“I cannot define myself as Italian, as a Christian, a mother, a woman — no!” Meloni says in the clip, from a speech in 2019. “I must be citizen x, gender x, parent 1, parent 2.”
The clip, which was liked more than 200,000 times, went viral among Trump-aligned Republicans. And the reviews were fawning.
“He said so beautifully,” said Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
“Great,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
“Model here for applicants November 8th,” said Steve Cortesa former Trump campaign adviser.
Becoming the head of Western Europe’s first far-right post-war government, Meloni has emerged as a famous reference point for MAGA Republicans, who have interpreted his rise as a confirmation of their own values and goals. In their narrative – existing on social media and in right-wing media – Meloni tells the truth that speaks clearly about her beliefs, that she has not compromised in the face of the awakening on the left, and has overcome hysterical media by her called a fascist. , racist and worse.
The far-right leader who is changing the tone of Italy
“This is someone I can relate to, because they’re doing the same thing as me,” said Kari Lake, a Trump-aligned Arizona gubernatorial candidate who is contesting the 2020 election, on Fox News.
There is no doubt that Meloni’s progress is extraordinary — and if he succeeds in governing Italy, he could pave the way to power for other figures in Europe who were once marginal.
She has caught on in the US because, in some ways, her rhetoric mirrors that of Donald Trump. She has leaned heavily on the idea of a forgotten middle class, ridiculed by elites, while portraying herself as a defender of the underdog.
“The narrative of the people against the power,” said Maurizio Molinari, editor-in-chief of La Repubblica. “She imitates and in a way translates to the Italian public some of the messages that helped Trump.”
Molinari, who reviewed examples of US right-wing media coverage of Meloni at the request of The Washington Post, concluded: “She’s winning; we will win. This is their narrative.”
But there are also some American misconceptions about what drove Meloni’s rise.
Italy’s Giorgia Meloni sets the agenda, says she has no sympathy for fascism
While the social media chatter among Republicans tends to focus on her firebrand culture war speeches, with the assumption that those views underlie her popularity, Meloni says her views on such issues are likely to cost her votes. This summer, when the fall of the Italian government triggered elections and opened a clear path to power, her most controversial and extreme talking points broke out. She was no longer bashing the “LGBT lobby,” for example, or framing migration as “ethnic replacement.” He also sought to specifically assure the establishment in Brussels and Washington that he would govern Italy with a conventional foreign policy: pro-Atlantic, anti-Kremlin. In short, he managed to do what Republicans had once hoped for and never got from Trump: he moderated.
Still, some Americans on the right have assumed that her victory shows a popular revolt against a system.
After the Italian election, Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted much of one evening to Meloni, portraying Italy as a landscape “ravaged” by neoliberalism and its open border policy, with some parts of the country become “always dangerous” because of migrant crimes. Meloni, he said, was one of the “very few politicians… who have been ready to say the obvious – the truth – out loud.”
“This is a revolution,” Carlson said.
Giorgia Meloni’s interview with The Washington Post
The reality is more complicated. Italy had a rebellion, but in 2018, when it gave power to populist parties that then fought with each other and wasted popularity. Those failures, along with long-standing problems—persistent recession, high government debt, limited job opportunities for the young—have fed a sense of political apathy, and doubt that any political solution will work. The turnout in September was the lowest ever recorded.
Meloni benefited from years in the opposition, when he managed to siphon off the support of rivals on the right. But that doesn’t mean she has secured people’s loyalty. Some voters say they are not sure they will support her even a year from now.
Daniele Albertazzi, an Italian-born professor of politics at the University of Surrey, noted that between 42 percent and 48 percent of Italians have voted for right-wing parties for three decades.
Meloni’s party has a hard line on social issues which makes its coalition different, and further to the right, than any post-war government. But Meloni has also filled key cabinet posts with familiar figures from Silvio Berlusconi’s previous governments, a nod to the many centrists who voted for her.
“It’s hardly a revolution,” Albertazzi said.
The reasons behind the success of the extreme right in Italy
For American viewers, one of the biggest talking points concerns the origins of Meloni’s party, the Brothers of Italy. Her party, created a decade ago, was a descendant of an earlier group founded by Mussolini sympathizers after the war. The policies of the Italian Brothers are not fascist, and Meloni himself has said that he has “never felt sympathy” for such beliefs. But her party has included many members who have made fascist salutes in public or celebrated the rise of Mussolini. Nor did her government take any action when thousands of Italians recently marched with fascist symbols in Predappio, Mussolini’s hometown.
In the eyes of Republicans, international media reports about Meloni have been alarming, unfairly linking her to fascism. Several TV segments on Trump-aligned media channels have included a run of breathy headlines or MSNBC clips.
“[It’s] the left-wing media doing what they do best, labeling common-sense conservatives as far-right,” said the Newsmax anchor, before interviewing Rep. Ralph Norman (RS.C.). “We’ve seen the same thing happen at home, with MAGA fans.”
“Giorgia Meloni is a breath of fresh air,” said Norman afterwards. “It’s a preview of upcoming attractions” in the US mid-season in November.
Filippo Trevisan, an Italian-born associate professor at American University who specializes in political communication and reviewed several US media clips at The Post’s request, said that neither the left nor the right in America had been able to “ really represent the turn. Italian politics has taken it.”
The mainstreaming of the far right of the West is complete
Meloni, for her part, has worked for years to build relationships with Republicans, and spoke in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando. In an August interview with The Post, she deflected a question about whether she felt more aligned with Trump’s wing of the party or those opposed to his ideological takeover.
“I’m not interested in getting into the debate within the Republican Party,” he said, “because it would be too complicated for me.”
Notably, at a time when the idea of electoral fraud has worked its way so deeply into the Republican Party, Meloni never suggested—before or after the vote—that the Italian parliamentary election could be in doubt. When the result gave her the chance to be appointed prime minister by the Italian president, Meloni showed respect for her predecessor, the centrist Mario Draghi. And when she spoke last week before parliament, she celebrated the smooth transition in power.
“So it should be in great democracies,” he said.
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.