It is no secret that I occasionally recycle blog posts. I do this not out of laziness, but because of the fact that so much of Irish politics is the same repetitive old crap that has been in play since I participated in my first election campaign 21 years ago. Referendums on EU matters are a particularly acute source of political deja vu, with the usual declarations, nearly always by the No side of scaremongering and bullying by the Yes side.
Take this week’s declaration by Michael Noonan that, as finance minister, if he does not have access to more funds from the EU as a result of a No vote, he will not be able to spend as much on public services. He was told that he was bullying the Irish people by stating that.
Just think about it for a minute: Telling people that if we have less money we can buy less things. That is now classed as bullying. It’s like being accused of bullying someone by telling them that if they leap off a cliff, they will plunge to their doom.
But it does reveal an interesting thing about modern politics, how many voters are now averse to not just opposing political positions, but actually being informed of things they don’t like hearing. One of the more worrying aspects to this is that politicians have given up trying to inform or educate voters as to the reality of the relationship between taxes and spending, instead focusing on whatever key message will hold voter trust just long enough to get past polling day.
We now have a generation of leaders who disappoint almost from day one in office as a result, as Sinn Fein are now gearing up to do, because they do not confront voters with realistic expectations before they vote. The argument given is that you can’t win elections by being honest, and certainly recent Irish political history (look at the Green Party) would confirm that view. But what is remarkable is how Irish governments, actually in power, make almost no effort to bring voters around to their way of thinking, especially on public spending issues. No Irish government has ever engaged in a pro-active effort to convince Irish voters that spending cuts are the price of preventing even higher taxes, or that the combined demands of every special interest must be clearly identified in the public mind as higher taxes. What is more puzzling is that they are taking the kicking anyway, so why don’t they start to fight back? What exactly are they afraid of?