What if….Europe elected a president?

The creation of the office of President of the European Union was one of those perfect storm moments that occurs in politics. As an idea, it drew relatively little support, but many of those who supported it did so with a vigor bordering on fanaticism. When that was mixed with the hubris of national politicians who thought it didn’t matter and the short-termism of a political system that only sees policy as a quick solution as opposed to long-term strategy, political tectonic plates started to move. The final key variable was the European Parliament, which had amassed power almost silently like a dog chained in a basement who has grown huge and strong because nobody in the house realizes that they have all been feeding the dog. Politicians stung by accusations of being “undemocratic” had thrown one power after another at the once rubber-stamping talking shop without grasping that all the combined powers were in fact creating a powerful transnational parliamentary assembly. When the parliament itself named an elected president as its price for treaty change the pols rolled over, once again assuming that it could be finessed with some retired prime minister doing a lap of honour. That was assuming the system even got off the ground, given how vague the details in the actual treaty were.

The problem for the “It’ll never happen” brigade was that this was Europe, and for every European thought there’s a well-funded committee that starts working out the details with almost self-pleasuring enthusiasm. Immediately, the committee ran into a problem. It wasn’t hard to figure out what powers would be held by the new office: the committee rapidly concluded that the simplest thing was to directly elect the commission president, with the president of the council acting at a intergovernmental balance.

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Short Story: Moving Day.

America. The near future.

Tom put the very last box into the truck with not a little bit of relief, as it was pretty much the last bit of space in the truck. Molly and the kids were going through the house, supposedly checking to see if there was anything left, but in reality dragging out their departure. There’d been tears from the kids when they’d told them they were moving, and he hardly blamed them. This was the house they’d grown up in. The school they attended was just three blocks over, and they’d trick or treated on these doors with other kids, or attended birthday parties or barbeques in other people’s backyards so many times. This was home. 

It wasn’t the first time he’d had to move house, but this had been different. Of course it had. For one, he’d had to do most of the loading himself, if only because so many of the people who might have helped were busying packing their own families’ stuff, or had already moved. Then there were those neighbours who might have helped in the past, but now just glared through a window. 

As the kids made their final rounds, Tom lowered the US flag that flapped in the light breeze from the pole over the porch. A former marine, he treated it with respect, carefully folding it as per regulation and placing it snugly in the trunk of the car, between two pillows so as to not get creased. There was a lot of talk about new flags these days.

Tom looked at his watch. They were just on time. 

“Ok, let’s go,” he shouted into the house, and the family appeared at the door. Molly was struggling to hold back tears.

Tom gave her a hug and closed the door behind them, and they all got into the car. He was determined not to look back as they pulled away. 

Their appointment was not far away, and it wouldn’t be a disaster if they missed it, but Tom wanted to just move on and get things done. He wanted to be in the new house, and wouldn’t feel comfortable until…well…he didn’t like to think about it.

The appointment was in a Walmart car park which had been temporarily taken over by the army for the purpose. Tom joined a queue of cars waiting. He was reassured to see US Army soldiers and armoured vehicles. Overhead a helicopter patrolled noisily.

“Honey, have you got…” he said to Molly, but she was way ahead of him, and had them in her hand. A soldier with a clipboard reached the car, and Tom rolled down the window. 

“Good afternoon sergeant,” Tom said.

“Good afternoon sir. Can I take your IDs please?”

Tom handed over their United States Citizen identity cards. The soldier thanked him, and scanned each into a handheld scanner, then peeked into the automobile to match faces.

“Good afternoon ladies: we’ll have you ready very quickly.”

He handed back the cards, noted the car registration, and leaned in again.

“You’re with 246. About ten minutes I’d say.”

Tom thanked him, and closed the window. 

Tom looked at the cards again. He still couldn’t quite believe he had to carry mandatory identification, but he understood why. He remembered the night Molly and he had sat down and made the decision, as every American family did.

A soldier stood on the back of a jeep and spoke through a bullhorn. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, could those of you in convoy 246 please follow us. You all have been issued with your emergency hotline number. If you have a problem during the convoy please call it. Do not leave the convoy without calling as we will not be stopping other than at designated break areas.”

Tom checked his gas level again: he’d filled the tank as the kids were bringing down their boxes. They had water, snacks, phones were charged, and he’d make sure everyone had used the bathroom.

The army vehicles roared into life, and pulled out, the hundred or so civilian vehicles following them, a collection of stationwagons, SUVs, rental trucks and RVs. What struck Tom was that all had that overloaded look, like each was packing a family’s whole life into them, which was often true. As they drove through the suburbs they could see state police cars with flashing lights blocking roads to let them pass the agreed route. Occasionally crowds of protestors had gathered to hurl abuse, waving flags. The soldiers on the vehicles in the convoy watched those crowds carefully as they passed. 

They were among the last convoys to leave. After Sunday, it was up to people to make their own arrangements, and whilst that technically shouldn’t be an issue following the Biden-DeSantis Accord, Tom was still glad they had an army escort. There had been stories. People killed, families hounded from neighborhoods they’d lived in their whole lives, militias ordering people to leave states. Yet it was still better than the full frontal civil war that had been brewing. This was the least worst option.

The decision hadn’t been hard. They loved their home, their city, but they could see what was happening. That there was basically one way to think and if you don’t agree you’re one of them. When the website asked them to make their decision, and upload the information, they knew they hadn’t really a choice, because one thing was adamant: you had to choose one. You could not be both. It was one of the few things that even former Presidents Trump and Obama agreed on. Even when it emerged later that President Trump realised the implication for his businesses, but by then it was too late even for him. His daughter and son-in-law recognised it. 

There had been quite a lot of schadenfreude particularly when older white people had made their choice, then realised what they had actually voted for, and tried to reverse their decision. No take-backs, the president said.

Molly and the kids were fast asleep by the time they had pulled away from the final scheduled breakstop, and hit the road again. The convoy slowed to a halt in dense traffic, and the army helicopters circled aggressively, as if to deter would-be attackers. This was the most dangerous part, he’d been warned. Across the freeway he could see similarly loaded cars speeding past from the other directions, full of kids and families, He could see kids cheering in some of the cars. 

As the convoy got closer, the huge structure was visible, with armed soldiers patrolling on top of it, and powerful lights illuminated the whole area. There were more flags on either side of it than at a political convention. 

Tom could see the lead army convoy vehicle wave at the soldier on the barrier, who opened it and waved them through.

“Hey kids, you’re going to want to see this!” Tom said, and the family awoke from their slumber just as they passed the sign announcing “You are now leaving the Constitutional States of America”, and beside it flew the South Carolina state flag, which had a symbol restored to it that would have been approved of by Jefferson Davis.     

What if…a Right-Wing government was elected in Ireland (part 2)

The announcement by the Ceann Comhairle that Eve Hennessy had been elected Taoiseach was met with a wave of shouts and boos from the large demonstration that nearly filled both Molesworth and Kildare Streets. The signs, announcing “#StopTheSteal” and “the election was stolen” gave a clear indication as to the views of the crowd. Ogra Shinn Fein, who made up a significant proportion of the crowd, also held up signs calling for a “republican court” to put the outgoing Taoiseach on trial for collaboration because she announced that she did in fact accept the election result as legitimate.

Outgoing Sinn Fein ministers were abused far more than incoming NDP TDs.  The outgoing FF ministers had all lost their seats to either Sinn Fein or the NDP.

The speed at which the new government moved surprised many, despite the fact that it had all been clearly telegraphed by Hennessy from the election. Over 40 pre-prepared pieces of legislation were placed before the Oireachtas despite massive protests from the opposition parties who attacked the government for “steamrollering” the parliament. Hennessy replied by extending the sitting hours of both houses.

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What if…a right wing government was elected in Ireland?

The exit poll for the 2029 general election caused gasps in the studio. Recent polls had shown that the outgoing Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail coalition was struggling but still competitive. The New Democrats, led by former FG TD for Dublin Rathdown, Eve Hennessy,  were doing better than expected. The polls had given the new party a consistent support level in the late-thirties, with her former party struggling to keep about 10%. But as the first boxes opened on the Saturday morning, there was much talk of what was termed “shy Tory syndrome”, where voters are embarrassed to admit to voting for certain (usually right wing) parties, but acting accordingly in the privacy of the polling booth.

Hennessy had been mocked when she had been elected in the disastrous (for FG) election of 2025 which had seen SF come to power. From a wealthy south Dublin family, Hennessy had proceeded to become one of the wealthiest people in the country when she founded the Banshee Group which manufactured both civilian and military drones. She had rapidly become disheartened with FG in opposition, and the prevailing belief that some sort of natural electoral pendulum would restore the party to power eventually. Watching SF in power, she simply did not accept that, and speaking in a debate in UCD (in what the media would call The Belfield Platform) she took no prisoners and outlined a broadly right wing view of how Ireland should proceed.

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What if…Putin detonates a nuclear weapon in Ukraine?

It’s not impossible. Vladimir Putin, facing stalemate or possibly even defeat by a better motivated and well-resourced Ukrainian army, might decide to play the “madman” card.

A small, low-yield tactical nuclear weapon, detonated in a low population rural part of Ukraine. Not a military act, but a political one, to cause panic in the nuclear-phobic West and particularly in western Europe.

The message would be clear: I am willing to go further than you, so give me what I want. Stop helping Ukraine and let me defeat them. 

It’s a high-risk strategy, but also a viable one. The panic it will cause in NATO will be very real, and the response not automatic or even obvious. The idea that NATO will automatically respond with a like-for-like nuclear retaliation should not be assumed at all.

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What would the platform of an Irish Centre-Right candidate who wasn’t afraid to lose look like?

In 1972’s “The Candidate” Robert Redford plays the role of Bill McKay, a progressive lawyer who agrees to be the token Democratic candidate in a Senate election where the Republican incumbent is regarded as a shoo-in. McKay agrees to run purely to be allowed raise the unfashionable liberal issues he espouses. It’s only when polls show he’s going to be humiliated does he start tacking towards the inoffensive bland. The closer he gets to winning, the more meaningless the campaign becomes. 

One of the curios of Irish politics is that those politicians who might be regarded as on the centre-right in Ireland are almost always unwilling to not only admit it but defend those values. When Leo Vardakar lauded people who go to work in the morning he was not only attacked for being anti-welfare but refused to give a full-throated defence. The Irish centre-right has allowed the left to get a psychological drop on it, that its values are morally inferior and less representative of the Irish people.

As a result, candidates on the centre-right are convinced that their values are definite vote losers. They may well be right, at least at the moment. But a nation’s political mainstream isn’t set in stone. Being pro-choice was once political death in Ireland. Advocating same-sex marriage would have  been a surreal position. The political mainstream can move, but only if a new mainstream is openly advocated, even if it is an electorally less popular one initially. 

What would an honestly advocated centre-right platform sound like? 

1. There is no shame in workers wanting to pay less of their wages in tax. It’s their money.

2. We should be proud of our social welfare system as a safety net, but not a voluntary lifestyle. People who work harder should be rewarded more. Those incapable of contributing should be cared for by society through a social safety net. Those capable but unwilling to contribute should be left to their own devices.

3. The rights of people to safeguard their possessions and walk the streets of their town or city without fear of physical attack should be greater than the rights of someone with 57 previous convictions.

4. Immigration is good for a country. A well-managed immigration policy is good for a country.  There is a mathematical limit to how many new residents a country can absorb without lowering living standards of existing residents.

5. The primary source of the safety of a country and its people from foreign attack in whatever form is that country’s national security capabilities. Alliances with other countries are a bonus, not a substitute.

6. The right to offend and be offended is the cornerstone of a free society.   

7. The primary priority of a public body is the efficient delivery of the service it was recreated to provide, not the terms and conditions of its employees.

8. The increased physical supply of affordable housing units will resolve housing needs faster than a nominal right to housing. This is a fact.

9. Threats to human freedom come from the extremists of both the far-right and the far-left. Both need to be watched vigilantly. 

What if…a right-wing populist was elected President of Ireland (Part 2.)

Previously in the future…

https://jasonomahony.ie/what-if-a-right-wing-populist-was-elected-president-of-ireland/#more-19793

 

A populist right-wing former radio pundit has narrowly been elected President of Ireland, to the shock and disgust of certain parts of Irish society. The Taoiseach has visited the new president to remind him of his constitutional duty to sign new legislation…

The president placed the constitution on the table.

“That says you need my signature on every bill.”

“It also says you are required to promulgate every bill,” the Taoiseach said. Her attorney general had drilled the point into her.

“Whatever promulgate means. But what if I refuse to sign? Are you going to get a few lads in balaclavas to force my hand across the page?”

She ignored the jibe.

“No, article 14 is very clear. If you refuse to carry out any function, a commission consisting of the chief justice, ceann comhairle and cathoirleach can sign instead.”

“Grand, then. That effectively means I can publicly reject legislation without bringing down the country?”

The Taoiseach shrugged.

The following weeks saw the president, a prolific Twitter and Tik Tok user during the campaign, use the social platform for relatively mild observations. It was only when a new hate speech bill was put before the Oireachtas that he stirred.

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What if…a right-wing populist was elected President of Ireland?

When He announced his candidacy there was much laughter in the usual circles. The idea that a “washed up” radio presenter and sports pundit could be elected president was, it was agreed in the circles that mattered, ridiculous. The New Ireland was not going to elect Trump on the Liffey.

The ruling Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail/Social Democrat government wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about even holding a presidential election, as the shiny new thing aura had come off the government and feelers had been put out to the opposition about an agreed candidate, Now Is Not the Time For Division, etc. But FG, Labour and the Greens weren’t having it. The race was on.

The first surprise was the three leaders of the coalition announcing that they would be all endorsing a single coalition candidate, and that given the flaky wobbliness of the Social Democrats remaining in government when actually confronted with policy choices, both SF and FF conceded and backed a former one-term Soc Dem TD and now senator renowned for being at the cutting edge of Irish progressivism. Her supporters, gathering at the launch of her campaign in the Merrion Hotel (Vegan nibbles only) were almost giddy at the idea of her taking on the misogynist, racist transphobe radio presenter, and delivering a clean killer blow to the Old Ireland. “It’s such a pity HE won’t be on the ballot!” she announced to cheers and jazz hands (Clapping was banned for being too aggressive) from the crowd.

 FG surprised all by not nominating a former Taoiseach and instead a former MEP who was “very good” and instantly forgettable.

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The Govt needs to educate voters. The new Electoral Commission should take up the job.

Last week I had to explain to a grown adult what happens if the government were to give every Irish adult a cash handout to combat rising prices. This was not an unintelligent person, just someone who had never had a reason to formally study economics. But it raised an issue with me: how can our political leaders provide leadership on inflation when possibly a majority of voters do not know what inflation is actually caused by. It’s true, economists are arguing over what is causing inflation from massive central bank printing of cash to Covid/Ukraine impact on supply chains. But one thing is certain: put €1000 cash into every Irish adults hand and price inflation will jump sharply as the extra cash pursues limited supply of product and services thus pushing up prices.
Inflation is just the latest public policy area where the level the public is informed about the issues affects the quality of the debate. I’ve met people who believe TDs pay no taxes and that 50% of the national budget is spent on Oireachtas salaries.

It’s actually 0.14%.

47% is spent just on social welfare and health.

These aren’t party political talking points: they are actual facts whether you’re Sinn Fein or Fine Gael.

A key component of a mature and healthy democracy is a well-informed electorate. It is as important to democratic stability as clean and fair elections. The new Electoral Commission should be tasked (and funded adequately for) with a rolling advertising campaign not only to ensure that voters know where to register and how to vote, and to analyse election results, but also with ensuring all voters are familiar with key non-partisan information they should know when deciding whom to vote for.

Who pays taxes and by how much? Who doesn’t?

How our homeless rates and social welfare payments compare with other comparable countries.

How many of our people live below the poverty line, and what the definition of poverty actually is.

As part of the process, there’s nothing to stop any political party asking that certain verified facts be included in the campaign, within context.

Indeed, parties should even have a right to publicly request that specific facts not be included. 

There are some who will argue that such a task as this is the media’s job, not the state’s. I disagree, in the same way that I disagree with those who say only the private sector should be involved in education.

An educated population is the first line of defence against manipulation by evil forces, and as a result, it is certainly something our taxes should be spent on.  

What if…blue state governors decided to implement the Second Amendment in full?

 

 

The meeting between the Governors of California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, and ten other states were effectively a formality. The final details of a document had already been negotiated by their political staff, and the decision to meet in Independence Hall, in the Pennsylvania state house was deliberate.

The Independence Hall Compact, or IHC as it was called was purposely launched in the same place both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.

The governor of New Mexico was chosen to lead the press conference to avoid the impression that it was just north-eastern states traditionally liberal states that had signed the agreement.

The governor introduced the group, and explained the core objective. Gun crime was out of control, and action had to be taken. The hard-right US Supreme Court had essentially ruled that the Second Amendment prevented significant action against individual gun owners.

In that light, the governor announced, they were going to try something new. They were going to enforce a plain text reading of the Second Amendment, in full, in their states.

“The amendment is very clear. It reads “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” We shall defend and apply the amendment to the letter. We shall require every gunowner to register and train with state militias that we shall form, as the amendment demands.”

The response from Fox News and others on the right was hysterical. Right-wing scholars were quick to point out that many jurists believed that the first section of the amendment was merely an observation, as opposed to an obligation.

The governor addressed this head on.

Quite simply, he said, we disagree. We are going to require every loyal citizen of our states, who owns a gun, to play their role as required of them by the Founding Fathers. We will insist that the Second Amendment be respected in full.

The plans were well-advanced, and ready to go within days of the launch. The new militias would be locally-based, and headed up by retired veterans and former US Marine drill sergeants, and the first meetings were relaxed affairs where many legal gunowners just turned up to understand what the plan was.

The governors had been very careful in their preparation: the first meetings were very informal, and more akin to well-run gun clubs. Locals were asked to vouch for each other, and many of the militias were immediately challenging neighboring militias to good-natured shooting competitions. Every meeting started with the officer in charge stressing they were not there to take anybody’s guns, but to encourage good practice and responsible ownership. Requests for LGBTQ and other minority militia groups were agreed to, and soon those militias were being trained and drilled.

One black militia group decided to drill in tailor-made uniforms based on the US Army civil war blues. The sight of 200 black men and women marching with AR15s behind a poster of Lincoln and John Brown, singing the Battle Cry of Freedom, sent the resident hysteric on Fox News into emotional breakdown, and he screamed at the camera that this was a communist plot and called on all gunowners to refuse to participate.

Many gunowners were indeed suspicious, but the vast majority of gunowners in America are also law-abiding, and indeed many of them felt that the NRA was not speaking for them.

A particular incident in Virginia set the tone for the proposal when a group of far-right NRA supporters turned up at a meeting with the intention of disrupting it. The scene was familiar, a group of angry people in body armour and brandishing semi-automatic rifles, standing about as if they were some sort of security force.

When they attempted to enter the local community hall being used for the event, the commandant of the militia, a retired marine colonel, stopped them at the door to inquire were they coming with the intention of registering themselves and their weapons to join the militia?

When the expletives started he refused them entry. Things got heated, and he gave the signal. Suddenly, the intruders found themselves surrounded by the state militia, all shielded behind walls and vehicles and pointing their guns at them. A local news team filmed the event, and the withdrawal at speed of the hardliners unused to not being the only armed group on the scene provided much material for late night comedians.

The NRA and the Republicans vowed to take the actions of the governors to the Supreme Court, and pundits predicted that the court would indeed rule that the governors were wrong. But as one pundit pointed out: by the time the court does strike down the law, the state militias will be active, with thousands of moderate legal gunowners who will have found that it is not a plot to take their guns but also a place for friendship and sensible gun practice, and at worse the court can strike down the requirement to join a militia, but not the militias themselves. The fact that all militia members had access to a confidential line to report someone they felt should not have a gun resulted in a lot of tip-offs to state police, and stopped a number of potential mass shootings.

As for the issue as to what states should do with those gun owners who refuse to register with their local militia, the state police were quick to target extremists and move against them, whilst writing to most others inviting them to join. The social side of the state militia, with the inter-militia competitions, focus on training of civilians in sensible gun ownership and family BBQs, all funded by the state governments, ensured that the membership of the militias grew steadily. The elevation of the militia shooting championships into a national competition also spiked membership by appealing to Americans’ inherent competitiveness.

The raids by SWAT teams on targeted extremists was leapt on by the far-right as proof of “they’re coming for our guns!” but the governors were quick to juxtapose those men with their Nazi flags and the families at State Militia events enjoying themselves, their weapons safely holstered, prizes been awarded for shooting excellence, and huge amounts of BBQ being devoured.

In non-militia states the debates went in unusual directions. The sight of black, Hispanic, gay and Islamic Americans drilling with semi-automatic weapons caused alarm and calls for state militias to be formed in those states, which in turn created states problems as they had passed knee jerk laws to ban state militias and any form of registration or list taking “by the guvm’nt” after the IHC.

“How the hell am I supposed to form a state militia when I’m barred by law from writing anybody’s name down?” The Mississippi Secretary of State asked.

When the case finally reached the Supreme Court, the California attorney general led the case against the Texas AG. The California case was straight forward: a plain text reading of the amendment at best does link gun ownership and militia ownership, and at worst this is a case for the states to decide. She summed up by being very blunt: in her opinion, it is not just the Second Amendment on trial here but the court itself. The court overturned Roe Vs Wade by saying it wasn’t up to judges to legislate, and the letter of the constitution must be kept to.

“If you overturn the compact, your honours, the message is clear. That the court is effectively a partisan third chamber of the legislature, bending from states rights and plain text to judicial activism as it suits the pursuit of a specific political agenda. This is a matter for the states to decide. The wording is clear, and your ruling will tell us whether you are a court of impartiality, or a de facto House of Republican Lords.”