Sunday, 24 July 2016

Democracy...have we been Trumped?

In 1990 I shared a house in Sligo with two other teachers and two other women. We were all in our twenties. One evening when we gathered for dinner one of my housemates was visibly distressed. When I asked her what was wrong she said "They're breaking up. They are getting separated". And she started to cry. In my innocence I though she was talking about her own parents. As we all prepared to console her she said "Donald and Ivana are splitting up!"

I didn't even know who Donald Trump was at the time and, to be honest, I have thought very little about him between that time and now. But now, he is poised to become the President of the United Staes of America  - and like the British Brexit vote we cannot afford to say "It will never happen. They could not be that stupid "...  because it could happen and not because the voters are stupid.

The "stupid" ones in this case and, in the case of the Brexit referendum, are the suave politicians who think that they can fool the people for years, give jobs and contracts to the boys, keep a lovely club of "in people" who seem to laugh at the ordinary voters and even sneer and deride us as  the golden circle looks after its own. This has been the way of politics in Britain, in Ireland, in the USA and in many other countries.

And when people are made to feel "stupid" the response is defensive and oftentimes aggressive. People don't like to feel "stupid" and there is usually a reaction. So can we learn from what we see happening in our democracies? In Ireland we elected a government that has no power to govern. In Britain there was the Brexit and then a total vacuum and now a government that nobody elected. Nobody really wants to take on the next phase because it is a poisoned chalice - no matter what happens it will not be good.

And in the USA we have Donald, trumping everything that we thought we knew about democracy. He knows the media, he knows the soundbite. He has been in people's living rooms on TV for years.... and he has money. He is attacking the establishment, telling people that Hillary and her kind have been fooling them for years. And on that he is right.

We know that our politicians have been fooling us for years and we are a small society- we know our politicians. The really honest ones, the ones that won't play the game with the big boys ( the game about jobs and contracts for the boys) never get elected again. I wonder how long Katherine Zappone will last - if she stays in I will know that there has been real change.

But it might not really matter what we do or think anyway because democracy might come back to bite us and put Donald in charge of the whole shebang!  And the people really responsible for it will be the career politicians who thought they could "play" the people for 60 years.

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