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ANALYSIS: Populist Conservatives Are On A Tear. What Does It Mean For The Midterms?

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Sarah Weaver Staff Writer
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The Leader of the conservative Brothers of Italy party is poised to become the next prime minister of the country, representing a dramatic shift in the political makeup of the country, Europe, and the political West more broadly. Europe’s burgeoning political realignment is relevant for American politics, as the midterm elections in the U.S. favor populist candidates with Nationalist sentiments similar to that of Donald Trump.

Giorgia Meloni is already terrifying liberals with her broadly populist and conservative platform. Meloni has promised to govern “for all Italians” and has criticized globalism and open borders. She is also anti-abortion and opposes same-sex couples adopting children, but says she has no plans to restrict access to abortion.

In short, this populist conservative is a leftist nightmare come to life. What’s worse for them, she’s not the only European leader who has recently obtained power by promoting a broadly populist or nationalist agenda.

Politico sounded the alarm on the trend Monday, saying that, “right-wing populism is getting smarter.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: What Is National Conservatism And Why Should You Care)

“It could have died off with Trump’s election loss or Boris Johnson’s humiliating ejection from Downing Street, but that isn’t happening,” Ryan Heath wrote at the outlet.

Meloni has already been tapped by several prominent right-wing groups as a symbol of the up-and-coming brand of populist conservatism on the Right. Meloni has given speeches at both the Conservative Political Action Conference and the National Conservatism Conference.

“You put a reasonable face on right-wing populism, you get elected,” former White House chief strategist for the Trump Administration Steve Bannon reportedly told her in 2018.

The National Conservatism Conference is seen as a representation of the New Right, headlining speakers such as Republican Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, and billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Meloni spoke in 2020 at a version of the conference that took place in Rome, Italy, appearing alongside other international leaders such as Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former French National Assembly member Marion Marechal. The chairman of the conference, Christopher DeMuth, told Daily Caller New Foundation reporter Laurel Duggan that national conservatism was defined by, “populism, renewed nationalism and a movement away from free trade absolutism,” of a type influenced by, but surviving beyond Trump.

“The great challenge facing us today is defending national identity and the very existence of the nation-states as the sole means of safeguarding peoples’ sovereignty and freedom,” Meloni said at the conference. (RELATED: There’s A War Raging On The Right That Will Shape The GOP Long After Trump)

In France, failed presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, won a record number of seats in 2022. Le Pen has vowed to “control immigration” and, during her run for president, vowed to be “the president who gives the people back their voices in their own country.”

“The legislative elections this month have also cemented Ms. Le Pen’s overwhelming dominance on the right of the political spectrum,” the New York Times wrote at the time.

Her niece, politician Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a former member of the National Assembly, has also appeared at the National Conservatism Conference and the Conservative Political Action Conference. At the former conference, the junior Le Pen called for a “France first” policy, and criticized Muslim influence in the country.

In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orban has governed on an aggressively socially conservative, pro-family agenda and has vowed to protect the national identity of the country by curtailing immigration.

“Analysts who believed that the surge of right-wing populism had crested in Europe have suffered a series of shocks during the past six months. Democrats, take notice, because the U.S. could be next,” Washington Post opinion columnist William A. Gallston wrote after Meloni’s election. (RELATED: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Wins Re-Election)

“These countries’ populists have been lifted up by dynamics that span the Continent.”

Democrats were wrong when they said the populism of Donald Trump ended with his presidency. Candidates are running in key states by capitalizing on curtailing immigration, trade policies to protect workers, and aggressive social policies. What is happening in Europe may serve as yet another piece of evidence that Right-wing populism is not a fleeting phenomenon. Just weeks away from the midterms, Democrats should take note.