How the heck did it come so far, so fast?
That's certainly what comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo must be saying, just 7 years after starting Italy's fastest growing political party, the Five Star Movement.
The groups co-founder, Gianroberto Casaleggio, passed away in 2016.
What began as an idea in 2008 at Grillo's kitchen table, and took form in 2009, has since been labeled anti-establishment, anti-globalist, environmentalist, and populist.
The movement's principles are based on direct democracy.
At Five Star's core is the concept that citizens will no longer delegate their power to parties, (See the RNC and DNC) considered old and corrupted intermediates between the State and themselves, that serve the interests of lobby groups and financial powers.
Five Star leans on community activism and internet messaging to convey its message to the masses, where the movement has been critical of Italy's massive problems.
From the economy, to its justice system, treatment of women, and organized crime, Italy has a long list of issues that need real political leadership to solve, and Five Star is gaining momentum as the movement to fix these issues.
The core issues of the Five Star Movement:
- Sustainable development;
- Environmental protections;
- Public water;
- Sustainable transportation; and
- The right to internet access.
In 2013, Five Star won a quarter of the vote electing 162 young, inexperienced lawmakers to Parliament. In 2016, two Five Star members won mayoral posts in Rome and Turin.
When Five Star rattled the Italian political establishment by winning a quarter of the vote in 2013, Luigi Di Maio was one of those elected, and he quickly made an impression.
At 26, Di Maio was elected as the youngest ever deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, where he won plaudits for his ability to control the often unruly chamber.
Certainly he has had his bumps in the road, but now, five years later, Five Star's Supernova candidate has his sights set on becoming Italy's youngest Prime Minister in history.
This week, with its internet-based direct democracy, Di Maio will be picked in an online vote of the party’s members. The result will be announced Saturday, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
As for the Prime Minister race, Opinion polls show the party has a legitimate chance to win. If it's Di Maio, he would become by the youngest leader of a country in Europe -- by nearly a decade.
Whether or not this young startup and his party wins the ultimate prize in Italian politics is not necessarily the point. It has already been made.
Five Star has brought real political impact and change to a country by adhering to its core principles, using the internet to embolden its masses, and attacking the staid ways of the political class.
Italian voters are recognizing that another voice at the table can be a good thing. Perhaps the folks across the pond in the United States should take note.