How Europe's populists are following the Steve Bannon playbook

Matteo Salvini takes a selfie after an election campaign rally at Duomo Square in Milan, Italy, on February 24.

(CNN)Ever since he left the White House, Steve Bannon has been scouring the world for new opportunities to promote his brand of populism: a revolt against liberal elites, migration and multiculturalism -- and the revival of the nation state.

Bannon, once Donald Trump's ideological sidekick, has found the perfect partner in Matteo Salvini, Italy's Interior Minister and leader of the League, one of two parties in the new coalition government in Rome.
Salvini is an admirer of Vladimir Putin, prefers social media to mainstream media, trumpets economic nationalism and makes controversial remarks about foreigners and migrants. He's ripped more than a few pages out of Trump's playbook. Even his election slogan was "Italians first."
    In the past week, as the United States has been consumed by the treatment of migrant families at the border, Salvini has closed Italian ports to rescue ships carrying migrants. It did him no harm in the polls. The League is two percentage points higher than at the beginning of June.
      Bannon encouraged the alliance between Salvini's League and the Five Star Movement.
      Just as Trump's supporters railed against illegal migrants crossing the Mexican border, so Italians were infuriated by Europe's disjointed response to the surge in migration across the Mediterranean, which left the countries where migrants landed dealing with most of the burden. More than 600,000 have landed in Italy since 2013.
      "The burden should have been shared," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said this month.
      Still more controversial is Salvini's announcement of a census of Italy's Roma population. Last year, he said: "We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighborhood by neighborhood. We need to be tough because there are entire parts of our cities, entire parts of Italy, that are out of control."
        He suggested then that Italy needed policies similar to those championed by President Trump. This week, Trump said: "We have to have a very tough policy" on illegal immigration. "We have no choice."

        An unlikely alliance

        The League came to power this month in coalition with the Five Star Movement (5SM), another insurgent, anti-establishment party.
        Bannon says that when the two parties emerged as the largest in the March elections, he pitched an unlikely alliance of 5SM and the League to Salvini, telling him: "You are the first guys who can really break the left and right paradigm."
        It was music to Salvini's ears. In 2015 he had told political scientist Alessandro Franzi: "The distinction between right and left is no longer effective, because today the alternative is between those who are small and those who are big, between the people and the European financial establishment."
        The Bannon/Salvini playbook goes far beyond migration. Bannon told an audience in Italy: "Look at how they roll. Foreign powers, foreign capital, foreign media took from the Italian people its sovereignty."
        That anti-corporate tone is at the heart of the new coalition's platform.
        Bannon saw similar in Trump's candidacy -- one that shook up party allegiances as Trump tapped into the anger of those he called the "less educated," those marginalized by automation, the decline of manufacturing and migrants willing to work for less. Even this week, Trump was having another go at the elites
        Last month, Bannon said: "The working-class, blue-collar workers in the US and the middle class were com