A rising star of the Italian left is “Elly” Ethel Schlein, a 37-year-old feminist who is openly bisexual. Schlein holds citizenship in three countries: the U.S., Switzerland, and Italy; and although born in Lugano, Switzerland, she has made a career in the Italian Chamber of Deputies as a member of Italy’s left-of-center Democratic Party. Schlein now leads that party in an emphatically woke direction and is pushing abortion rights and LGBT issues as integral parts of the Italian left. Although her party emerged from the remnants of the once-powerful Partito Communista d’Italia (Italian Communist Party, or PCI), the Italian Democratic Party has never had the influence that the more enterprising but also more level-headed Italian Communists did before their dissolution in 1991. Schlein bears no resemblance whatever to the last party secretary of the Italian Communists, Enrico Berlinguer, a Sardinian aristocrat who cultivated an elegant personal demeanor and who gave no indication of caring for anything even faintly resembling the Italian Democratic Party’s present woke agenda.
The New York Times and the political left in Italy view Schlein as the feminist champion against Italy’s conservative head of government, Giorgia Meloni. While Meloni celebrates the traditional Italian family and the symbols of Italy’s national past, Schlein expresses most of the same progressive views as the U.S. “Squad” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and company). She is for more immigration, more LGBT rights, and more feminism.
Schlein comes by her radicalism through her upbringing. Her mother is Swiss Italian, but her father, who taught at the American Franklin University in Lugano, is an American Jew with markedly left-of-center politics. According to her admirers at The Guardian, “Schlein, an Italian-American national, has been compared in Italy to the New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” who is also vocal on social justice issues. And our Italian American has not arrived a minute too soon to protect Europe from those whom The Guardian decries as the “neofascist” ruling party in Italy.
Unfortunately, Schlein’s leftist profile exhibits all the freshness of fossilized dinosaur dung. The youth culture throughout the West used to make fun of figures and institutions that looked tiresomely archaic, while conservative journalists would run to defend the hapless targets of this abuse. Now it is the leftist icons like Schlein who epitomize the tastelessly old-fashioned leftism of the 1960s. Even Schlein’s best official pictures make her look like someone who might have turned up to smoke weed at Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village when I was in graduate school. In the pseudo-democratic order that has taken over the West, she shows all the novelty of the Communist party bosses who succeeded each other in the former Soviet Union.
Not Schlein but Meloni is the fresh face of a changing Italy. In the West’s hour of decision, not the woke left but the resolute right represents a revolutionary departure from the status quo. Not feminism and sisterhood but femininity and motherhood have become the rallying calls of those who threaten the West’s therapeutic managerial dictatorships.
It also seems to me that Schlein as a woke leftist savior is largely created by the Western media. She was dragged out of obscurity and put in charge of her center-leftist party in response to the media call for an appropriate adversary to Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia Party (Brothers of Italy Party). Schlein fits the bill, being almost a woke caricature, but also sufficiently qualified by current politically correct standards to assume the role that the media have bestowed on her.
The problem is that she’s the wrong candidate in the wrong place. She is not running for higher office in woke echo chambers like Germany or Canada. She is seeking to move up in a Latin culture in which a Justin Trudeau, Olaf Scholz, or Gavin Newsom would be politically out of his element. Nor does it seem that Schlein is the person to beat out the popular ruling-right coalition. Although Schlein’s party has seen a slight bounce against other left-center parties, Meloni’s so-called neofascists should have no problem remaining in power against such tired, politically correct opposition.