Sunday, March 15, 2015


Some people think all religions are the same; typically people who don't believe in any religion themselves.  I'm beginning to think the same about politics; all political parties are the same.  After all, politics is about securing power for the purpose of creating a better life for those who support you.  Communists think life will be better without rich people, and fascists think life will be better without communists.  But they - and liberals, socialists and conservatives in between - earnestly think that life will be better for others when they achieve power.  Sort-of-all-the-same: perhaps I'm having a crisis of (political) faith?

Which brings us to RENUA (they seem keen on the capitals by the way, judging by their website). Given that nowadays the Overton Window in Irish politics ranges all the way from slightly left-of-centre to extreme-left-of-centre then it's obvious that what Ireland needs right now is... another left-of-centre political party.  Not, of course, that you will have gathered that from the chorus of disapproval that greeted the launch of RENUA last week.  No, instead we're warned that RENUA is in the business of bashing the public sector and - you might want cover the children's eyes here - is nothing more than re-heated Progressive Democrats. The horror.

I don't read it that way. Their Vision & Core Beliefs could grace the manifesto of any mainstream Irish political party, with statements ranging from:

There is no greater moral and political issue than securing the future of children.
We believe in creating the conditions that allow arts and culture to flourish.

One definition of a platitude is that stating its opposite sounds ridiculous rather than contrarian.  I hear a lot of platitudes.  Not so much Newspeak as Nuaspeak.

But in fairness I don't think that's the fault of RENUA.  Politics in Western democracies has become remarkably narrow and sterile.  The same set of left-of-centre beliefs are now orthodoxy in not just all the political parties but also in the media, academia and the wider commentariat. Witness the hysterical reaction to Nigel Farage in the UK. He refuses to comply with the new orthodoxy and they hate him for it. Partly it's the Krauthammer Effect (conservatives think liberals are stupid, but liberals think conservatives are evil), and partly it's because - for the left - politics is their religion and government is their god.  Death to the infidels and all that.  Come to think of it, maybe there's no difference between religion and politics, never mind between different religions and different parties?

Still, I can't help feeling that RENUA has missed a trick.  The whole idea of dissent in politics (and religion, for that matter) is to signal to other potential defectors (and Lucinda is, don't forget, a 'defector') that there are lots of people just like you who are unhappy with the status quo and who deserve to be in power rather than the incumbents. This requires a rallying cry which signals that those in power are insufficiently [fill in the blank here] and that if you gain power then you will resolve to undo/do better whatever [fill in the blank] is at stake.

Blogger Spandrell puts it, rather bluntly, thus:
More likely than not, some members of the ruling coalition are not very loyal. They’d rather defect. But they can’t backstab the coalition just like that. You don’t do that; it looks bad. Your comrades will go against you. There are costs to defection.
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them.  
... At any rate, the whole point of the above is to signal your disaffection from the status quo. The precise content of your signal is irrelevant. It is completely dependent on the particular ideological ecology of your culture. But the underlying mechanism is the same. You want power, and you signal your intent in the optimal way to minimize the chances of official punishment, and make it easy for others to join your banner.
The problem is, I don't see what the big [fill in the blank] rallying cry is for RENUA. And 'transparency' won't do it - too easy for others to steal. No, they should either have gone far more left than any of the mainstream incumbents - though it's a pretty crowded pitch, as noted earlier - or a little more right (mindful of the Window): a very empty pitch.

In the end, it would take a Frank Underwood to lead yet another left-of-centre political party to power in a political landscape that's full of them. But Lucinda Creighton is no Frank Underwood, and I mean that as a compliment.

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