Yes, I am Latino, as I may have mentioned once or twice. But as I’ve also stated before, I am part Italian.
Now, I’ve never been to Italy, but it’s high on my list of life goals to gaze out over that nation’s windswept coasts, drink wine in a Roman palazzo, and get assaulted by a vicious crowd of fascist thugs.
OK, that last one is less of a goal and more of an acknowledgement of what might happen if I saunter down the streets of Florence, looking all foreign and shit.
After all, Italy is under new management. And its government is going old school—as in Mussolini.
Italy’s first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has won the hearts of angry xenophobes from Venice to Sicily by “railing against immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights,” and other progressive ideas.
Her goal is apparently to transform Italy into Hungary, but with better food. Or maybe she’s trying to turn Naples into the Alabama of Europe.
As expected, American conservatives just love this woman. Our old friends in the Republican Party have praised Meloni as “spectacular” and are thrilled with “her version of Great Replacement theory, which she calls ‘ethnic substitution’ and is among the most extreme of its type.”
Attacks "emissaries" of Soros, "the financier giving global support and finance to mass immigration and the plan for ethnic substitution". (Fd'I social media called him a "usurer") https://t.co/mrSHOJFexS) pic.twitter.com/obuY4hAW3u
— David Broder (@broderly) July 27, 2022
American conservatives see Italy as another country swaying toward Christian nationalism—their dream state—and for this reason, they have embraced the Italian prime minister’s “radical positions and belligerent persona.”
This likely sounds familiar to anyone who lived through Trump’s America. The whole point of Christian nationalism is not to create a Christ-like society, but to privilege “white, heterosexual Christian citizens [by] standing behind an authoritarian leader who will stamp out opposition.”
Of course, there are numerous issues with this worldview, starting with the obvious problem that if you are not a white, straight Christian, you may suffer the unfortunate tendency to have your head bashed in by bigots.
However, in addition to the nonstop hatred that this political ideology promotes, there is the fact that Christian nationalists “are adrift from the Christian faith’s historic teachings and practice,” and “are ignorant of history in general, and of the history of their faith in particular.”
For this reason, even if Christian nationalists disavowed violence—and let’s face it, that won’t happen—their philosophy would still be “a misdirected political movement that is absolutely sure of itself and unaware of how much it does not understand.”
But as we all know, Republicans are walking talking Dunning-Kruger effects, and a little thing like embracing the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ believed is not going to stop them from proclaiming themselves Christians.
Perhaps we should not expect too much from Republicans, however, because some of their leaders “may have serious cognitive issues” that leave them “unhinged” from reality. This explains their “wild and often baseless accusations” and their love of conspiracy theories.
It does not explain, however, why millions of Americans keep voting for them.
For that, we should look to the idea that people who feel their status dwindling are “an easy target for an authoritarian who promises to bring back a mythological world in which its members were powerful.”
The funny thing is that if Christian nationalists succeed in elevating a power-hungry strongman into power, “they learn that they were only tools to put in place someone whose decisions are absolute and who is no longer bound by the law.”
Basically, once a thug has power, he doesn’t need the unwashed riff-raff anymore.
The other lesson of Italy’s right-wing drift is the fate of “the former strongman of the Italian right, Silvio Berlusconi, [who] suffered a humiliating fifth-place finish, supplanted by his more radical protégés.”
The good news is that this result “may preview the future of a post–Donald Trump Republican Party” and signal the old conman’s “slow, ignominious fade from political relevance.”
The bad news is that the GOP, under pressure to keep the base satiated, could become even more extreme in a post-Trump world and “unleash an even greater threat to American democracy.”
I know—what could be a bigger threat to American democracy than today’s Republican Party, right?
I’m sure that we don’t want to know the answer to that question.
Featured image: Giorgia Meloni, a right-wing populist and Italian nationalist who’s expected to become Italy’s first female prime minister (Vox España/Public Domain)