Christine Flowers: A conservative abroad

“So do you think DeSantis will run in 2024?”

Those were not the words I expected to hear from my Roman tour guide this week. This was a “Roma Di Notte” excursion, and the only politics I expected to hear about were the ones that led to Julius Caesar being sliced and diced by Brutus at the forum.

But given what had just happened to Italy’s prime minister, it was inevitable that the topic would come up as we sped around the site where another Roman official was given the pink slip. And then, as we discussed what had just happened to Mario Draghi, the conversation veered into American politics. And, to my absolute surprise, I discovered that my fifth-generation Roman friend Francesco was, in his own words, “what a Republican would be if he were living in Italy.”

I won’t go into detail about Francesco’s views on Trump, other than to say he loved his policies and hated his tweets. But it’s worthwhile to linger a moment on the significance of my exchange with a man who loves America, is married to an American wife, has an American son and wants someday to immigrate to the U.S.

READ MORE — Christine Flowers: No thanks, Never-Dougers

Francesco spent a good part of our tour discussing the crazy, complicated state of Italian politics and the hyper-polarization between the many parties, something which led directly to the resignation of the prime minister. But he said something that resonated with me, and has a lot of significance for American voters in the upcoming elections. Francesco said, in a roundabout way, that Italians might hate their neighbors’ politics, but they don’t hate their neighbors. 

And then he looked me in the eye and said “not, it seems, like you.”

That last zinger hit home for me. I realized that what Francesco was saying was exactly what I’d been thinking and writing about for the past few years. Never before in my adult life have I felt that my politics were a scarlet letter, worn like some invisible hairshirt and indicative of my moral transgressions. The person I’d voted for in the past two elections (Trump) and my refusal to support dual impeachments and a partisan commission on the events of January 6th made me, in some quarters, persona non grata. The less generous critics used the word “traitor.”

That’s particularly rich, given my profession. Immigration lawyers are generally not accused of treason, although they are accused of lesser crimes and misdemeanors. But the point is a much larger one. Sticks and stones may break my bones, and names can occasionally hurt me, but the idea that someone who does not share my politics thinks I should end up in jail, or have my voice censored, or be neutered politically is a dangerous one. And a close look at what’s been happening at the highest levels of both the criminal justice system, administrative policy and — most egregiously — journalism, confirms that this is what is happening, if not to me, to others.

My new friend Francesco does not agree with the prime minister who just resigned, Mario Draghi. His politics are much farther to the right than Draghi’s centrist positions. But he admires the man, is upset that he was forced to abandon office, and hopes he will one day find a place in the presidential palace on the Quirinal.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the United States on the left who disagrees with Donald Trump’s policies but still thinks that he was a good man. The visceral hatred for him and for those who supported him is almost manic, and is not based in any mature understanding of the political process. It’s a personal vendetta, and it harkens back to the battles at the Roman Forum where, as we know, things ended pretty badly for at least one Caesar.

We, who were always a tribe held tenuously together by the law and by the conviction that dissent was honorable, have lost that sense of unity. And the view from abroad convinced me that we may very well never get it back.

Those who hate Trump will continue to justify their position by saying he tried to steal the election and hijack the election (something that he himself has alleged against his opponents). And while I do find little value in the argument that there was fraud in 2020’s tally, it’s not unreasonable to be angry about the irregularities that were obvious and egregious in this election which was far from what Democrats called “a completely fair process.”

No, it wasn’t. My friend Francesco in Rome didn’t have an opinion on voter fraud, but he did have an opinion on those who dismissed those claims out of hand. With the usual pragmatism that makes me love my Italian ancestors, he said, “Why are they so upset that people were discussing voter fraud if nothing actually happened?”

Being in Rome these past few weeks gave me an interesting perspective on how the average European, the man on the street, views the mess we’ve made and the civil war we’ve waged against each other. Italians, for all of their bickering, consider themselves family. You can argue with them, but at the end of the day, they are still a part of the tribe. 

We, who were always a tribe held tenuously together by the law and by the conviction that dissent was honorable, have lost that sense of unity. And the view from abroad convinced me that we may very well never get it back.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61

5 thoughts on “Christine Flowers: A conservative abroad”

  1. Republicans need to move on from Trump. He lost the election because of his horrendous, childish, conduct. More voted against him than for him. He gleefully watched his Capitol Riot for hours before stopping it. Hundreds of police officers were injured because of him. Christine Flowers would be better off acknowledging this instead of forever making excuses for Trump.

    1. If we all voted Trump we wouldn’t be in this mess with Biden …. inflation, recession, Ukraine, increased violent crime, and more to come …. but maybe we’ll get another chance (fingers crossed).

      1. You don’t need Trump. He’s beyond unfit for office and proved for it for four years. Besides, he’s too old. Americans have moved on. Ron DeSantis would be a perfect fit.

  2. Democrats will despise any R that beats them and gets in there. They hated W just as much as Trump. Anything that takes away the D grifters’ power is unforgivable in their mind (and that’s what it is, a vast grifting operation …. pressure groups that get Ds elected in return for legislation that pumps taxpayer money out to them).

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