I can imagine the Italian social democratic intelligentsia trying to make sense of the results of the latest Italian elections.
A little more than a year ago, media gazillionaire and conservative Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi was a pariah.
The Italian population, disgusted by an endless stream of scandals involving Berlusconi, and by the Brussels-inspired austerity German chancellor Merkel and French president Sarkozy forced him to apply, took to the streets to celebrate Berlusconi's resignation in November, 2011.
Fast forward a year and two months, during which the Italian population kept taking to the streets to protest against the austerity, enforced now by the Troika candidate, "Super" Mario Monti.
General elections were called.
On this corner, the so-called centre-left candidate to Prime Minister, the social democrat Pier Luigi Bersani, promised to continue Monti's austerity. You know, it's the responsible thing to do, that's why Brussels had to force it down the Italians' throats.
Bersani, like Monti before him, desperately wants to be seen as a "good, tough, realist economic manager, a fiscal conservative" (social democrats, like Bersani and his Democratic Party, love that label, don't they?).
On the opposite corner, "Il Cavaliere" Berlusconi, as entangled as ever in his own operetta peccadilloes, promised to reverse Monti's austerity.
Dark horse candidate Beppe Grillo, head of the Five Star Movement (5SM), also severely criticized Monti's austerity.
And, guess what, "Il Cavaliere" and his People of Freedom conservative coalition not only recovered from Berlusconi's downfall, but gained control of the Senate. Together with the anti-austerity Beppe Grillo and his virtually unknown 5SM, they could in theory form an anti-austerity coalition:
Party Vote (%)
Democratic Party 29.5
People of Freedom 29.1
5 Star Movement 25.5
With Monti 10.5
If I had to guess, I'd say that the Italians really aren't too happy with the "good economic management"; so much so that faced with it, they find Berlusconi's well-known failings a price worth paying.
Although this seems obvious to me, I imagine that's just because I'm dumb.
Really smart pundits, like the BBC News' Alan Johnson, know better: it's not that Monti's "good economic management" sucks and blows, it's just Bersani who wasn't able to sell its virtues:
"Is it possible that the poor showing of the centre-left Democratic Party might lead to ructions within it?And the best thing is that I bet Bersani may actually believe that.
"Its leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, ran a deeply uninspiring campaign.
"He felt he had a healthy lead in the polls and he sat on it, playing safe."
Berlusconi's People of Freedom party includes former Fascist elements. Berlusconi himself not only has been linked to the mafia and corruption, but is also well-known for his anti-democratic, racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
Abandoned in their hour of need by the "responsible" and "realist" social democrats, the people will follow anyone promising them relief. And I don't put it past Berlusconi that he will still change his mind on austerity.
Social democrats must have some deeply ingrained self-loathing issues that they need to resolve. The Italian elections, last weekend, show that.