The Italian Elections

The latest, and most grave, example of the current tide of right-wing populism can be found in Italy.

We should be paying attention to Italy.  Via the NYT:  Why Italy’s Insular Election Is More Important Than It Looks.

The entire piece is worth a read, as there are a lot of details, but the first several paragraphs will give one the basic idea:

The campaign before Italy’s national elections on Sunday has been self-obsessed and often petty and unedifying. But it has been instructive about one thing: The political forces that have torn at the global order and the European Union have settled into the mainstream.

Fascists rallied in large numbers in Italian piazzas. The country experienced its worst political violence in years. Formerly unthinkable suggestions, like the mass deportation of migrants, became virtually routine.

The reanimation of Italy’s political ghosts is a worrying harbinger for a European Union already weakened by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc, the electoral setbacks of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the long shadow of Russia and the rise of an illiberal bloc of nations in the eastern part of the Continent.

In elections in the United States and elsewhere in Europe, the far right had shifted the debate within the political establishment. But in Italy, the birthplace of fascism, they are a full partner in it.

UPDATE (James Joyner): John Oliver’s take is worth a look as well:

FILED UNDER: Europe, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    The center parties have no answers and the left is non-existent. Gravitational pull toward the right goes unopposed.




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  2. Kylopod says:

    A few days ago Bloomberg ran an article on Berlusconi, whom the NYT article describes as a “nominal moderate” despite his having promised to expel the nation’s 600,000 undocumented migrants. According to the Bloomberg article:

    Or as Berlusconi himself put it: “I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone.” … In 2013, the self-described “most persecuted man in the entire history of the world and the history of man” was convicted of tax fraud and stripped of his seat in the Senate–after almost two decades in parliament.

    Something familiar about all this.




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  3. @Kylopod: One of the disturbing elements of the current election cycle is the Berlusconi, who is terrible in any number of ways, may be one of the better options.




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  4. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Maybe. I was hearing similar arguments about Trump during the 2015-16 GOP primary season.




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  5. @Kylopod: Trump was decidedly the worst of the GOP candidates. There are actual neo-fascists running in Italy, and Berlusconi isn’t one of them. That makes Berlusconi not the worst. I say that not to endorse, or even praise, Berlusconi, but to simply point out how bad the situation is.




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  6. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Trump was decidedly the worst of the GOP candidates.

    I agree with you now, but at the time I wasn’t convinced of that, and I wasn’t alone. I’m trying to dig up a post in which I made the argument, but I can’t find it right now. I did find one post from Nov. 2015 in which I said I’d have crossed over and voted for Trump in an open GOP primary if given the chance. gVOR08’s reply largely captured my own thinking at the time:

    I would. Ratfwcking Republicans would be fun. And normally voting for the other side’s bad candidate is risky, in that there’s always a chance of an accident and he gets elected. But Trump’s less of a threat to the Republic than Rubio or Bush. They’d actually act on supply side econ, neocon foreign policy, repealing Obamacare, AGW denial, etc. With Trump there’s at least a chance he wouldn’t.

    In Feb. 2016, Jonathan Chait wrote an article elaborating on this position. The basic idea was that out of all the Republican candidates, Trump was the least likely to win the general election (I still believe that’s true–well, okay, maybe Ben Carson would have been a weaker general-election candidate), and if by some chance he did win and became president, he was so weak and non-ideological he was the likeliest of all the GOP candidates to deviate from the party’s destructive agenda.

    Of course there were several problems with this argument, and the most obvious was that it was dangerous to put the country’s nuclear codes in reach of a personality as unstable as Trump. At the time, however, I and many others were still convinced Trump was some kind of performance artist putting on a shtick, like Andy Kaufman doing Tony Clifton. Given my limited knowledge of Italian politics, I’ll take your word for it that Berlusconi truly isn’t the worst of the bunch. But after what happened here in the states, I can’t help raising an eyebrow whenever I hear this type of argument made about another flamboyantly narcissistic nativist.




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  7. @Kylopod:

    But Trump’s less of a threat to the Republic than Rubio or Bush.

    Yeah, I never bought that line. Not even close.




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  8. @Kylopod:

    I’ll take your word for it that Berlusconi truly isn’t the worst of the bunch. But after what happened here in the states, I can’t help raising an eyebrow whenever I hear this type of argument made about another flamboyantly narcissistic nativist.

    Again: he’s pretty horrible, although the main difference is that Berlusconi has already been PM, so we have a good idea of what we would be getting if his faction were to win (he can’t serve for another year due to a corruption ruling from last time).

    I am just saying that in comparison to neo-fascists, he is is better. A damning statement, one would think.




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