Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

So you say you want change. But really, do you?

Posted by Jason O on Jun 16, 2010 in Irish Politics

The Irish constantly say that they want change. Normally for parking meters. They also occasionally say that they want political change. But what is political change, and how do you measure how much change do you want?
Question 1: Do you want change?
Yes, I do: Continue to Q2.
No thanks, this is fine: Vote for the Fianna Fail candidates, and then do not express any more preferences. That will help elect only FF candidates who will, presumably, give you more of the same stuff they’ve been giving us for the last 13 years.
Question 2: So you say you want change. Great. What sort of change? Things stay pretty much the way they are but with different faces (A1), or fundamental changes in the way we run our society? (A2)
A1: Same stuff, new faces. Vote for Fine Gael. They’ll tinker around with a few things, and change a few minor percentages, but it’ll be basically the same.
A2: Ah, you want to actually change stuff as well? Well, this is where it gets interesting, because in Ireland, if you want to change more than just the faces around the cabinet, you have to vote for a left wing party. But I don’t want to, you cry! Sorry, but since the demise of the Progressive Democrats, the only reforming parties are on the left. The question is now how far do you want to go. Here’s your menu of choices:
The Labour Party: Believes that business is a grubby affair, and that businesspeople should be tolerated the way we tolerate spiders to eat flies. Will talk a lot about change, and do a lot of the inexpensive stuff like gay rights, but will bottle out of the really radical economic stuff, because they won’t have the guts to tell people that someone has to actually pay for all the cool stuff like childcare.
Sinn Fein: Since entering govt in the North, SF have slipped away from being hard-line socialists to just spending other people’s money as long as we don’t have to empower the Revenue to collect it. Again, will do a lot of the symbolic stuff like letting Northerners sit in the Dail, start holding United Ireland “Forums” and will start making people who don’t speak Irish feel a bit less Irish than they should. Will punish legitimate businessmen for being in business through higher taxes. Will not accept that there are any illegitimate “import-export” businesses operating in the country, especially not in the border area.
Richard Boyd Barrett/Joe Higgins.
The 100% proof of change. If you want an unarmed revolution, these are your guys. They will kick the crap out of businessmen, reverse the cutbacks, and tax the bejesus out of the rich.
If you want to live in a country that has been expelled from the EU, can’t borrow the price of a cup of cold tea from the bond markets, and no multinational wants to invest in, these are your guys. Want a country where no one will wish to start a small business and employ anyone, because these guys regard you as being inherently exploitative, this is where its at. They will ensure that every remaining business puts its workers interests first, and so runs them like CIE or Iarnrod Eireann or the passport office. 
It will be a magical socialist regime, a thrill to watch. If you have time, that is, as you serve people their quarter pounder and cheese in a Welsh McDonalds.  


Books worth reading: Reagan’s Revolution.

Posted by Jason O on Jun 16, 2010 in Books, US Politics

reagan-revolutionThis side of the Atlantic never “got” Ronald Reagan. We thought he was a bit dim, full of cloying cliches and “aw, shucks” answers and we could never understand how he managed to get elected, and in landslides too. “Reagan’s Revolution” by Craig Shirley gives a pretty clear picture as to why the man absolutely turned modern American politics on its head by challenging for the Republican nomination in 1976.

What we in Europe don’t understand is that after Barry Goldwater’s clobbering by LBJ in 1964, conservative was a dirty word in American politics. The Republican Party had a solid liberal wing, led by New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, which pretty much dominated the party leadership until Reagan challenged, and narrowly lost against President Ford for the nomination. The book tells, in very expansive detail, the story of how Reagan, an unrivalled political communicator until the arrival of Bill Clinton in 1992, went over the heads of the party seniors and appealed to the conservative grassroots of the GOP, transforming the party as he went, and very nearly denying a sitting president his party’s nomination.

This, given the detail, is a book for the anoraks, and the author doesn’t hide his pro-Reagan feelings, although they don’t affect the telling of the story. But it is fascinating in telling the pretty untold story of how Reagan began a journey which resulted in a shift to the right in American politics which exists to this day. It is also a telling tale of what happens when a party leadership ignores its base.    

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