Washington D.C.- Italian Giorgia Meloni’s election victory this week has been hailed by US Republicans, who are full of praise for the right-wing European leader despite fears she leads a political party with neo-fascist roots.
The affinity for Meloni in the United States, experts say, is part of a deep bond between conservative populists on both sides of the Atlantic, which has already been seen with the embrace of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor’s Republican activists. Orban.
Increasingly, right-wing nationalists around the world are finding common ground in a battle against common enemies: immigration, progressive views on gender and sexuality, and people they loosely refer to as ” globalists” and “elite”.
And that’s precisely the message that got Meloni elected, said Lawrence Rosenthal, president of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
“She ran on anger over gender politics; she ran on the traditional family; she ran on things like border protection; she would talk about Western civilization in exactly the same way that Orban does and much of the right in this country does,” Rosenthal told Al Jazeera.
Rosenthal said the “great replacement theory,” the idea that global elites are trying to replace “indigenous” populations in Western countries with immigrants, is at the heart of the grievances that unite these right-wing movements.
The theory is seen by many scholars and social justice advocates as a conspiratorial push to stoke racial anxiety about non-white newcomers to Western countries.
“All nationalist movements in individual countries have the same ‘other’ – that is, they all agree that immigrants are ‘the other’, and that is what they are against”, Rosenthal said. “It is therefore possible to have solidarity across international lines on this point, because the enemy object is the same in all.”
Meloni’s point of view
Meloni, 45, is set to become Italy’s next prime minister after his political party, Brothers of Italy, emerged as the biggest winner in a right-wing coalition that received the most votes in a snap election of the country on Sunday.
Brothers of Italy – founded in 2012 – is the ideological successor to the far-right National Alliance, which grew out of the Italian Social Movement, a political party formed by supporters of former dictator Benito Mussolini in the aftermath of World War II .
Meloni denied that his party was fascist and condemned anti-Jewish laws and the suppression of fascist-era democracy. However, a video of a young Meloni when she was a National Alliance activist shows her praising Mussolini as a “good politician” who acted for Italy.
The logo of the Brothers of Italy – flames in the colors of the Italian flag – also reflects that of the Italian Social Movement.
Congratulation to @GiorgiaMeloni. Italy deserves and needs strong conservative leadership. Bona Fortuna!
—Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) September 26, 2022
Yet despite the criticism, many Republicans hailed Meloni’s electoral success this week, sharing a viral video of the Italian politician claiming that national identity and the concept of family are under attack in a bid to make people “the perfect consumer “.
“The whole world is beginning to understand that the woke left is all about destroying,” far-right lawmaker Lauren Boebert wrote on Twitter, suggesting Meloni’s victory was a positive sign ahead of the US midterm elections in November. .
“November 8th is coming soon and the United States will fix our House and our Senate! Let freedom reign!
Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were also among Republican officials who expressed joy at Meloni’s victory.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, one of the most influential right-wing commentators in the United States, also hailed Meloni’s victory as a “revolution”, calling her “intelligent” and capable of expressing what the majority people think.
Some experts say Meloni’s message about family, national identity and God has resonated with American conservatives because it’s tailored specifically for them.
“Giorgia Meloni has invested a lot of effort in building connections and respectability within the US-dominated networks of ‘national conservatism’ and Christian fundamentalism,” said Cas Mudde, professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, to Al Jazeera in an email.
Earlier this year, Meloni gave a speech filled with American references at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering for American right-wing politicians and activists.
“That’s exactly what they want – an off-leash, out-of-place, monkey-trained straight. But you know what? We are not monkeys. We are not even rhinos; we will not be part of their zoo,” Meloni said, invoking “RINOs,” or “Republicans In Name Only,” a term used to describe moderate American conservatives.
So nicely said.
Congratulations to Giorgio Meloni and the Italian people. https://t.co/XdM8U2mFgt
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) September 26, 2022
‘Triumph’ for the far right
In that same speech, Meloni went on to say that “everything” that conservatives stand for is under attack and that progressives are operating globally to “destroy our identities.” She also compared refugees arriving in Italy to migrants and asylum seekers at the US southern border.
“I see incredible things happening on the border between [the] in the United States and Mexico, and I am thinking of our own Sicily,” she said.
“Thousands of migrants allowed to enter without permission, who end up evicting the slums from our towns and villages. And they cap the wages of our own workers and, in many cases, engage in crime.
Rosenthal said right-wing Republicans don’t look to Meloni’s message for inspiration because they’ve already embraced anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. On the contrary, “it’s an opportunity to celebrate the ‘triumph on our side’ – from their perspective – internationally,” he said.
Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian-born Italian journalist who is currently a visiting professor at the University of Miami, warned that electing Meloni would embolden far-right extremists in Italy, as well as the rest of Europe and in the USA.
Jebreal, who has previously debated and publicly confronted Meloni, said she and other critics of the Italian politician have received death threats since Sunday’s election. “I think these people feel inspired, emboldened,” she told Al Jazeera, referring to right-wing “extremists”.
“This movement is a global movement, and people are organized,” Jebreal said.
Over the past decade there have been active efforts to connect right-wing movements around the world. Notably, Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump, launched an unsuccessful organization called “The Movement” in 2018 to support anti-EU populists in the European Parliament elections.
The Trump ally had placed particular emphasis on right-wing parties in France and Italy.
“Italy is the beating heart of modern politics,” Bannon, who is currently facing a wave of legal challenges and criminal charges in the United States, told The Daily Beast at the time. “If it works there, it can work everywhere.”