Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, September 20, 2004

Bush and Berlusconi

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I posted the question "Are the Republicans Becoming Fascists?" Today I will expand on the theme by looking at Bush's closest ally on the Continent of Europe, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy is now the only major ally Bush has in Europe other than the United Kingdom. Bush is full of praise for the Italian government. If Clinton had a special relationship with Blair, Bush has that relationship with Berlusconi of Italy. Of course Blair has supported the US war in Iraq and there are rumors that Blair is something of an evangelical but his relationship with Bush is nothing like the love fest he had with Clinton.

Silvio Berlusconi is a kind of combination of Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and George Steinbrenner. He owns the one of most popular professional soccer teams in Italy, AC Milan. He also owns the lion's share of the Italian media market. He rose to power amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power. He routinely uses his TV stations to violate equal time laws that require that all political parties be given equal access to the media. When he became Prime Minister, he was already under indictment for a number of corruption related crimes. He and the parties in his coalition immediately set about retroactively repealing the laws he had been indicted under. Pretty slick, eh?

Berlusconi is the leader of a five party coalition. The leading party is his own "Forza Italia" party. The name is taken from a soccer fan chant shouted by AC Milan fans...it means "Go Italy." Forza Italia portrays itself as a kind of Gaullist party for Italy (referring to the French nationalist General and politician, Charles DeGaulle). But there are wide spread concerns that Forza Italia is more radical than the image it likes to portray. Forza Italia's (FI) partners in the coalition include two far right parties: the Northern League (LN) and the National Alliance (AN).

LN is a socially conservative party that advocates greater autonomy for the wealthy region of Northern Italy. This is a kind of Bloc Quebecois for Milan, Turin and the Po Valley.

AN is the most alarming party in Italy. AN is the new name of the Italian Social Movement (MSI). MSI was run by Mussolini's family and was openly fascist in its sympathies and ideology. MSI existed for years on the fringes of Italian politics as a pariah party excluded from consideration as a coalition partner by all the parties of the left and right. But Berlusconi has helped the party - now called AN - enter the mainstream.

You can check out a summary list of the governments in Italy at the ZPC website.

Conservative nationalist parties like LN and post-fascist parties like AN exist in every country in Europe. Examples are Le Pen's National Front in France, the German NPD, DVU and Republikaner parties, the Progress Parties in Denmark and Norway, the British National Front, Vlaams Bloc in Belgium, and the Freedom Party of Austria. However, they have been excluded from power in every country except for Austria (Jorg Haider's FPO party) and in Italy. When combined with suspicions about the true nature of the Forza Italia party, it could be argued that Italy is currently ruled by a kind of post-fascist coalition.

Such is the nature of Bush's greatest ally in Europe. I believe that the American Republican party is becoming less and less like the British Conservative party or German Christian Democrats and more and more like the Italian coalition between the Forza Italia and National Alliance.

Comments? Discussion?

6 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

I think there's an even more disturbing analog to George W. Bush in world politcs: Vladimir Putin. Capped by his recent power-grab in the wake of the Breslin school tragedy, I don't think any other world leader has exploited fears of terrorism for personal gain better than Putin. He has also silenced critical news organizations and has reined in dissident business leaders, all the while paying lip service to preserving democracy. In comparison, the Republicans' Patriot Act--even Patriot Act II--are wispy little things. Putin has done his job very well. And I fear that Bush is taking notes for his second term...

Raised By Republicans said...

Yes Putin is alarming as well. But many might say that Putin came to power in an underdeveloped, impoverished country with only a few years of anything approaching democracy in its history.

Italy on the other hand is one of the richest countries in Europe (contrary to popular belief). Italy is one of the 7 largest economies in the world and has had a reasonably functioning democracy for over 50 years before Berlusconi came to power. Italy continues to be a Member of the EU and no one suggests that Berlusconi is a dictator. However, even that conservative bastion, the Economist has declared loudly that Berlusconi is "unfit" be the leader of a democratic country.

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Dr. Strangelove said...

You have a remarkable knowledge of European political parties, RbR! Berlusconi is a scary individual, but I hope part of the reason why is that he is so very good at negotiating and politics--after all, you did mention he has to lead a five-party coalition. Since Bush has never been accused of working well with others, I hope lacks Berlusconi's flair in this regard.

Raised By Republicans said...

That's an interesting point. Americans frequently point to European coalition governments and remark at how different they are from U.S. Presidencies. But I would suggest that our two parties are really large conglomerates of regional and ideological factions that behave much like coalitions.

Within Bush's party the American press routinely talks about at least four such factions: Neo-cons, Evangelical Conservatives, Libertarians, and "Budget Hawks." Within the Democrats there are the moderate "Blue Dogs" in the DLC, liberal "Yellow Dogs," labor and environmentalists.

If the we had the same electoral system Italy has I'd expect that Republican party would split into several parties: Christian Democrats (ala the Bavarian Christian Social Union), Conservatives (ala the British Tories), and Libertarians (which already have their own party but would grow significantly and would be something like the German Free Democrats or the Danish Liberal Party). I'd expect the Democrats to break up into a Liberal Party (along the lines of the British Liberal Party or the Danish Radical Liberals), a Labor Party with strong union ties (along the lines of some of the more populist European Social Democratic parties, like PASOK), a Green Party (which already exists and would grow significantly), and possibly a New Left Party along the lines of the Danish Socialist People's Party, the French Communists or other European parties popular with students and other intellectual leftists.

Of course, if we had such a multi party system, each bloc of parties would likely cooperate with each other more or less like they do now as members of the same party.

Raised By Republicans said...

I forgot to mention that I also think that the Republicans would split into a kind of "America First" party with a xeno-phobic/tax resister ideology very similar to the Italian AN, Le Pen's National Front, or the Danish Progress Party.