If you’re tired of hating Trump all the time, direct some towards this dude from the Netherlands

On March 15, the Netherlands will hold their parliamentary elections, where they essentially elect their local representatives in government, called Members of Parliament, our version of Congress.

Unlike the United States, countries with parliamentary systems almost always have several parties to choose from, which gives residents the opportunity to have a more diverse government that better represents the will of the people.

If one political party has enough of their MPs elected to form a majority (for example, 76 representatives in a parliament of 150 seats), then they essentially control the government and their party leader likely becomes prime minister. If there’s no majority, parties form coalitions until they have one, and the leader of the party that got the most votes still usually becomes prime minister.

Normally this is all trivial stuff and few people outside the Netherlands cares what happens in their elections.

In fact, unless you’re talking about planning a trip to Amsterdam with the bros, few Americans have any interest at all in discussing the Netherlands.

But on March 15, the stakes in the Netherlands have never been higher.

AMsterdam

And that’s because the election has basically become a referendum on far-right populist ideologies that are being increasingly espoused by radically conservative politicians across the world, most notably in the U.S. by Donald Trump.

With populist movements threatening to gain influence in countries like France and Germany, the Netherlands elections are being viewed as a global bellwether of the European political temperature – especially since Netherlands is historically one of the most socially liberal countries in the world.

Their version of Donald Trump? A man by the name of Geert Wilders (last name pronounced Vilders), a bleached-blonde, slimy looking, Islam-hating, refugee-loathing agitator who has stirred the pot within his country and has had a far-reaching influence worldwide.

He’s proposed closing all mosques, banning the Qu’ran, and has called the hijab a “useless piece of cloth.” He’s also being partly funded by American conservative groups.

And as recently as a couple of weeks ago, his populist “Party of Freedom” was predicted to take the most seats in parliament in the upcoming elections. Closer to the election, the outcome looks a little murkier, but Wilders’s goal of instilling far-right ideologies into the country has already been accomplished.

Because his party is so unpopular among his fellow politicians, it’s highly unlikely that Wilders would be able to form a coalition even if his party wins the most seats, meaning he will not likely become the country’s next government chief.

Geert Wilders

But this could set the stage for far-right politics to take hold across western Europe. If Wilders reins victorious, will Marine Le Pen follow in France? Will Frauke Petry shake up Germany?

We received a sort-of heartening precursor for what’s to come when Austrians rejected a far-right candidate during their most recent elections.

But Geert Wilders isn’t comparable to Trump just because of his views, but because of his celebrity and his mannerisms. For one, he tweets a lot. And he’s often followed in public by a gaggle of reporters.

Wilders has been the subject of death threats, and as a result has lived a very isolated life where he reportedly only sees his wife a couple times a week, sleeps in a different place every night, and is under 24-hour police surveillance.

And unlike Trump, he has actually been legally charged for inciting discrimination.

On March 15 we will have a clearer answer as to whether people like Trump are the new normal.

And if that happens, threatening to leave your country may no longer be a viable option to escape populism.

Those seven planets we discovered a couple of weeks ago…

Are they inhabitable yet?

Who knew Austrians would be the voice of reason?

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.

Austria election.jpg

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?