What is about presidential elections recently, and the forces of ignorance and darkness they uncover?
Or merely expose to the light.
The world’s oldest petulant teenager, the one with the 55.6 million Twitter followers, now RUNS THE SHOW in America.
Ireland went to the polls last week to choose their new president.
At least our terror of the undeserving underclasses, Peter Casey, only came second here.
The incumbent, Michael D Higgins, was voted in again.
But the real story of the Irish presidential election is how well Casey did – one in five voted for him – and what his relative success has revealed about what is really going on in this country.
Layers of disaffection, division, and dissatisfaction have been peeled back, to show things our political leaders and opinion-shapers would sooner ignore, or pass over.
As the political pundits might put it, Peter Casey has started a conversation.
Only it’s an ugly conversation that brings out the very worst in so many people: bigotry and bile given expression in a man “not afraid to say it like it is”.
Sounds familiar, huh?
To become Ireland’s President for the second time, Higgins had to beat two women candidates and three businessmen investors, each of whom appeared as dragons on Ireland’s version of Dragons’ Den.
I kid you not.
Unlike in America, the Irish President holds a largely ceremonial role.
He represents the country abroad, and at home, when he is not greeting dignitaries, he supports and encourages local initiatives.
That’s largely it!
The President is not active in day to day politics here, and indeed must appear impartial and above all that.
Really, what the people are looking for in a president is someone who looks the part, and knows the right fork to use at State dinners.
Michael D Higgins certainly fitted the bill; a warm, charming individual: poet, professor, he was a long-time leftist member of parliament and altogether a man who has done the State some service.
But somehow, as happened in the last presidential election campaign in the United States, the Irish presidential election became a vehicle for disaffected voters to rock the old political “establishment”.
In America, they put all their egos in one basket-case and voted in Donald Trump.
And here, as in the US, a rich “business man” somehow became a voice for those who feel government and the elite that run everything for themselves, had forgotten about “Them”.
A very particular “Them”: small-minded people with big ideas about themselves as unsung heroes, working, commuting, paying crazy mortgages and outrageous child-care … underpaid, over-taxed, and just sick of never getting ahead.
While others shirk and “milk the system”.
It’s not as if the rest of us don’t feel the pinch or feel let down. We just don’t believe the solution lies in looking out for “Big Daddy” figures to sort it all out for us.
But Peter Casey came along, and suddenly he was speaking for “Them”.
This dilettante nobody listened to when he was hitting golf balls into the sea and wittering on about tapping into the Irish Diaspora to make Ireland great again.
He then has a pop at Ireland’s equivalent of the gypsies, known here as Travellers, and suddenly it’s a whole new campaign.
Initially, the critics are out in force and he is talking about conceding.
But then it becomes obvious a lot of people agree with him, and he gets a second wind. And then it really blows up strong.
Ireland has over 30,000 Travellers, the Irish equivalent of gypsies, and they fought long and hard for ethnic minority status, and rights, complaining about the abuse they have been historically subjected to on the foot of the actions of a small anti-social minority.
In the context of world events, it is not hard to believe there is a push towards picking on the marginalised and on ethnic minorities, because it is very easy to blame such people for society’s ills, and ultimately they are people with very little power.
A recent article in the Irish Times newspaper described the attitude of far too many in the so-called settled community here towards Travellers as “racism for liberals”, with the clinking classes often talking about Travellers in the most negative terms in private.
Ultimately, there is mistrust and a lack of respect on both sides.
It is a complex issue which can only be resolved by proper dialogue, in a spirit of mutual respect.
But on came Casey to question the very idea of Travellers having special status.
He described them as “basically people camping in other people’s land”, that “house prices drop in areas where they settle”, and that they are “not paying their fair share of taxes in society”.
Nasty, divisive stuff from a supposed president “for all the people”, but it worked in his favour, as echoing the feelings of a huge number of people, he got their votes.
And exposed the dark side of smiling Ireland of the welcomes.
The ripostes to his claims came from all sides of the political spectrum. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, effectively warned voters to shun Casey, but many voters did not agree.
Suddenly, he was all over the media, and hasn’t left the arena since.
Defending himself, or expanding on his “ideas” for a better Ireland, journalists can’t they can’t get enough of him, or he of them.
And the voters are listening. The legions of the disaffected have leaped on board.
The rest of the candidates in the race for the Irish presidency were forgotten in the final run-in and it was just him and cuddly little Michael D, all tweedy bonhomie and bravura.
A man to charm Queen and country.
Luckily Higgins had been president for the last seven years and had done a great job. He was expected to be returned on a landslide vote.
He did get back in easily enough, but Casey looks also to have been encouraged, and he is even talking of leading his own political movement.
He is tapping into something.
He is no longer being laughed at like some deluded David Brent figure.
Have our media learned anything about encouraging the dangerous rhetoric of a man despotedly seeking power and vain-glory?
Our racist-who-is-not-a-racist is booked in for the country’s biggest talk show, where your host, Ryan Tubridy, might think he is poking the bare-faced vanity of the man, but really he is giving him a platform. And airing his own lack of courtesy and balance.
It really is hard to credit how Casey has risen to these heights when one considers just how farcical his performance was in the early days of the election campaign.
The multimillionaire made an absolute fool of himself early on by first of all putting out a video online of himself walloping a golf ball out to sea, saying this was the only “driver” he would use to take him around the country as president, and then posting a second video showing himself supposedly fishing the same ball out, after environmentalists made a bit of a fuss.
On the first few TV presidential debates, he smiled inanely as his attempts at humour and flippancy went down like his original golf shot.
Then came his attack on Irish Travellers.
Peter Casey’s performance in the Irish presidential election has served as a message from middle-Ireland to the major political parties: we have to talk about Travellers, and other things, and you won’t like what we have to say.
We should be very afraid
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