The New Yorker, March 5, 2013
The results of the last Italian election are baffling, if not incomprehensible, to most foreign observers: as one American friend put it, a majority of Italians voted either for a comedian (Beppe Grillo) or a clown (Silvio Berlusconi). A center-left coalition won a narrow plurality in the lower house of parliament with about 29.6 per cent of the vote, barely edging Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, with Grillo’s Five Star Movement, a loose collection of citizens organizing over the Internet, gaining an astonishing 25.6 per cent, more than any single party. In all likelihood, the three-sided split spells an ungovernable chaos. It would be a mistake, though, to see Italy as a crazy farce that is entirely different from America. Our two-party system has limited the success of more radical parties, but the Italian experience illuminates phenomena that are at work in the United States, too. Are we really sure that Congress is a saner institution than the Italian parliament?
Phi Beta Iota: Emphasis added. The headline is misleading — all successful politicans today are generally thieves and liars. What the headline should have said was that perhaps the Italian public is finally getting smart and engaged and putting a stop to political treason. The similar US movement failed to materialize in 2012 for three reasons: 1) Bloomberg money kept the Independents busy with Americans Elect and NO LABELS; 2) Occupy self-destructed; and 3) the nominees for each of the small parties refused to come together. What happened in Italy could easily happen in the USA in 2014, but first, the various nominal leaders of the various elements are going to have to reconnect with their integrity and engage their intelligence.