A New Sign of Our Times
If exit polls hold, yesterday Italy elected its first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. The usual liberal voices will not be celebrating. Normally, Italian elections are of little interest. Since 1945, there have been seventy Italian governments – almost one a year, which might suggest instability. But Italians often say that the system is too stable. General elections just reshuffle members of the political class, which rarely change very much. Except maybe this time. A populist Italian prime minister (“extreme right,” “neo-fascist” in the mainstream media, of course) will have significant repercussions for Europe and America, and even the Catholic Church.
A prominent Italian theologian, now living in the United States has argued recently that Meloni’s election may “hurt Francis”: “The campaign has been vulgar and trashy, and all of the substantial issues – from the war in Ukraine to climate change – have been ignored.”
This account of “all the substantial issues,” like much political analysis these days, leaves out a lot. Namely, questions that daily concern most Italians – like crime, out-of-control inflation, and illegal immigration – in a country struggling economically and bewildered, as many Western nations are, by radical social changes, making their country unrecognizable to many citizens.