We are living in an increasingly uncertain time in this world.
Residents in nation after nation, unhappy with the stagnancy of their own life in the post-recession era and the perception that their government is more concerned with their own role in the global economy rather than the well-being of their citizens, are lashing out in the most pragmatic way they can — elections.
The result has been a populist wave.
First it was Brexit. Then Trump. Then France’s leftist prime minister, hampered by dismal approval ratings, announced he won’t run for re-election next year.
And this week, a vote on a constitutional amendment in Italy that essentially turned into a referendum on the leadership of Democratic Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, ended with him announcing he would resign.
So what happens now? Do we just accept that this is the way of the future? That developed nations are rejecting globalism and want to revert back to preserving their own national identity?
Do we want to tighten borders, limit trade and promote isolationism?
Because that seems to be the way people are leaning, when given the choice. And it may influence the outcome in elections next year in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
What nation will put a stop to this? What country will step up to the plate, and reject demagoguery and say yes to globalization?
Enter Austria, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.
In an election on Sunday to determine its next president, Austrian voters rejected a far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, whose Freedom Party was actually founded in the 1950s by Nazis, in favor of Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen.
It’s too small of a sample size to know if this truly is a turning point. But it is refreshing to see that, somewhere, people are not giving into fear.
Austria, the place that 95 percent of Americans would not know existed if it wasn’t for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The place that whenever you write it or say it aloud you wish you were talking about Australia instead.
And the place that may have just shown the world that politicians can still campaign on a platform of unity and reason.
Now I’m not saying that all populist parties are bad. But this year has shown us that fringe parties and candidates — like a Donald Trump — can capitalize on people’s fears and anxieties like never before. If the trend were to continue, well, I don’t think it’d be too far-fetched to say that we’d possibly risk entering a global environment not too far off from where we were preceding the World Wars.
So it’s nice to have that one little domino that bends, but doesn’t break, and potentially stops the momentum of a populist free fall.
But hey, if things don’t change, we can always send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to change the past, right?