Italian populists, whose slogan suggests that their opponents to go and fornicate elsewhere, are set to form a government with the Mediterranean edition of President Trump. Liberals the world over should be bawling into their Himalayan goat saliva smoothies anytime now.
After months of wrangling, Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement, whose “vaffanculo!” war cry suggests they’re more than a bit miffed by sclerotic Italian politics, is set to congeal with Matteo Salvini’s nationalist-conservative Lega, lighting tinder beneath Rome’s famously cosy politic and causing more heartburn for the European Union.
Establishment commentators have called the Left-Right populist marriage a “nightmare scenario.”
It’s all rather lamentable, if you’re of the persuasion convinced each day of the inevitable return to “normality” when the ruling class decided what’s best for itself, and its special-interest friends and told everybody else to “vaffanculo!”
If Five Star and Lega reach a deal, Italy would be the first Western European country with an unabashed populist government, following Austria’s rightward turn late last year with a conservative-nationalist taking the helm.
The two parties are reported to be working through the final details, with it yet unclear who will become prime minister, although smarter money is heading toward Lega’s Salvini—the kind of Trump stand-in who country club Republicans would have little problem getting behind.
Italy’s Big Shift
A strange union indeed, but the two parties are united on the key issues. Italians, having swept away the handiwork of their last four unelected prime ministers, are demanding an end to streams of African and Middle Eastern migrants arriving mainly from the Libyan route, and for their new suitors to fight back against punishing EU budget rules along with the Euro currency itself—the introduction of which sparked almost 20 years of economic stagnation.
Italy, after all, is a petri dish of elite mismanagement. And it serves as a perfect example of what happens when those who insist their lettered credentials bestow upon them the right to rule without regard for those over whom they rule.
You know the kind. The unfashionable, deplorable, racist and intellectually dense. Those who cannot grasp the finer points of Markets Uber Alles.
What on earth has happened? Well, the populist rage of 2016 has swelled across Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Austria, and now Italy. Rather than dissolve comfortably, as willed by political commentators, the dirty bomb of Brexit now infects the continent’s fourth-largest economy.
The Italians can hardly be blamed. Since 2000, the economy has demonstrated the guile of an emphysemic sloth, with virtually no growth worth mentioning since. Some economists, treading carefully, have rightly called the period a depression. Corruption plays a part, too—Italy is on par with Romania in that dubious honor.
Of course, what ails the Italians is not dissimilar to what large chunks of the United States are experiencing, as traditional manufacturing is hammered by cheaper overseas competitors. Those who’d finally called time on this monstrous reality deserted their center-left champions Partito Democratico and pulled the lever for Salvini, or Five Star. The trend continues across Europe and the United States, with traditional left parties deserting working-class voters for their metropolitan base.
Both parties know the recipe for the invigorating hell-broth derided by anti-democratic types on both the Right and the Left as “populism.” By and large, the same message resounds and clatters liberal ears. If a party is strong on immigration, skeptical of elite bromides—especially on trade—and doesn’t call them stupid, they’ll lend them a vote.
Reasons for Concern
What should be most concerning to the liberal-minded is the depth of Italy’s populist fervor. Five Star is a strange brew of left-wing and anarchic policies dreamt up by its tens of thousands of members. Lega takes on a more traditional conservatism, yet is skeptical of big business and elite consensus.
What should worry the European Union, and its slavish followers, is this coalition’s strident opposition to mass immigration, the beggarly Euro currency, and the European project itself. Italy, after all, is the second most indebted nation in the EU, after Greece, which Angela Merkel forced into financial servitude a few years back.
Not that Italian voters worried much about that. The rub of populism is that it is . . . popular. Italy hasn’t been stormed by fascists, no matter how the New York Times tries to paint that picture.
Indeed, polls in Italy, and across Europe, show strong support for immigration controls, and a preference for country-first policies. A survey late last year found that 60 percent of Italians wanted tough border restrictions—in line with most polls across Europe, and Great Britain, where immigration won Brexit.
Like much of Europe, the pro-establishment liberals—soi-disant citizens of nowhere—have been mangled into lameness, much like their American cheerleaders pom-pomming a mythical blue wave that might not blot a side of A4 paper.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the arrogance lubricating the moving parts of the liberal Zeppelin hovering over Europe and the American coasts. Every day, we lesser-types are assured that the populist wave is ebbing, that “normality” is to be restored—despite supporting evidence.
Alas, the fawning of President Macron following his fake-populist win in France last year was heralded as the beginning of the end for voters endowed with the temerity to break ranks from those who know better. But the squall rages on, drowning elite consensus with it.
Perhaps President Trump could adopt a similar slogan to “vaffanculo!” for his 2020 campaign. Then again, his salt-mining tweets are more than enough to chew on.