The exit polls on the Italian Constitutional Referendum are showing the Yes side of PM Matteo Renzi losing bigly. 60% No, 40% Yes.
Popular anger at everything from the Euro to unfettered African and Middle Eastern migration on to the perpetually sketchy Italian economy all came into the mix. However, having followed the campaign a bit, my sense is that this is a purely populist reaction against the perceived globalist elite. Renzi was appointed – not elected – to office a couple of years ago. Whatever his politics he was seen as a tool of a technocratic, Europhile elite and, as such, when the people had the opportunity to voice their displeasure they took it.
This does not finish the EU. It will take the election of M. LePen to accomplish that; but it does signal a large scale rejection of the centralizing impulse which drives the EU. I expect there will be a fair dose of commentary linking Brexit, Trump and the defiance of the Italians. I doubt that there was much of a link other than the growing realization that the current situation of mass migration, unbalanced budgets and growing governmental interference with people’s lives is unsustainable.
The Italians are having to deal with a wave of African and Middle Eastern migration which they do not want and cannot afford. Their government seems hell bent on spending money it does not have to rescue, feed and house these migrants. Elites, imbued with an internationalist, multicultural orthodoxy, can’t imagine why their citizens are looking askance at migrants who are better treated than the Italians themselves. Unwanted migration is not the only reason for anger but it is the most visible.
The divergence between elite and popular opinion on the question of migration is the fulcrum of anger which is grinding away the pretensions of elite opinion. “Italy for the Italians!” can no longer be dismissed as irrelevant racist cant. Rather, it will begin to inform the actions of any government which hopes to rule Italy.
Today’s Italian vote may well signal the beginning of serious Italian nationalism.
As a general rule elites and Europhiles decry nationalism because they are convinced that that nationalism will set European state against European state a la WWI and II. I don’t think it will. Rather I think the nationalism will set the dominant European culture against the Muslim and/or African migrants/colonists flooding the borders. In the process that nationalism will start rooting out the now discredited ideology of multi-culturalism. In which case, today’s vote was a victory for Italy and the idea that Italian culture is worth defending.
The major loser in all of this is the EU. For the EU the idea of “Italian” was somehow to be submerged into the idea of “European”. The problem was that “European” was not very attractive as it gradually descended into unswerving support for unlimited migration, politically correct multi-culturalism and a deep belief that bureaucrats could make better decisions than Italians about how Italians lived and worked. 16 years of economic stagnation in the Euro strongly suggests that Brussels adds very little to the Italian mix.