On the 4th of March, there are going to be general elections in Italy. I am making my prediction now, so that you don’t think that I will be shocked when the results come back. Despite all that has happened politically since the election of Donald Trump, I am afraid that Italy is going to bring back the original Trump for another term.
That’s right guys. I fear that Berlusconi is going to be elected again.
If you care about this at all, here’s why.
It is no secret that I loathe Berlusconi, and I have previously discussed how similar he is to Trump. What is important to note, however, is that Berlusconi differs from Trump in one critical way.
Berlusconi is far more intelligent than Trump is. Unfortunately for Italy, he also happens to be a political genius.
While multiple sources and current evidence all seem to suggest that Trump bumbled his way to a victory and keeps going on sheer megalomaniacal arrogance, Berlusconi knows when to retreat and when to show up again. The last time he was in power, Berlusconi resigned with the Italian economy on the brink of collapse. While he was met with insults and disgrace he astutely scampered off into the shadows, while Mario Monti was left holding the bag and having to find a way to pull one of Europe’s largest economies away from the cliff it was barreling towards.
Italians quickly forgot their beef with Berlusconi in the face of some of the harshest austerity measures they had ever suffered. Telling themselves that this austerity was necessary to forgo economic disaster was slim comfort, and this talking point quickly evaporated, supplanted by fond memories of things just not being this hard when the Bunga Bunga was in charge. The fact that it was entirely Berlusconi’s fault that they were in this mess was a hard sell, as economic collapse is an abstract concept for those who have never experienced it, and it was not Berlusconi, after all, who was imposing these austerity measures on them. While I did disagree with many of Monti’s priorities in those difficult times, I do have to admit that he did what he promised and Italy did not go bankrupt.
Fast forward to 2013. It is time to vote again, and Berlusconi is still hiding for what many hoped would be forever. The Democratic Party (PD) was predicted to win, but there is now a new kid on the block in the form of Beppe Grillo and the 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 stelle, or M5S). He was loud and angry and personified all of the frustration that so many Italians were feeling at that time. We were being crushed under taxes, stagnant in a country that did not seem to be able to get its shit together. It’s because of the corruption, Beppe Grillo said. It’s because we see the same old faces in Parliament, the same old people making a ton of money while you struggle to make ends meet, the same backdoor dealings and the same policies which keep the same money flowing to the top. It’s time for some new faces, he said. It’s time for young people to take the reigns of power and bring their country into the future. It’s time to send all of those corrupt assholes home, because so long as they are in power, nothing will ever change.
It was an intoxicating message for many of my peers. Beppe Grillo promised to never form a coalition with any party, meaning that if he won a good chunk of the vote, no majority would be formed in Parliament, elections would have to be held again, and all of the old politicians would have to resign in disgrace. Sure the economy would take a further hit, and instability would follow, but the cost was worth the ultimate cleansing of the Italian political system.
In short, a vote for Beppe Grillo was a protest vote that would actually make a difference.
In the end, the 2013 elections went for a 3-way split between the PD, the M5S and Berlusconi’s old party, the center right (PDL). With a slight lead, the PD tried to make a coalition with M5S, but in the face of their refusal, made a coalition with the PDL instead. In some ways this proved Beppe Grillo’s point, that there is no longer any difference between political parties anymore, but it was a bullet they took anyway.
So, why the history lesson?
The reason I bring this up is because this is what set the stage for what is happening today. While the M5S started out at an independant party for young idealistic people, it has rapidly degenerated to the lowest common denominator. Beppe Grillo seems to have thrown his hat in with the Trump crowd, and his left-leaning colleagues have resigned from the party. He has judged, perhaps astutely, that the most angry people in the country are the anti-immigrant facists, and it is anger and frustration with which he fuels his campaigns.
Even more importantly is the fact that his party has proved to be completely unable to govern, as was made particularly clear by the elected M5S mayor of Rome. Having young blood in your party is all well and good, but choosing the loudest voices is not as important as choosing people who actually know what the fuck they’re doing. The fact is, M5S is viewed by many as the worst possible choice for governing party of such a large and problematic country.
The PD has never recovered from their 2013 disgrace. They changed Prime Minister more often than many change their socks, a confidence referendum showed the people’s disdain for Renzi, and the constant backstabbing and infighting has left the party in shambles. So, after this respectable amount of time has past, who comes back to save the day like a phoenix rising from the ashes?
None other than that doll headed greasy smiled groping fuckface of Silvio Berlusconi.
All I can say is, I really hope I’m wrong. But the way things are going, I fear that we haven’t seen the last of that nasty little man.
As for me?
I didn’t vote for any of those three in 2013, and I’m not voting for any of them now.
In 2013, I voted for Ingroia. This year, I’m voting for the coalition called Liberi e Uguali (Free and Equal), headed by the antimafia magistrate Pietro Grasso. Their mission statement is all about, as their name suggests, Freedom and Equality, in everything from LGBT issues to a more fair tax burden to prioritizing peace over war. They also believe in funding for research and putting a higher priority on ecosustainability and the maintenance of Italian culture (and by that I don’t mean in the racist way that some people use the phrase, but rather to protect the artisinal and agricultural culture that makes Italy famous). It is the party that best represents my beliefs, and so it is the party I will vote for.
For many of you who are used to the 2-party system, this may seem like a “Jill Stein” vote, and many Italians would agree with you. However, it is slightly different in the Parliamentary system.
Getting over 3% of the vote ensures you a seat at the table, and that is what I am hoping for. I feel that it is important for truly liberal parties to have representation in Parliament, if for no other reason than to not allow the government to move ever more to the right. Representation is key, and I sincerely hope that Liberi e Uguali make it to the table. Of course, smaller parties had a much better shot before the vote-sucking vortex of M5S came to be, but I guess I’m just not old and cynical enough to be voting against my conscience just yet.
Unless Walter Veltroni makes a comeback. Barring that, here’s hoping for the future of the country I call home.