An Austrian Impasse: The Establishment as a Good Loser, but a Bad Winner

Credit: Tiroler Tageszeitung

How has it gone this far? How could we let this happen? How can we treat each other with such animosity that we create confrontations which trigger our bodies? Why do we cringe when listening to the other side? How can there be so much misunderstanding among people speaking the same language?

By Benjamin Music

During election season this year, right-wing nationalists have swept the media scene by reaping their gains from one election to another. The world of academia and the governing elites have reacted in a shocking, almost perplexed way as if the world has reached Judgement Day. Cries for help to party leaders have echoed all over the Western world, trying to regain ground by changing the direction of politics to a more inclusive decision-making process. Political scientists, analysts, and journalists have drawn conclusions on the distant electorate: “We have forgotten the losers of globalisation and declining industries.” Their answers often ended up including the same maxims: that education, dialogues and awareness are the solutions to the problem. Let’s fix our non-factual media, let’s see if people have actually been disadvantaged by a globalising world which should have benefited the West in every way possible and let’s try to open our eyes to the people who have voted for a radical change. It almost seemed that the defeated liberal left in the US, Germany, France, UK and elsewhere has woken up from a bad dream with the intention to at least have a good day, so that the next dream can be a good one again.

And then… on December 4th 2016, Austria’s political left won against the bulwark of the right. The small country in the Alps responsible for so much misery in the world allowed a sigh of relief to be heard throughout Europe. After the embarrassment of having to repeat the elections, the political left emerged with an even higher victory than during the first time. Finally, we can be inclusive again and start working for a country, which is embraces ALL its citizens! Wrong, we have been deceived by our own rhetoric.

Hours after the victory by the leftist politician in Austria, the left celebrated its victory in a demeaning way and the right has rounded up its rhetoric. It claims that its eventual victory is simply a matter of time. Are you freaking kidding me right now?

Dear left, what is wrong with you? You have won with a bit over 50% and you see it as a triumph of your ideology? You are wrong! You have preached for months that we must reach out to the alienated and disenfranchised voter, and a simple victory lets you assume that you can go back to business as usual? Stop celebrating your arrogance and intellectual superiority and start reaching out to the needy and distant electorate. There is a clear reason why 47% of Austrians have voted for the right wing candidate! No, not all of them are Nazis or on the extreme right! Yes, many are and many of them have a distorted view of society, but a huge part is deeply upset with what is missing from political discourse: the rising unemployment rate, the feeling of losing their country. No matter if their concerns are fiction or reality, you have now the chance to deal with them and to engage in a dialogue right now. The first way to win these people back on your side is to show them your understanding, not your ignorance. The feeling of pride in being confirmed by a majority of the electorate is wrong. Change shouldn’t be postponed, but shaped into a positive direction, where equality and inclusiveness are our top priorities. Voters have trusted you another chance, now go and use it! Seek the dialogue with the right, and if a journalist asks you on TV if a small “sorry” could be appropriate after the dirty election campaign, then say yes, as you would do with any other opponent in your life. Loosen up your ideological stubbornness to understand and care about every citizen and not only about the ones that support you indefinitely. Even football players can shake hands and exchange dresses after a hard-fought match, so why can’t you if you are the intellectually superior academics?

Most importantly, don’t laugh about the other side and their voters who lost. Would you have loved it if other people laugh about you if you were the loser? Or would you have preferred that the winner comes to you and engages with you in a dialogue, where both sides can prosper? After the victories of Trump and company, you have correctly voiced your opinion to denounce the increasing assaults on political opponents and minorities, but don’t make the mistake to treat the political right as its own minority either.

The same counts, of course, for the right! You pretend to be fighting for our nation to improve, but the first statement after your defeat is a greedy defence of your party’s ideology and how time will show that the establishment will go down sooner or later. How can it be in the best interest of our country to have a confrontational situation, where the destruction of the other side is the goal? You have a responsibility to collaborate with the left! Say sorry and wish the other side good luck for unifying the country after a dividing election campaign with created huge emotions on both sides. Politicians need to learn to not only create emotional trenches, but to also fill them up again after the war is over. Take responsibility and clean up the mess after you are done.

The left in Austria has thankfully achieved an incredible victory and for the first time our president will be someone, who has fought for years as a Green politician against the establishment. The left should take this chance to create a dialogue among the people of Austria and demonstrate that it is capable of doing more than only preserving the status quo. Call upon all the analysis, strategies, and political scientists, to which you have turned to in the time of crisis, and deliver results. If not, the right may be right and, in fact, it may only a question of time!

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