Interview of Giorgia Meloni with the Washington Post
A: Conservative. I am the president of the European Conservatives and for a long time I have called Fratelli d’Italia a conservative party. I think there is no doubt that our values are conservative. The question of individual freedom, private enterprise in the economy, freedom of education, the centrality of the family and its role in our society, the protection of borders against uncontrolled immigration, the defense of identity Italian National – these are the questions that concern us, so there is no doubt about it.
Q: The rise of your party is well known. If we had spoken in 2019 after the European elections, you had 6% of the vote. Now, by some accounts, you’re at 25%. Recognizing that the credit goes to the whole party, what do you think you, as leader, have personally done well to help your party ascend?
A: We are a party born in 2013, but until 2019 we have always lingered at an approval threshold of around 3 to 4%. What happens is that many voters who feel represented by you will ultimately prefer not to vote for you, because they fear that such a vote will not matter. I always said to my party that it would be much harder to get to 5% than to go from 5 to 15 to 20. Because once you become a real political player, people feel more secure in giving you their vote.
So we took the longest route, without taking any shortcuts. I always said that, firstly, I would only come to government with the approval of the Italians, and secondly, once I was sure that I could do the things I wanted to do. It clearly took a lot of work, but Italians today understand that we are a very reliable party, that its ruling class is serious.
Q: In your campaign speeches, you explain why Italy is in a difficult situation. And surely we have seen many prime ministers get the job and struggle. So very frankly: do you want to be prime minister?
A: Nope [she laughs]. And what I mean by that is: I never considered politics as a personal matter. When I got involved in politics, I never thought I would become a politician. In fact, I wanted to be an interpreter and translator. And I’m a journalist.
Having said that, since I believe in an obligation to the citizens, if the Italian citizens decide to give Fratelli d’Italia the kind of result that says this – that is, ‘We want Giorgia Meloni to be Prime Minister ” – I will be the Prime Minister, taking into account how, here, the choice ultimately belongs to the President of the Republic. I cannot say that in front of such a responsibility my hands do not tremble. Because we would find ourselves governing Italy during what is perhaps one of the most complex situations ever. In the European context, we are at the bottom of the ranking on all macroeconomic factors; our public debt is completely out of control. We face growing poverty.
But I also believe that this nation [can reverse its course] with a bit of common sense and a political class that knows how to explain unpopular choices to citizens.
Q: You acknowledge in your autobiography that you have always sought acceptance. Now you have it from right-wing voters in Italy, but you may not have it from the “establishment” in Europe, and that could complicate your life. Do you want this acceptance and, if so, how do you think you can get it?
A: I want Italy to have the role it deserves in the European context, and I do not understand why the President of the Council, who is appointed on the basis of a clear popular consensus, should represent a problem for whom whether it be. I don’t find it normal for anyone to think that Italians are not as free to elect their representatives as anyone else in Europe.
If we win the elections, once we present our first finance bill, maybe outsiders will notice that there are more serious parties than those who increased our debt to buy desks on wheels. So I don’t need to feel accepted. And by that I mean: I don’t see myself as a threat, a monstrous or dangerous person. I consider myself a very serious person, and I think that it is with seriousness that we must respond to the interested attacks that they make us undergo. I don’t deny having criticized the EU, and often its priorities, but maybe in some cases we weren’t wrong. What is happening in recent years, with the pandemic and the war, shows how many European priorities have been misplaced.
Q: You have said in speeches that “everything we represent is under attack” – a reference to Christian values, gender norms, even the ability to speak freely without being attacked. The question is: who are the enemies in this case? Who attacks?
A: Among the enemies I count, in the first place, the left. There is a left-wing, so-called globalist, ideology that aims to consider as an enemy everything that defines you, everything that has shaped your identity and your civilization. I think the West is paying for such weakness, as we have also seen lately. Instead, I think what identifies you is the Christian values that founded our civilization, whether or not we believe in God. I am all for the crucifix hanging on the walls of our public schools, not because I want to impose the religion I believe in on anyone.
But whether we like it or not, Christian values have shaped our civilization. I believe in the value of respect because of Christianity. I believe in the value of state secularism because Christianity taught me that. I believe in the value of solidarity because Christianity taught me that. It’s just about saying who you are. In my opinion, saying who you are does not mean disrespecting the other person; it is exactly the opposite. Only weak identities are afraid of discussion. Strong, conscious identities do not fear him.
I believe in defending identity, gender identity too. On this subject, if you go beyond a superficial vision, the real objective of certain gender theories is not to fight against discrimination, which we clearly all agree with. Those who pay the most for these theories are women. So I don’t understand the short-circuit that today leads women’s rights defenders to want a person born biologically male to compete with women in the same sport, knowing full well that this will penalize women. Am I allowed to say that? Am I not? Does it get monstrous? I do not think so. It is an assessment that must be made.
Q: When we talked to your constituents, they were more drawn to the messages you have about fixing the country economically, dealing with crazy bureaucracy, helping with gas prices. But we very rarely hear them raise issues that I would put in the culture war category. Obviously, you feel very personally about this when it comes to sex, adoption for gay couples. But do you think they are attracting voters to you, or do you think they might be costing you voters?
A: No, I don’t think they get votes. But I also believe that people should know how I feel about it. I am a person who has never been afraid to take positions that were not advantageous. I think the Italians trust us, they trust me, because they know that if I think something, I will say it. That said, I know these are all very controversial issues. But they only divide because we don’t talk about it seriously, do we?
I am not in favor of adoption [by same-sex couples]. I’m not, because I think an unlucky child should get the best, right? And the best thing is to have a father and a mother. I was raised without a father. Was I brought up well? For God’s sake, yes. Would I have wanted a father? Yes.
Q: It is clear that you feel a brotherhood with the American Republican Party. But the Republican Party has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, during the time that Fratelli d’Italia was a party, and Republicans basically have two very different poles – the anti-Trumpers conservatives, and then the people who followed the ideology of Trump. At which part of the Republican Party do you see similarities with Fratelli d’Italia, and at which pole are you most aligned?
A: I will not enter into the quarrels of another party. I was at [the Conservative Political Action Coalition], I was at the National Prayer Breakfast, I always come to the United States with great pleasure. The United States is of course a benchmark for our alliances and I have good relations with the Republican Party. The Republicans are also among the parties registered with the European Conservatives. We have networks that connect us, our think tanks work with the International Republican Institute, with the Heritage Foundation, we do cultural exchanges, and a lot of their fights are about things that we talked about. That said, I’m not interested in getting into the debate within the Republican Party, because that would be too complex an issue for me. I follow their evolution closely and watch what will happen with the midterm elections.
Q: You talked in your book, quoting the boys who bullied you about your weight, about the usefulness of having enemies. And now, as a politician, you regularly mention enemies: the left that is obsessed with trashing you, for example. But if you become leader of the country, do you risk that the left part of the country will feel at odds with you? Do you want to reach out to the other side and, if so, how do you do it?
A: I have never hated anyone and will talk to everyone, because I have no pretensions of superiority or inferiority complex. Basically, I have a mature attitude towards my political opponents. I don’t think the same can be said of them for me. Meanwhile, traveling through Italy from north to south along the electoral campaign, I continue to meet former left voters who tell me: “I was a leftist, but this time I will vote for you”. And do you know why ? Because the Italian left has forgotten the world of work to follow an ideological program that ignores the daily life of the ordinary man. It is to them that we seek to provide real answers.