“Everything Will Change”


David Broder in Jacobin:

Yesterday’s papers offered a gloomy take on what was at stake in the Italian consitutional referendum. The Sunday Times headlined that prime minister “Renzi resists the march of the Radical Right”; a piece in the Independent went with “Italy is holding a vote that could destroy Europe” (later edited to “the euro”) whereas another declaring Sunday, December 4 “the most dangerous moment for Europe since Brexit” was illustrated with a photo of Matteo Renzi and the somber caption “everything will change.” The Observer meanwhile treats the referendum as part of its series on the “threat to liberal democracy.” So after the Italian population voted by almost 60 percent to reject Renzi’s constitutional reform, is the country now headed toward the authoritarian abyss?

Certainly the attempt to shoehorn the referendum into a wider narrative of European decline and the rise of nationalisms is not only a foreign media projection. During the campaign both Renzi himself and his right-wing opponents sought to promote this same narrative, with the Democratic Party (PD) prime minister portraying himself as the last bulwark against nationalist populism, just as the leaders of the hard-right Northern League sought to spin the vote as a referendum on the euro and migration, regardless of its actual policy substance.

Meanwhile the eclectic Five Star Movement (M5S), currently second in national polls, mounted a No campaign light on constitutional detail but heavy on the idea of using the vote as a means of sacking Renzi. Contradicting the new generation of M5S leaders like Luigi di Maio or Rome mayor Virginia Raggi, the party’s founder Beppe Grillo like the Lega Nord drew comparisons with the Trumpist revolt.

Despite this framing of the referendum by such figures, doubtless also heavily shaping public responses to the ballot, it is also important to see the referendum as more than a party affair.

More here.