You may have noticed, Austria has a properly elected president now, and to the surprise of many, it is not Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the “Freedom Party”.
It has caused a sigh of relief throughout most of Europe, and most certainly among those who still think the EU is a good idea.
Brexit was a shock, and after Brexit, we thought that everything is possible, regardless of how stupid it is. Populism seemed to reign surpreme, and Trump seemed to be the clear proof that the age of facts is over.
Is this a turn of the tide?
We can’t be sure of it. It was Everybody vs Freedom Party in Austria, and what we got was a clear lead of 53.8% vs 46.2%. That’s more than OK for a victory, but it is not a landslide for reason. The next time, in general elections, we will see each party campaign for itself, and only the most principled of them will be steadfast about their refusal to go into a coalition with a probably leading Freedom Party. I expect the Greens and the Neos (a neoliberal party, basically the modern conservatives) in this role, but the two biggest rivals, Social Democrats and People’s Party, are already “reforming” their programs to be compatible with any coalition that may be needed to stay in power.
What can we, the people, do?
Well, we can stop waiting for the next elections. We have to make it clear NOW that we don’t approve. The next time we’ll be asked, it will already be too late. If we don’t say no to populism today, tomorrow and every day, if we don’t insist on facts as the fundament of political decisions, then the rivals for power will all go the way of populism.
If we don’t want to be lied to and if we don’t want to be tricked cheaply, we must demonstrate that populism does not work. Populism depends on a gullible populace. In a society of independent critical thinkers it does not work. Let’s show them that we are responsible individuals and not voting material. That’s all we need to do, but we have to do it convincingly.