The Italian Earthquake

Italy is known for severe earthquakes from time to time, and as Paul noted yesterday, Italy’s voters just delivered an 8.0 magnitude political earthquake. As the dust settles, it is clear this was no mere minor swing in the vote.  Henry Olsen (our podcast guest last week discussing populism in Europe) notes today:

Italy had every reason to change course. Its economy has been stagnant for years. Neither centre-right nor centre-left seemed to have real answers, and the two leaders of those parties – Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Renzi – had both been rejected by Italian voters in some fashion in the past. Italians were in the mood for a change, and the traditional parties presented figures from the not-so-happy past. That’s not a recipe for success.

The downfall of the centre-right and centre-left has been swift. In the 2008 election, those parties received over 70% of the vote. Along with centrist and Christian Democratic parties, the Italian establishment got over 80%. The total for those parties dropped to 57% in 2013, and plummeted to only 36.5% on Sunday.

Most striking to me is this map of the vote distribution geographically, with the richer north voting for one center-right party (as they have always tended to do), and the poorer south, previously a bastion for center-left parties, voting for the new populist Five-Star party. Looks a lot like Trump’s map in the U.S., no? As in the U.S., the left-leaning vote is increasingly concentrated in a few urban areas. This comes after Italy had precipitously increased the number of migrants it admitted over the last five years. Gee, I wonder if there was any connection?

Angelo Codevilla notes over at American Greatness that Trump was in a sense on the ballot in Italy:

In Italy as elsewhere, the Trump effect is more about attitudes than government programs.  . .  The entire world has been infected by what Renzi calls a “populist virus,” which first manifested itself in the British people’s decision to leave the European Union and whose virulence elected Donald Trump. That same “virus” now has spread to Italy. There was nothing that Renzi or anyone else could have done to stop it. Of course, one could just as easily argue that the populism Renzi and his comrades despise isn’t a disease so much as a much-needed cure.

The truth, however, has nothing to do with any “ism” or with Trump: when voters are ruled by officials and associated corporate types who despise them, sooner or later they will find ways of returning the favor.

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