Italy Explained: Berlusconi, The Northern League And A Working Class That Votes Centre-right

The extraordinarily lucid analysis below is my translation of an article published by “Notizie Radicali”, the online newletter of the Italian Radicals, a political party currently associated to the centre-left Democratic Party.

The original publication date was 4 May 2009. Little has changed since then, despite all the Berlusconi sex scandals. The results of local and European elections in June 2009 have seen a further erosion on the centre-left of the Italian political spectrum.

Probably, the best thing the Democratic Party could do at the moment would be to dissolve itself and give somebody, anybody the chance to start anew.

(the text between square brackets is all mine)

When the Working Class Votes Centre-Right
by Valter Vecellio

The People of Freedom (PDL) at more than 50 percent. The Democratic Party (PD) at around 26 percent. The data from the Ipsos-“Sole 24 Ore” opinion poll is not news in itself, rather a further confirmation of what was already common knowledge.

Among professionals and the self-employed the coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi reaches a “People’s Republic”‘s majority, around the 70 per cent. But the actual “bleeding wound” for the PD concerns that section of the electorate traditionally linked to left, the workers. Among them, consensus for the governing coalition of Northern League (Lega Nord) and PDL exceeds 43 per cent. The PD appears stuck at much more modest 22.4 percent.

The Democratic Party certainly is paying for the competition with Antonio di Pietro’s Italy of Values (IdV). The IdV has been widening its base by leveraging on demagoguery and low-level “qualunquismo” [the mindset of being unable to tell one established party from another].

PD is also paying for competition from its left, from parties such as Communist Refoundation, the Italian Communists [several of them], the Greens, the Socialists. Although those will be unable to cross the 4 percent threshold for being represented at the European Parliament, they will all be eroding valuable points of consensus and percentage from the PD.

Nevertheless, the fact that Berlusconi has managed to wrestle consensus from the centre-left is beyond dispute. A trend in this direction was already clear after the general elections of April 2008. In fact, surprising and inconvenient truths can be found in a very useful report, “Winners and losers in the elections of 2008” published by “Itanes” (Italian Election Studies), a research group started in the early 90s by the Cattaneo Institute in Bologna and guided by a “student” of Giovanni Sartori, Professor Giacomo Sani.

Those are surprising and inconvenient truths, of course, for the losers, not for the winners. According to the report, the PD has paid a combined effect: on the one hand the phenomenon scholars call “selective abstention”, affecting PD voters much more than PDL ones. On the other hand, there has been a real-and-present migration of support.

To put it simply: for every three PD voters of the past, one decided not to vote in the general elections of 2008, and one voted for the opposing coalition.

The centre-left as a whole“, we read, “suffers from the flows of mobilization and demobilization a loss of around 4 per cent of the electorate .. . whilst the PD sees the disappearance of the votes of around 10 percent of those who had chosen the Olive Tree coalition in 2006, in favour of parties of the centre-right.”

The end result is that nowadays, the traditional centre-left electoral base has more overall confidence in the governing by Berlusconi than in the opposition by the PD. But we can go beyond that, by reading a well-researched book “Padanian Breed” by Adalberto Signore and Alessandro Trocino.

It is a book that chronicles twenty-five years of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, and it is not lacking in surprises: despite some “folksy” and “noisy” [i.e. bordering on the loony] public statements by Lega Nord leaders, the authors tell of a a political party made up of activists running local public Offices to the voters’ appreciation, regardless of the social group to which the voters belong.

In Lombardy or Piedmont, it is nowadays no longer considered odd to find members of the communist-leaning workers’ trade union CGIL also belonging to Lega Nord and/or having no qualms to vote for centre-right candidates.

At present, what is new is that how the above phenomenon has become consolidated and disseminated. An entire section of the Italian society doesn’t vote to the left any longer, tired of in-fighting, demagoguery, and inconclusive statements of intent. It is a situation exposed to little or no avail by those in the PD nearer to the electorate, for example the Mayors of Turin Sergio Chiamparino, and of Venice Massimo Cacciari.

Like the mythical Cassandra, nobody listens to them speaking the truth: instead Veltroni, assisted by a strategist of no strategy called Goffredo Bettini, collected a string of ever bitterer defeats, before resigning. Now we have Dario Franceschini seeking to unite the pieces of a vase broken in a thousand pieces. The outcome of all those efforts is reflected in the results of the Ipsos-“Sole 24 Ore” survey: bitter results, for the PD, but also a confirmation of a situation whose cause is to be found in the PD itself.

As things stand, the PD can only wait for its final decay. Its leaders have done their utmost to reach that goal, and now they are reaping what they have sown.

“Intellectual” Liberal Americans: Insane, or Just Morons?

Continuing my earlier blog on the biggest issue facing Democrats in the USA: their gigantic superiority complex.

There is a scene in Alan Sandler’s “Mr. Deeds” when three high-society New York types (Kurt the Opera singer, William, and George the New Yorker writer) are shown as bordering on the inhuman, as too full of themselves.

That’s what these words by Expat Yank reminded me of:

Unless they go through “rehab,” as yours truly did — meaning, in short, until they grasp the realization that to be a “non-international” American who attends church regularly does not automatically mark one out as a bigoted nitwit — liberals cannot help themselves. Upon what they believe to be the high-horse is where they are most comfortable. They simply cannot imagine that they are NOT absolutely more sharp-minded and heavyweight than their opponents.

The major reason for that self-delusion? Since the mid-1960s, Democrats have actually come to believe — honestly — their own puffed up view of themselves as the default party of “great thoughts“ [...]

the Democratic party has changed: it is no longer the party of FDR and Truman. For the last 45 years it has become instead the party of JFK idolatry and imagined “Camelot.” Reared on an endless diet of “Jack and Jackie in Paris” [...] and so much more, many to most Democrats sincerely now appear to believe that to be a Republican is . . . to be a moron. [...]

when dealing with what might be considered opposing conservative opinions, liberals are often quick to lose perspective, react emotionally and all too often embrace outright intellectual snobbery.

And as to that latter mostly with so little justification, since few Democrats are themselves actually anywhere approaching nearly as smart as they perceive themselves to be [...] a liberal (meaning a Democrat), when confronted with your opposition, might try that for a moment, but if you hold your ground and respond in kind he will tend far too often to descend to the famous argument-tipping “huff,” roll up his eyes and proclaim you obviously just another unworldly simpleton who needs to retake 1st Grade.

Expat Yank is a “disgruntled Democrat turned Republican“. I have a feeling, he knows what he’s talking about.

Trouble is, I do not see Kurt, William and George understanding a single word of the above.

When will all this insanity end?

With Columnists Like These, Palin’s Campaign’s Bound To Be A Winner

Letter to the International Herald Tribune:

Dear Editors

Are you planning to keep subjecting your readers to substantial daily doses of Democratic anti-Palin smugness until the Presidential Elections on Nov 4? One wonders.
 
Just a few examples. Your celebrity columnist Maureen Dowd has dedicated her last six contributions to one and only one topic (Sarah Palin of course). Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame has joined in by pretending to be a liberal roaming around Alaska (“Moose on the loose in Palin Country“, IHT, Sep 18).
 
Even anti-Obamite David Brooks has opined at length about the Governor of Alaska’s preparedness for High Office (“Experience Matters“, IHT, Sep 16).
 
Apparently, the situation for Gov. Palin does not look pretty. Your columnists have described her as a female version of George W Bush for her “inexperience”, “brashness” and “excessive decisiveness”; as a populist, gun-crazied shooter potentially even of a mother and baby moose; as the gay-hating infantile, seductive former mayor of a town smaller than the local Wal-Mart, with intimidation as her preferred political tool; as an anti-intellectual contemporary “My Fair Lady” character hell-bent on getting rid of her enemies.
 
The list could continue for a long long time.
 
Now, am I the only one to think that all the above amounts to (a) free publicity for Palin; and (b) a very good platform to convince “Middle America” to vote for Palin, if only because she’s obviously such a hate figure in the Establishment?
 
In 2008 there are many things pointing towards a success for Barack Obama. However, the Democrats may still lose the Presidential election, for the trivial reason that one will find it very hard to get votes from people one so obviously disdains and look upon condescendingly.
regards
maurizio morabito