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.