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Why Republican support for Italy’s next prime minister matters

As Giorgia Meloni prepares to take power, would Republicans side with U.S. officials or right-wing opponents of democracy abroad? Take a wild guess.


After Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship collapsed, the chief of staff from his government created a new political party in Italy intended to keep the spirit of Mussolini alive. As NBC News reported, that party’s current leader is now poised to become Italy’s next prime minister.

Giorgia Meloni, a nationalist accused by political rivals and experts of spreading white supremacist ideas, was set Monday to become Italy’s first far-right leader since World War II. The near-final results from Sunday’s election showed her Brothers of Italy party (Fratelli d’Italia) will lead a right-wing coalition, joined by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia party and fellow right-wing firebrand Matteo Salvini’s League party.

As recently as four years ago, Meloni’s party was seen as part of a radical fringe, receiving just 4% of the vote in Italy’s last national election. This year, the latest tallies suggest it won more than 26% of the total vote.

Not surprisingly, U.S. officials are worried on multiple fronts. Meloni ran on a nationalist, euroskeptic platform that could lead, among other things, to fractures within the E.U. and weakened international support for Ukraine. The Italian results also fuel ongoing concerns about support for right-wing nationalism, especially in countries with ugly histories.

Indeed, there’s been considerable interest of late in this speech Meloni delivered in which she declared that she and her allies “will never be slaves” to “financial speculators.”

As historian Michael Beschloss noted yesterday, such rhetoric was nearly identical to what was heard in Italy and Germany in the 1930s, when Italy’s fascist dictator “enjoyed publicly referring to Jewish people as ‘financial speculators’ who needed to be controlled.”

It’s against this backdrop that opponents of democracy abroad appear delighted by the Italian election results. As Rachel explained on last night’s show, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who’s steered his country aggressively away from democracy, celebrated Meloni’s success. So did Poland’s Law and Justice Party, France’s Marine Le Pen, and the Swedish political party that was founded by actual neo-Nazis.

The question, of course, was how Republicans in the United States would respond. Would they share the concerns of U.S. officials or would they side with right-wing opponents of democracy and fascist political leaders abroad?

Take a wild guess.

Away from public offices, Meloni received predictable support from the likes of Steve Bannon and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. But I was even more interested in the reactions from those in elected positions. The New York Times reported:

In an unsettling sign for the administration and centrist European leaders alike, however, several prominent Republicans hailed Ms. Meloni’s showing — a reminder of the growing kinship between European nationalists and the Trump wing of the Republican Party, who share a general philosophy of traditional social values, support for restricted immigration and deep skepticism of multilateral institutions.

To be sure, some of the celebrations were from more ridiculous GOP figures, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado. But she wasn’t alone: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touted Meloni’s win. So did Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas described Meloni’s speech — the one in which the Italian declared that she and her allies “will never be slaves” to “financial speculators” — as “spectacular.”

It speaks volumes about the radicalization of contemporary Republican politics.