Rick Abbruzzese: Reason First

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In the shockwave following the U.S. presidential election, many Americans found it far too easy to ignore the election results in Europe this week, choosing to focus instead on our President-elect's Twitter. However, after Brexit and then Trump, I was looking to the elections in Austria and Italy this past Sunday to somehow convince me that the world had not, in fact, gone mad.  

I’m not sure what I was expecting….

In Italy, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reform agenda got crushed. Most interesting is that the Prime Minister’s proposed constitutional amendment would have dramatically reduced the power of the Italian Senate. If ever there was an anti-establishment agenda, curtailing the power of the Senate in Rome would have to be viewed as such – except that in this case, the reforms did not go far enough and were being proposed by the sitting prime minister, who has now offered his resignation. 

While the people of Italy have spoken, not unlike the cases of Trump and Brexit, they have seemingly done so with little regard for what comes next.  

Still, all is not lost.      

The people of Austria, perhaps more mindful of their country’s place in world history, voted to reject a far-right, anti-immigration candidate in favor of an independent, former Green party candidate. Alexander Van der Bellen steadfastly defended the idea of the “pro-European Austria” and asked Austrians to allow “reason rather than extremism to lead our decisions.” 

So, amidst America’s fake news crisis and our debate over what constitutes “Twitter-news” devoid of fact – even during a week when cable news hardly blinked when Russia and China vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have provided a seven-day ceasefire in Aleppo, perhaps Van der Bellen’s advice can guide our own politics here at home. 

But if we are to allow reason and facts to guide to our decisions, it’s going to take all elected officials on both sides of the aisle to up their game, it will take both political parties to stop talking in sound bites, it will take all of us to expect a bit more from the American people.   

Most importantly, it will take a press corps – covering all levels of government – to be unrelenting in their pursuit of the facts beyond simply telling us what our elected leaders have pushed out on Twitter. Our Democracy depends on it. 


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