Italian voters elected a nationalist coalition led by the Brothers of Italy party on Monday, September 26. Leftists everywhere denounced the party’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, as a “fascist.” Her election win, they said paradoxically, is a grave threat to “democracy.” Even Joe Biden warned of how dangerous it was for the Italian people to vote the wrong way. But Meloni does have some fervent supporters outside of Italy: American Establishment conservatives are thrilled with her and her nationalist message. That’s a big change from just a few years ago when they would have denounced the same rhetoric as “fascist.” The love for Meloni might signal a profound change within the American Right—a change that will make it more nationalist.
Leftist rhetoric about Meloni was hysterical to say the least [NYT calls anti-immigrant politician “Fascist” 28 times., by Ann Coulter, Substack, September 25, 2022]. The Brothers of Italy is a descendant of the Italian Social Movement and ultimately Mussolini’s Fascist Party. The modern party is hardly fascist and is actually no different from other mainstream right-wing parties in Europe. Meloni’s party is in fact more in tune with American foreign policy priorities than groups like National Rally in France. But that stance didn’t deter any of the over-the-top condemnations.
Never remember. As Giorgia Meloni may tomorrow emerge as the first Italian leader who can trace her roots back to the wreckage of Fascism, Italy shrugs. A look at the long Italian practice of forgetting leading to the turning of a page of European history. https://t.co/ajxJPoBPy1— Jason Horowitz (@jasondhorowitz) September 24, 2022
An illustrative example from the Washington Post's editorial board:
Italy has voted for a new government, likely to be led by a prime minister whose party arose from the ashes of post-World War II Italian fascism. The rise of Giorgia Meloni, the firebrand ethno-nationalist seemingly victorious in Sunday’s elections, has sent shock waves through Europe and triggered fears that Italy might be the Achilles’ heel in Western resolve to resist Russia’s bloody campaign in Ukraine. …
Her apparent victory is more evidence that far-right leaders are ascendant in a continent buffeted by immigration, economic head winds and, on its eastern flank, the most destructive war in three-quarters of a century. …
Amid a drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric — she warns darkly that ethnic Italians are in danger of “replacement” — she has advanced the farfetched idea of a naval blockade to stop unauthorized foreigners from reaching Italian shores. That’s unlikely to work. It’s also a toxic echo of the fierce antisemitism of Mussolini, the World War II dictator whom Ms. Meloni once openly admired.
[Danger lurks after Italy’s shocking election, September 26, 2022]
Although the WaPo editorial confessed that “it would be a stretch” to consider Meloni a “fascist,” it concluded that her lack of love for mass immigration, skepticism about the homosexual agenda, and possible hesitance about supporting Ukraine makes Meloni undemocratic.
But most American conservatives found these arguments insulting. They insist she is not a fascist or a threat to democracy, but a bold leader who will make Italy great again. They were particularly thrilled with a speech in 2019 in which Meloni passionately defended the family and national identity and excoriated globalist hate for those things.
Why is the family an enemy? Why is the family so frightening? There is a single answer to all these questions.
Because it defines us. Because it is our identity. Because everything that defines us is now an enemy for those who would like us to no longer have an identity and to simply be perfect consumer slaves.
And so they attack national identity, they attack religious identity, they attack gender identity, they attack family identity.
I can’t define myself as Italian, Christian, woman, mother. No. I must be Citizen X, Gender X, Parent 1, Parent 2. I must be a number.
Because when I am only a number, when I no longer have an identity or roots, then I will be the perfect slave at the mercy of financial speculators. The perfect consumer.
That’s why we inspire so much fear. That’s why this event inspires so much fear. Because we do not want to be numbers. We will defend the value of the human being.
This is Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 26, 2022
I’ve never heard any politician so perfectly explain what we’re up against and why we fight.
When you watch this video, you’ll quickly realize why the establishment is afraid of her.
America’s Establishment Conservatives loved the speech. Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, CPAC chief Matt Schlapp, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, and numerous other conservative media personalities praised it [From Fox News to Ted Cruz, Conservatives Rush to Whitewash Italy’s New Far-right Rulers, by Ariel David, Haaretz, September 29, 2022]. So many of them liked it that the leftist Main Stream Media published articles to complain [That Giorgia Meloni speech captivating the U.S. right doesn’t make sense, by Philip Bump, Washington Post, September 27, 2022]. And, of course, YouTube removed the video of the speech because it was just so dangerous. (Subsequently, YouTube backtracked [YouTube Says Giorgia Meloni Video Was Removed in Error, Restores It After Inquiry, by Robby Soave, Reason, September 28, 2022]).
All this praise is a big change from how the U.S. Conservative Establishment reacted to European nationalism just a few years ago. Thus National Review said conservatives should support Emmanuel Macron rather than Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election because Le Pen’s nationalism was a dangerous form of “identity politics” and demonizes minorities to “pleasure her base” [French Election: American Conservatives Should Support Macron, by Tom Rogan, National Review, April 24, 2017]. But now National Review publishes denounces YouTube for censoring Meloni’s identitarian speech [YouTube Removes Incoming Italian Prime Minister Meloni’s Passionate Speech on Family Breakdown, by Caroline Downey, National Review, September 28, 2022].
This same Conservative Establishment castigated Donald Trump for his nationalist agenda in the 2016 campaign, labeling him a racist and a fascist for defending the same things Meloni cherishes. One of the anti-Trump conservatives: Ben Domenech, founder of The Federalist and now an editor at The Spectator World. He denounced Trumpism in 2015 as “white identity politics” and insisted Republicans should avoid the “nativism” of European nationalist parties [Are Republicans For Freedom Or White Identity Politics?, by Ben Domenech, The Federalist, August 21, 2015]. But now Meghan McCain’s husband tells Republicans to follow the example of Meloni:
Have you ever heard an American conservative politician give such a bracing address? There is a fundamental clarity to the vision Meloni presents that is applicable to the current US political experience in the post-Dobbs world. It is not deceptive, or hiding behind spin. It represents a reorientation of the mission of government toward sustaining families and encouraging their formation.
Meloni may well fail to bring about the level of change she advocates for Italy. Her coalition partners have ambitions and long knives. But her rhetoric on the family provides a glimpse of what the next era of American conservatives could adopt — one that sets them on a path toward policies that envision an America that believes in herself, and her future.
[Giorgia Meloni should inspire American conservatives, by Ben Domenech, Spectator World, September 26, 2022]
A lot changed for Domenech over seven years. And he’s not alone.
Meloni isn’t the only European nationalist whom American conservatives now love. They also defend Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and his attacks on mass migration and the Great Replacement. They’re even much friendlier to Le Pen.
Why are Establishment conservatives more thrilled with this message now? One reason: the Trump Effect. The former president made the GOP and the conservative movement take immigration seriously and be more open to nationalism.
While many Establishment conservatives still hate Trump, they realize Trumpism is very popular with the base. They no longer pretend the base is motivated by low taxes and paeans to the free market. The most popular cable news host, Tucker Carlson, reinforces that point and delivers the same message as Meloni every night, making the base more open to those ideas than ever before. Trump and Carlson are the most influential voices on the American Right, and they have more in common with Meloni and Orban than with Paul Ryan.
Trump “succeeded in discrediting and diminishing the True Cons who can be found huddling together for warmth these days at The Dispatch,” Hunter Wallace wrote for Occidental Dissent after Meloni won:
Those people have continued to lose power in Congress and at the state level. Virtually no one on the Right now agrees with Allahpundit that Liz Cheney is one of the most honorable people in American politics. Trump has devoted the last two years of his post-presidency to finishing them off for good.
Now that Trump has gotten rid of the True Con gatekeepers and has largely succeeded in purging them from Congress and conservative institutions, we are at a point now where mainstream conservatives can look at someone like Viktor Orbán as a role model and cheer on the victory of the Sweden Democrats and Giorgia Meloni in Italy. The Great Replacement and Christian nationalism have gone mainstream. Conservatives have spent the last seven years forgetting their former ideology.
[Thomas Edsall: Seven Years of Trump Has The Right Wing Taking The Long View, September 28, 2022]
“The True Cons are no longer relevant or influential and [have] passed into obscurity…,” Wallace continued, citing poll data, two days later. “MAGA has become the GOP establishment and has radicalized under Joe Biden. Also, the Alt-Right collapsed years ago, but its various grievances and style has gone mainstream. Nearly everything we once had to say has simply been absorbed and rebranded as “conservatism” [Jonah Goldberg: Slouching Toward The Old World, September 30, 2022].
Another reason American conservatives warmed to the nationalist message: power. Meloni is set to assume leadership of a major Western country. Orban is the long-standing premier of his country. They are not easily dismissed fringe figures. They cultivate ties with American conservatives. Orban frequently speaks at CPAC and invites prominent conservatives to his country. It’s likely Meloni will do the same thing. Establishment conservatives are far more open to ideas that promise perquisites.
But the final reason the Conservative Establishment is warming the European Right is not so based. They can portray Meloni and Orban as mere social conservatives rather than nationalists. They can focus on the Europeans’ support for the family and traditional values and ignore their views on immigration and demographic change.
This makes Meloni and Orban more respectable in the eyes of Establishment conservatism. Thus Ben Domenech focused primarily on Meloni’s family rhetoric and glossed over her identitarian statements.
It’s great that Meloni and Orban are social conservatives, but that’s not why they were elected. They’re popular with the people because they resist the globalist demand to flood their countries with foreigners. That’s their chief appeal, not family subsidies.
Yet even if many Establishment conservatives love Meloni and Orban for the wrong reasons, it’s still a positive development. Americans are now exposed to nationalism in a positive light. Conservatives see a viable alternative to the discredited Business First agenda. Americans want immigration patriotism and an unapologetic defense of their heritage. Meloni’s popularity with Establishment conservatives strongly suggests we shall see more Americans copy her politics—regardless of what happens to Donald Trump.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.