a situation where the working class is slipping away-- and very much towards fascism-- as the party becomes more corporate, more dependent on the donor class, more corrupt, more identified with lesser of two evils and identity politics and as its office holders become more and more addicted to careerism. "Democrats aren't as bad as Republicans" isn't exactly a stirring get-out-the-vote message, is it? So they depend on fear of fascism, which didn't work in Italy this weekend at all. The idea of delivering for the working class... that is so opposed by the wealthy and by corporate interests that the Democratic Party neoliberals do all they can to shy away from the very idea. The party leadership is 100% neoliberal and 100% repulsive: Chuck Schumer as Senate leader, Hakeem Jeffries as House leader, Kamala Harris-Gavin Newsom-Mayo Pete are top presidential candidates... I’d say the prognosis is very, very poor.


I asked a friend of mine in Torre del Greco, just south of Naples why Letta’s center-left electoral coalition left out the Five Star Party— since had they included it they probably would have won. She said it wasn’t a very good reason at all. “Letta’s Democratic Party was in favor of continuing the existing broad technocratic coalition government, but the Five Stars joined with the right in bringing it down (due to how COVID relief was being distributed). The Democratic Party is, basically, a northern party, and the Five Stars are far stronger in the south, so there was no real competition between the two, and they both got killed in the constituent (not proportional representation) seats because they didn’t work together. The right got close to 90% of the constituent seats with 43% of the national vote. As in France, in the Presidential Election, if the left had run united, it would have won. The Five Star Movement ended up in a decent third place, with 16% of the vote, by telling everyone who would listen, particularly in the poor south, that every other party-- including the pretend left (the Democrats)-- was committed to taking away the guaranteed income that they champion.”