Political Courage: Italian Example
There is eternal debate on the left between centrists and 'radicals' about whether compromising and appeasing the centre or standing firm and offering a coherent vision wins more votes.
In my opinion it's sometimes this sometimes that, while I think it's more often the latter (and even when it isn't I think it makes more sense to stay in opposition with ideas intact than be in power executing someone else's ideas). In the previous post, I indicated how centrism was a losing strategy for the German centre-left, and that it could boost poll numbers both times it was forced by events to campaign in a leftist way.
Now, recently, Romano Prodi stirred up some waters in Italy. The present leader of the opposition leftist L'Unione coalition was Italian PM from 1995 to 1998, during which time he was a centrist who didn't dare to push through laws that would have prevented the return of Berlusconi with his media monopoly and criminal past, nor to defy the business lobby - which led to 'reforms', which led to the rebellion of the communists and the fall of his government. He was also criticised for being a weak EU Commission President, tough he can hardly be blamed for much given that it is the EU Council - i.e. the national governments' club - that calls the shots.
Now back in Italy, Prodi pursues a more leftist line: he advocated and promised withdrawal from Iraq, bucked the European trend by boldly promising to change immigration policy from the extremely unfair and restrictive laws of the current centre-to-far-right government to an immigration-firendly one, and he advocated the introducion of French-style civil unions. For the last, he was attacked by politicians on the right and centre, and the Vatican-allied media, who compared him to the current Antichrist of the Catholic Curch (for introducing gay marriage in Spain), Spanish PM Zapatero. Centrists (Christian and non-Christian alike) are already crying that he is blowing the chances of victory.
Now, I don't think most Catholic really care that much about the Church's sword-waving, nor that polls indicate any danger: the Christian Democrat centrists in L'Unione, UDEUR, poll only at 1.3% (even their counterparts on the right, UDC, poll just at 5.7%), while L'Unione leads Berlusconi's bunch by 5.5%. But Prodi should be fearing the pro-Vatican mafia in politics and media even less if he considers the success of Nichi Vendola.
Regional elections were held in 14 provinces in April this year. People voted for party lists for the regional assemblies, and separately voted for a regional president. In Puglia province, (the 'heel' of the Italian 'boot'), a certain Nichi Vendola won the presidency, against these odds:
- Vendola was selected in a US-style primaries vote by the base rather than chosen by party leaders as the one seen most electable,
- he is a communist (and attacked for it),
- he is openly gay (and rather strongly atacked for it),
- he won in a Southern province (where people are more conservative),
- he won with 6% more than the last centre-left candidate,
- he won by more than the supporting L'Unione coalition on list votes (0.1% more - that must have come from the right!),
- he won while the L'Unione vote included 3.28% vote for the Christian Democrat UDEUR and its centrist allies!
This should be the example to put up against any defeatist talk on the left.