Ironically, the first time I heard the name Steve Bannon was in April 2017 watching a Saturday Night Live sketch of President Donald Trump on Youtube.
As many of you know SNL is not a hot-bed of right wing conservatism or a particular fan of the 45th President of the United States. What drew my attention, was that the hilarious sketch was pumping up one of the narratives that was pervasive, early in the Trump presidency. Namely, that Trump was a puppet and that Steve Bannon was one of his many puppet masters.
See video below
As is often the case, this innocuous technological introduction led, from my interest being piqued, to hours of time spent watching Steve Bannon videos. Attempting to understand more about this supposed political Darth Vader. Soon after viewing the above SNL clip, in a different three year old CNN video, I heard tell of Economic nationalism and the populist movement for the first time.
The movement has at it’s heart a rejection of unfettered globalism, a lurch to more patriotic, economic and traditional concepts of nationalism and in the US a determination to re-centre the manufacturing supply chain from China and south-east Asia to North America.
I am not going to bore you with many of the doctrines of this movement. I will post a few clips if you want to dig a little deeper on this one. But suffice to say, this ideology best explains the coalition of peoples that have gathered together to achieve the following:
- The 2016 No vote in Brexit
- The 2016 election of President Donald Trump
- The 2019 Tory election landslide
While, the 2019 UK election was in many ways a single issue vote, the people that delivered the win, were the same posse that delivered Brexit. Except more forcibly in 2019.
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Early doors, centre left media, predictably tried to dismiss Bannon and the populists as just another crazy far-right movement. Allusions to 1930’s Germany are never very far from critics lips. It is nothing of the sort of course. But this will always be a threat to, and attraction of their movement for some.
At the moment, the populist movement is certainly having it’s day in the sun and gaining massive traction with disaffected working class people across the globe.
Gradually, through the success of Trump and his role in getting him elected, Bannon’s ideas are not alone becoming more popular, but are treated in the media now with the respect reserved for a worthy opponent.
All this got me to thinking about Ireland. Theoretically we are fertile ground for a centre right movement of this type. We have NEVER had a majority leftist government in our history!
Considering the historic love affair our politicians and media have for the Democratic party it’s quite funny and quite Irish when you think about it.
The doctrine of do as I say not as I do!
But could we, in fact, ever elect a President like Donald Trump?
At the moment the answer is a firm no. Never.
The reason why isn’t one related to our supposed moral superiority and rejection of having that type of person running the country.
The issue is a more practical one. When you hear the latest viral clip of Trump campaigning, lashing China and making America Great Again, remember he’s lashing out at Ireland too.
We are the beneficiaries of Globalism. Beneficiaries of the US manufacturing decline.
The economic make up of Ireland just couldn’t entertain or sustain the election of a populist like Trump. We would be cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
Ireland lives in the best of both worlds at the moment. Membership of the European Union since 1973 has meant massive inflows of capital, subsidies and support to this country from Europe. We have and remain net takers from the relationship.
Coupled to this our 12.5% corporation tax doctrine has also seen massive injections of American multinational capital and employment investment. We wouldn’t have a private sector without this investment. Not one worth talking about at any rate. Not one offering wages in the 50, 60, 70 and 80,000 euro per annum range.
However our economic policies of the last 25 years may no longer be enough. The sector we rely on the most may no longer have out back. When I read of a multi-billion euro Intel investment being held up and frustrated over planning issues I wonder does official Ireland understand that in today’s climate that is akin to playing Russian roulette.
Often when I am out in a group the discussion around Trump is negative and centred around what he says and how he says it. Very often when I slip outside for a cigerette the conversation is different, more positive and very much focused on what he is actually doing.
Irish people understand Trumps economic policies 10 times better than Democrats in America. The policies are merely a reflection of Ireland’s. The tax cut isn’t just a nod to the Richest in society. It means better Jobs and wages by attracting home huge companies in technology, pharmaceutical and manufacturing.
In Ireland, we’ve long accepted the trade-off of better jobs at the expense of higher corporation taxes. Donald Trump is merely attempting to do this on a grand-scale.
Our current government is probably the most naive in living memory. When I grew up Fine Gael were a party that had to work very, very hard to get into government. The financial crisis in 2008 and subsequent General Election predictably ushered in Fine Gael, the only right wing alternative and a raft of educated, 30 something, fresh-faced political novices into government.
Almost 10 years on we are seeing the effects of having a Taoiseach and series of senior ministers who coasted rather than fought to get into government. Longevity in office leads inevitably to hubris but this current crop have an additional weakness. Because it’s been so easy, for so long, for a bunch of them – they have become intellectually lazy with a superiority complex thrown in for good measure – we see it from our health services to our housing crisis.
And the place they have been laziest of all is in developing and maintaining our relationship with the United States. When the UK leave the European Union Boris Johnson will have a strong ally waiting for him in President Trump. A president who looks like he is good to go for another 4 years.
Trumpian economic policies are starting to pay dividends. 266,000 jobs created last month and critically 50,000 manufacturing jobs added. Wages rising over inflation. Crucially wages that are rising fastest amongst the lower paid. His people in other words.
The crowd in his smoking area are filling up despite what you may have read.
And Ireland ?
It seems to me that last night we firmly and finally lost our greatest ally within the European Union on top of which no-one is burning the midnight oil to develop relations with our greatest ally outside the European Union.
I guess we’ll always have Paris though…..and Emmanuel Macron.
France and Ireland.
A future of Yellow Vests and Donkey jackets?