Italy, Austria, and France, in that order, are the next dominos likely to fall in the global wave of populist political sentiment. Italy and Austria will both go to the polls on the same day next month, December 4th, for somewhat different reasons, but with both outcomes likely to advance the political forces on the right in Europe. In Austria, it’s expected that Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party will prevail. That would make him the first elected far-right leader in Western Europe since 1945. Italy’s vote is a referendum initially scheduled for the fall. On the table is a package of constitutional reforms that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has proposed to streamline lawmaking, but it is increasingly being seen a plebiscite on Renzi’s government, which it appears he may lose, causing his government to fall, and creating an opportunity for the far right to form a new anti-immigration government. In the upcoming 2017 Presidential election in France, ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen is seen as the possible front-runner.

We are witnessing an extraordinary global upheaval, the outcome of which seems very uncertain at best. In my view, it is a populist reaction to globalization, and a dramatic shift in politics around the World, from economic issues to cultural issues. I see globalization as ultimately an inevitable evolution of human culture, but which by its very nature and the acceleration in the pace of change with the World Wide Web, is fomenting unrest and reaction. Marshall McLuhan, the great Canadian visionary correctly predicted the rise of the “global village” in the 1960’s. But neither McLuhan nor we foresaw the backlash against the Internet and efforts by China, Russia, Turkey and other countries to block free access to the Internet. The global economy also has essentially stagnated since the Global Financial Meltdown. This has been a warning of greater issues rising up around the World. Xenophobia, racism, gender issues, freedom of expression, environmentalism, and terrorism have displaced economics as the top political issues. How this all plays out in the “global village” is anyone’s guess.