Is there life in the American right after Donald Trump? Some in the Italian right are inclined to think so. Carlo Fidanza, who is foreign affairs manager and head of the European Parliament delegation of the Brothers of Italy party, made his way to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida to gauge the state of his American colleagues.
Today Brothers of Italy is the only major political force standing at the opposition of the country’s new all-encompassing government, led by Mario Draghi. The party is rooted in the Italian far-right tradition, but its leader Giorgia Meloni has taken to rejuvenating it, ferrying it out of single-digits electoral results in 2018 to an impressive 18% in recent polling numbers – which is a mere percentage point from the well-established Democratic Party.
To be fair, Brothers of Italy benefitted from their ally-competitor, League leader Matteo Salvini, and his conversion from fire-breathing anti-immigration populist to a more moderate, Europeanist and Atlanticist version of himself.
Disillusioned right-wing voters have been flocking to Ms Meloni’s party. However, she has been undergoing a years-long, well-thought-out restyling herself, so as to not remain stuck in the extremist spaces of the political spectrum.
Last year, she became the leader of the European Conservatives, and last month her name cropped up among the members of the Aspen Institute, the influential American think tank that includes a Roman division. She is dialling back the anti-establishment rhetoric and reinforcing her international standing.
As such, Brothers of Italy’s alignment with the American conservatives comes quite naturally. Ms Meloni even thought about attending the 2021 CPAC (it would have been her third time), but ended up sending the party’s next best international asset, Mr Fidanza, who wrote his account of the conference for Formiche.net.
The politician was on the lookout for possible alternatives to Mr Trump, should he end up not running in 2024. He paid particular attention to some of the names that appeared on the Orlando stage: Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton as well as Kristi Noem, Governor of South Dakota, and Ron De Santis, the Florida Governor of Italian descent.
Mr Fidanza noted Mr Cruz’s discourse on free speech and his scathing attack on the “Silicon Valley oligarchs.” He highlighted Mr Hawley and Mr Cotton’s condemnation of “unpatriotic” progressive élites. And he appeared to be particularly impressed by Ms Noem, her “firm, yet gentle” mannerism and her uncompromising line in keeping workplaces, schools and churches open during the pandemic.
“[My] sensation is that these personalities will have an important role to play in the future of the American right. They might make up the new team of a re-elected Trump, or they might be rivals for the Republican nomination without him,” wrote Mr Fidanza.
“This lively panorama,” he concluded, “confirms the centrality of the American Conservative Union, led by Matt Schlapp, with whom Brothers of Italy and the European Conservatives headed by Giorgia Meloni have a well-established relationship, which is set to grow in the coming months with shared initiatives.”