After Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party won a plurality of the vote in Italy’s national election last Sunday, I started hearing the word “fascist.” To be fair, it was usually preceded by the prefix “neo,” distinguishing the new Prime Minister’s party from the Mussolini-era original.
But there was no mistaking the implication, almost universally from the left of the American political spectrum: this woman was a threat to democracy. And it wasn’t just a phenomenon in the US. Many of the western powers echoed the same worries and preoccupations, suggesting that the first female leader of the modern Italian state was an attractive, well-dressed despot.
And I immediately thought of the reluctance of Democrats to acknowledge their own original sin: racism. Back when my father went down south to Mississippi in 1967 to register African Americans to vote and run for local political office, he had many run-ins with the good old boys and girls. He also had a very scary near miss with the Ku Klux Klan on a dark road at night. And the odds being what they were, virtually all of these menacing folk were Democrats.
READ MORE — Christine Flowers: Duke supports bigotry yet again
And who could forget Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a low-level Wizard in his own KKK coven, Strom Thurmond, who spent the first two decades of his long and controversial career in office as “not the Republican,” and George Wallace who proudly barred young black children from the schoolhouse. Wallace, who ended up in a wheelchair for his troubles, was also not a Republican.
When I suggested that equity demanded that if Giorgia Meloni is tagged with the “fascist” label we would also have to remind everyone that racism began with the Democrats, my social media interlocutors were triggered. One after the other tried to distance themselves from the sins of their fathers, pointing out that each one of the aforementioned segregationists later “repented.” Interestingly, though, they still insisted that Meloni was a fascist and that praising her in any way was a sign that I, too, was a fascist.
In one amusing exchange, a random woman from Canada told me that I needed to read up on my own history, because “didn’t I know” that the Republicans were the racists, period? I admit, sheepishly, that I made some snarky comments about the gravitas and historical acumen of Canadians, and abandoned the conversation before I said something that would get me barred from Twitter (I had already been suspended from Facebook the day before and was a bit skittish.)
The point of this is to explain how hypocritical we are in this country when it comes to conservatives, and in particular, conservative women. Not only is Giorgia Meloni the first female Prime Minister in the history of the modern Italian Republic, she is also one of the very rare right-of-center leaders. In fact, she is the most conservative person to hold this highest of political positions in my mother’s ancestral country.
I admit to being very proud that a woman who shares many of my political and philosophical views is situated to play such a large role on the international stage. With the sole exception of immigration, on which we have a disagreement that derives from my own experiences dealing with refugees, I admire her words and her policies.
In a clip that has gone viral, and that I am happy to understand in the original Italian and not have to rely on some suspect translation, Giorgia Meloni talks about the importance of family, of faith, of country and of national identity. She has a delivery that is very full-throated and passionate, and it does tend to recall the histrionics of Mussolini. Then again, that has more to do with her Italian heritage than with any affinity for the dictator’s principles. In Meloni, I see the engagement and enthusiasm of many of the Italian women I knew growing up, all of whom cherished democracy, family, faith and their country. In fact, I learned patriotism from women who were one generation removed from being foreigners.
Giorgia Meloni is an exceptional woman with exceptional talents, and deserves to be given time to make her own mistakes and, more likely, win her own political and diplomatic victories.
Meloni is pro-life. She is unapologetically Catholic. She believes in a national identity which derives from the deep vein of culture, civics, history and philosophy that defines one of the great ancient civilizations. She is unashamed to say that “pronouns” don’t matter, that gender is not an artificial construct, that unborn life deserves respect, that borders are important, and that God is relevant and has a place in the public square.
For this, she has been vilified in the most nuanced ways by those who “suspect” her of dangerous affiliations and ideas. The talking heads have already tried to pigeon hole her as they did with Amy Coney Barrett, another accomplished pro-life Catholic woman who loved family, faith and country. And this time, they aren’t afraid of displaying their particular brand of ethnic bigotry: if she’s Italian, and from the right, she must be a fascist.
It’s predictable, but nonetheless a sad example of the way the American left operates today.
We don’t yet know how Giorgia Meloni will deal with the United States and what impact her tenure will have on an Italo-American relationship which has historically been very strong. We do know that our own president, Joe Biden, has expressed some trepidation at her election.
But what I do know is that Giorgia Meloni is an exceptional woman with exceptional talents, and deserves to be given time to make her own mistakes and, more likely, win her own political and diplomatic victories.
And she won’t be doing it in the shadow of Mussolini, just as today’s Democrats would be loath to have the albatross of the Dixiecrats hanging around their collective necks.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61