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MATTHEW BOOSE: Liberal elites try to crush democracy in Italy – and here at home
This week, elites in Europe tried to prevent a democratically elected government from taking power in Italy.
Two populist parties, Five Star and the League, shocked the Italian establishment when they won a majority of votes in March elections.
Italy had already been in limbo for three months when the Italian president Sergio Matarella turned down the two parties’ choice of finance minister on Sunday, effectively blocking the new government from forming. Matarella rejected Paola Savona, a skeptic of the European Union, out of concern for “foreign investors.”
The prime minister selected to lead the new administration resigned, and Matarella handpicked a new interim prime minister to form an administration of unelected technocrats until new elections could be held.
Italy remained in crisis until Thursday, when the populists were again able to form a government after choosing a different finance minister who is less critical of European Union.
This was a textbook example of liberal elites attempting to repress democracy because they didn’t like the result.
It’s a scenario we have already seen play out with the election of Donald Trump, with Brexit, and with Hungarian elections last month.
When Trump won, liberals didn’t just call to get rid of the electoral college in the future. They argued that Hillary had actually won despite losing the electoral vote. They wanted desperately to invalidate the election simply because they did not like the result.
Granted, the electoral college isn’t really democratic – Hillary did win a simple majority – but under the existing electoral system, which balances representation of urbanized blue states with less populous rural ones, Trump won.
Ever since the election, the elites have come out in full force to discredit his presidency. They simply will not allow him to remain in power. Even if Trump had won the popular vote, their reaction would have been the same.
Elite liberals have reacted similarly to Brexit and to last month’s democratic election in Hungary, in which a nationalist, anti-EU party won in a landslide to remain in power.
When a democratic election has a non-liberal result, the elites try to discredit the outcome by saying, paradoxically, that it threatens democracy. But what they really mean is liberalism. The elites use “democracy” to mean “liberalism”, and “globalism” in particular, to dismiss democratic results that go against their interest.
The Washington Post’s melodramatic new slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness,” encapsulates the manipulative way in which liberals talk about democracy. Journalists at elite papers like the Post style themselves guardians of democracy, but it’s not democracy that they’re defending. What they’re really protecting is the liberal international order.
Harvard Scholar Adrian Vermeule likens the function of democracy in liberalism to a ceremony in which the legitimacy of the ruling ideology is affirmed by a ritualistic election.
The 2016 presidential election is the perfect example of an election widely seen by liberals as a ritual. It just couldn’t be that Hillary would lose. For liberals, the voting process to actually put Hillary in power was merely a formality.
As long as the coronation goes off without a hitch, there’s no issue. But when the ceremony is interrupted, it becomes obvious very quickly that liberals have no interest in defending democracy in all cases. If the people make a non-liberal decision, the elites dismiss the people’s will and dictate what they should want instead – which is really what the elites want.
The elites hide their self-interest by making it seem like what they want is what the people should also want. In this case, the Italian president cited the interests of “foreign investors,” claiming at the same time that a nationalist government would hurt Italian markets and, by extension, the people.
In the American election and Brexit, liberals condescended to Trump supporters and Brexiteers, respectively, arguing that their choice was only going to hurt them in the end. Trump supporters were told that they would come to regret their decision when tariffs ended up hurting the economy, or they paid money out of their own pockets for the wall. In the wake of Brexit, Remainers accused Brexiteers of dooming Britain’s economy to failure.
The sneering condescension shown towards the people of Italy was all too palpable in one statement by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Juncker chided Italians for blaming their country’s woes on the EU, saying that “Italians need to work harder and be less corrupt.”
The EU’s Budget Commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, said this week that financial fallout in the event of withdrawing from the eurozone “could be a possible signal to voters not to choose populists from Left and Right.”
The elite’s mantra is consistent across continents: the people don’t know what’s good for them, and if they make the wrong choice, then they need to be saved from themselves.
But for millions of Europeans and Americans, it is becoming too obvious that the elites don’t care about them. If Italy had ended up having another round of elections, polls this week showed that the populists would have done even better, thanks to the anger stirred up by Matarella’s intervention.
The selfish interest of the elites is becoming more obvious. The candidness of Matarella’s decision was telling: by citing the interest of “foreign investors”, he admitted to canceling a democratic election to protect global elites.
The emperor has no clothes. All the elites can do now is impose their will from above, while their legitimacy fades.
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