Comment & Analysis
Jan 25, 2017

Unless Something is Done, Ireland May End up with its Own Brexit or Trump

James Behan argues that we need to look beyond our progressive bubble and social media.

James BehanColumnist

Just over a year ago, as 2015 drew to a close, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked at a press conference why he had constructed a cabinet with an equal number of men and women. His platitudinous response immediately transcended the banal setting of a press release into internet meme territory: “Because it’s 2015.”

Put another way, Trudeau was saying that there could be no more debate on the matter: “How could any dissenting view even be up for discussion, when it’s obvious that my view is correct? Who would disagree with me, other than sexists, misogynists and other such bigots?”

At the time, this seemed to be just another indication of how bereft of substance the discourse had become under the aegis of the identity politics-obsessed Left. In hindsight, it was precisely this sort of maddening arrogance that spurred on the populist revolts that 2016 will forever be remembered for.


This same arrogance was evident in the discussion around the Brexit referendum, where the legitimate concerns of millions of Britons about issues including immigration and national sovereignty were largely dismissed, their proponents often characterised as nothing more than small-minded bigots or “right-wingers” by many mainstream media outlets.

It is hard to see the success of Brexit as anything other than a prelude to the Trump victory that followed it a few months later

The working class was overwhelmingly more likely to support a leave vote than the middle class and above. Despite this, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour campaigned to remain in the EU. The identity politics of race and of the migrant community won out over concern for the working-class perspective. The detachment of the left from the working class it purports to champion is only remarkable if you do not take the corrosive influence of identity politics seriously.

It is hard to see the success of Brexit as anything other than a prelude to the Trump victory that followed it a few months later. As the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders recently opined in an interview, it is “beyond belief” that a billionaire reality TV star could pose as a champion of the working class.

It really is beyond belief, at least until one recalls that Sanders and his many supporters were sidelined and double-crossed by the Democratic National Committee in favour of a corrupt, corporate-sponsored centre-right candidate with the correct identity politics credentials, until one reflects on the fact that the doors of the progressive media echo chamber had long since been bolted shut. In the months leading up to election day, journalists and news anchors weren’t just acting out the same Trudeau-esque “Current-Year” condescension, they had even convinced themselves that they were speaking on behalf of their audience rather than speaking down to them.

As Thomas Sowell wrote, a Trump presidency is like “playing Russian Roulette with the future” of the US. Still, it was uniquely gratifying to watch the largely self-inflicted implosion of progressivism unfold after Trump’s victory. The insane excesses of identity politics have preoccupied me for quite some time.

I have seen first hand in my work as an activist in the area of gender issues how embedded identitarianism is in academia, in the media and amongst those lobbying our government and influencing policy.

On election night, I watched the disbelief and dejection consume hordes of progressives on social media as Trump won swing state after swing state, his odds of winning pendulously veering from five per cent to 95 per cent in mere hours on the New York Times election forecast. Many of my friends and peers on social media started the morning of Wednesday, November 9th expressing their incredulity and disgust at Trump’s win in the form of Facebook statuses and Tweets.

I saw so many of the young, progressive-minded types from within the Trinity echo chamber cast aspersions on about half of the US population for the way they voted. Many references were made to racism and sexism, despite the fact that Trump polled better with minorities than Mitt Romney did in 2012 and took the majority of the white female vote as well. No effort was made to comprehend or empathise with the position of millions of Americans. In other words, the same “Current Year” progressive tautologies have also afflicted the student left in Ireland.

This should be a cause for alarm, and not just for leftists: unless something is done about it, there is no reason that Ireland won’t end up with its own Trump or Brexit scenario in the near future

These are the people who will ultimately occupy positions of power and influence within our institutions. These people are also the future of the left as a political force. This should be a cause for alarm, and not just for leftists: unless something is done about it, there is no reason that Ireland won’t end up with its own Trump or Brexit scenario in the near future.

To give a timely example, take for instance the repeal the eighth campaign and the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) with which it is associated. Currently, the entire “Repeal” movement is as tribal and superficially focused on virtue signalling as the remain campaign was, and far-left progressive ideologues have already leveraged the campaign for their own efforts at political grandstanding. The actual issues themselves, including the most important question – “what legislation comes after repeal?” – are currently a secondary consideration. Other writers at this newspaper and others have warned that succumbing to progressive identitarianism in this way could lead to the pro-choice equivalent of a Brexit. I still believe that, ultimately, the Irish people will do the right thing when the referendum comes around. But, if the repeal campaign fails, it will only have itself to blame.

2016 has been unfairly maligned as the worst year of the 21st century so far. The deaths of beloved celebrities aside, it can also be seen as the year in which ordinary citizens united and used the tools of democracy to give identity politics the thrashing it so richly deserves. This democratic revolt is far from over. With far-right candidates polling so favourably in France and the Netherlands ahead of elections in those countries this year, the progressive left may yet look back wistfully on the year of the reaper.

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