AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
Since Giorgia Meloni’s election as Prime Minister of Italy last year, the liberal establishment – both inside and outside of Italy – has been working overtime to slander and undermine the staunch conservative leader. Now, many on the left think they have found the perfect foil for Meloni in Elly Schlein, an ex-Barack Obama staffer whom some in the liberal press are calling “Italy’s AOC.”
In March, voters elected Schlein to lead Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) as its secretary. Particularly following Meloni’s victory last September, the PD has struggled to find its identity. From winning more than 12 million votes in Italy’s 2008 elections, the party won just 5.5 million last year.
Schlein has promised to change all that – but not without shaking up the status quo. She ran as an unapologetic leftist and in defiance of the party establishment, advocating a radical agenda on everything from abortion and assisted suicide to legalizing drugs and pushing radical gender theory.
These extreme positions clearly activated some disaffected left-wing voters in Italy – more than 500,000 people who were not PD members voted in the party primary.
Shlein has been something of a political nomad throughout her career. After starting her career as a PD party activist, she quit the party eight years ago, only returning in 2022. She also volunteered for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, where she trained other volunteers.
Like the U.S. President she once worked for, Schlein has become a media darling. She enjoyed a glowing Vogue profile late last month. The New York Times also has declared that Schlein has “catapulted Italy, which long seemed a Country for Old Men, into markedly different territory.”
As leader of the PD, Schlein will hope to use her party’s influence in strategically important regions of Italy – including populous cities like Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence, Naples, and Bari – to expand the party’s influence. She also has a staunch ally in the European Parliament (EP), which leftists continue to dominate. Just last week, the EP criticized Meloni and other conservative leaders in Hungary and Poland for their supposedly “anti-LGBTQ” rhetoric.
But Schlein has her work cut out for her when it comes to making a case against the concrete successes of the Meloni administration.
Those fears are perhaps best captured by the term “Melonomics,” recently coined by conservative Italian newspaper Il Giornale to describe Meloni’s economic policies, which the paper likens to President Ronald Reagan’s. After six months in office, Meloni has established three pillars for growth: tax cuts and rules transparency, no government bailouts, and a merit-focused labor market.
In addition, Meloni’s immigration policy and treatment of African nations has also proved popular with voters and shaken the liberal establishment in Europe.
With many strategies similar to those employed by former U.S. President Donald Trump in the United States, Meloni has prioritized deterring illegal immigration, stressing that European policies of processing massive asylum claims and taking a lax approach toward illegal immigration have failed.
Meloni has also called on the rest of Europe to stop treating Africa as its “economic lifeline,” which she argues only exacerbates problems in African countries. “We need to strengthen relations with African countries, not with the eyes of a colonizer, but sitting on an equal footing,” Meloni explained early in her tenure. Those comments were a direct criticism of the French-led African Financial Community, which she called “a euphemism for Paris colonies.”
The blunt rhetoric and consistent attitude have worked wonders for Italy. In just a few months, Meloni has signed natural gas contracts with Libya and Algeria, allowing Italy to gain energy independence from Russian supplies by 2025 and transforming Italy into an energy hub for Europe. Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria are now also actively working with Italian officials to decrease illegal immigration.
Meloni’s success has also seemingly invigorated other conservative parties in Europe. In Sweden and Finland, conservatives have campaigned on a similar platform as Meloni, emphasizing energy independence and cutting spending – two hallmarks of Melonomics. Meloni’s success has also motivated the Spanish conservative party, Vox, to challenge the immigration and debt records of the socialist government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
With little of substance to run on, the left in Italy has resorted to nasty personal attacks on Meloni and even her family. Recently, a daily newspaper associated with the PD published on its front page a cartoon mocking Meloni’s sister, who is passionate about protecting family and the freedom of religion. Meloni confirmed that the paper attacked “a person who does not hold public office, guilty above all of being my sister,” saying that the silence of those responsible was deafening.
The media both inside and outside of Italy have also baselessly continued to slander Meloni as a “racist” and a “fascist,” leveling the same attacks against her that so many Republican politicians experience in the United States.
Despite all this, however, Meloni has continued to perform well in the polls, and her government continues to deliver policy wins. It seems that Schlein will have to find a way to win the support of more than just far-left activists and the liberal media if she hopes to fulfill her ambitions.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.
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