“I can’t define myself as Italian, as a Christian, mother, wife – no!” Meloni says in the clip, from a 2019 speech, “I must be citizen x, gender x, parent 1, parent 2.”
The clip, which has been liked more than 200,000 times, went viral among Trump-affiliated Republicans. And the reviews were fawn.
“So beautifully said,” said Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
“Spectacular”, said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
“November 8 candidate model here,” said Steve Cortesa former Trump campaign adviser.
By becoming the first far-right head of government in post-war Western Europe, Meloni has emerged as a celebrated point of reference for MAGA Republicans, who have interpreted her rise as an affirmation of their own values and goals. In their story – which has prevailed on social media and in right-wing media – Meloni is a truth-teller who speaks clearly about her beliefs, made no compromises in the face of the awakened left, and overcame a hysterical media that called her a fascist, a racist and worse.
The far-right leader who is changing Italy’s tone
“This is someone I can identify with because they do the same to me,” Kari Lake, an Arizona governor candidate who claims the 2020 election was stolen, told Fox News.
There is no doubt that Meloni’s rise is remarkable – and if she succeeds in ruling Italy, she could pave a path to power for other once-marginal figures in Europe.
She has caught on in the United States because her rhetoric mirrors that of Donald Trump in some ways. She leaned heavily on the idea of a forgotten middle class, scorned by elites, while portraying herself as a defender of the underdog.
“The story of the people against power,” said Maurizio Molinari, editor-in-chief of La Repubblica. “She emulates and, in a way, translates to the Italian public some of the messages that helped Trump.”
Molinari, who reviewed examples of right-wing US media coverage of Meloni at the request of The Washington Post, concluded: “She wins; we will win. This is their story.”
But there are also some American misconceptions about the cause of Meloni’s rise.
Italy’s Giorgia Meloni sets the agenda, says she has no sympathy for fascism
While social media chatter among Republicans tends to focus on her wartime speeches about her brand’s culture, assuming those views support her popularity, Meloni says her views on such issues are likely costing her votes. This summer, as the collapse of the Italian government sparked elections and opened a clear path to power, she scrapped her most controversial and extreme topics of conversation. For example, she no longer basked the “LGBT lobby,” or frame migration as “ethnic substitution.” She also tried to explicitly assure the establishment in Brussels and Washington that she would rule Italy with a conventional foreign policy: pro-Atlantic, anti-Kremlin. In short, she managed to do what Republicans once hoped for and never got from Trump: she moderated.
Still, some Americans on the right have assumed her victory represents a popular uprising against the system.
After the Italian election, Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted much of an evening program to Meloni, portraying Italy as a landscape “destroyed” by neoliberalism and its open borders policies, with some parts of the country becoming “downright dangerous” because of migrant crime. Meloni, he said, was one of the “very few politicians…who has been willing 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 did revolt, but in 2018, when it handed over power to populist parties who then fought each other and squandered popularity. Those failures, coupled with long-standing problems — on-and-off recession, high government debt, limited job opportunities for young people — have led to a sense of political apathy and skepticism that any political solution will work. The turnout in September was the lowest on record.
Meloni took advantage of years in the opposition when she was able to siphon support from rivals on the right. But that doesn’t mean she’s secured people’s loyalty. Some voters say they’re not sure they’ll support her in a year’s time.
Daniele Albertazzi, an Italian-born professor of politics at the University of Surrey, noted that for three decades, between 42 and 48 percent of Italians voted for right-wing parties.
Meloni’s party has a hard line on social issues that make its coalition different and more right-wing than any previous post-war government. But Meloni has also filled important cabinet positions with well-known figures from previous governments of Silvio Berlusconi, a nod to the many centrists who gave her their vote.
“It’s hardly a revolution,” Albertazzi said.
The reasons behind the success of the far right in Italy
For American spectators, one of the biggest points of discussion is the roots of Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy. Her party, founded ten years ago, is descended from an earlier group founded after the war by Mussolini sympathizers. The Brothers of Italy policy is not fascist, and Meloni herself has said she has “never felt sympathy” for such beliefs. But her party has a bunch of members who have publicly sent fascist greetings or celebrated Mussolini’s rise. Her government also took no action when several thousand Italians recently marched with fascist symbols in Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace.
In the eyes of Republicans, international media accounts of Meloni have been alarming and have unjustly tied her to fascism. Several TV segments on Trump-tailored media outlets feature breathless headlines or MSNBC clips.
“[It’s] the left-wing media are doing what they do best, by using common sense branding conservatives as the far right,” said a Newsmax anchor, before interviewing Representative Ralph Norman (RS.C.). “We’ve seen the same thing happen at home, with MAGA supporters.”
“Giorgia Meloni is a breath of fresh air,” Norman said then. “It’s a taste of upcoming attractions” during the US midterms in November.
Filippo Trevisan, an Italian-born associate professor at American University who specializes in political communication and who has reviewed several US media clips at The Post’s request, said neither the left nor the right in America had been able to “really take the turn.” who has taken up Italian politics.”
The mainstreaming of the far right in the West is complete
Meloni, for her part, has spent years building ties with Republicans, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in February. In an August interview with The Post, she dismissed a question as to whether she felt more aligned with the Trump wing of the party or with those opposed to his ideological takeover.
“I’m not interested in the debate within the Republican Party,” she said, “because it would be too complex for me.”
Particularly at a time when the notion of electoral fraud has permeated the Republican Party so deeply, Meloni has never suggested – before or after the vote – that the Italian parliamentary election could be up for debate. When the outcome gave her the chance to be named prime minister by the Italian president, Meloni showed respect for her predecessor, the centrist Mario Draghi. And when she spoke before parliament last week, she celebrated the smooth transfer of power.
“So it should be in big democracies,” she said.
Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.