Trump tops Brexit in year of unprecedented shocks

Different directions...Hillary Clinton leaves the stage as Donald Trump moves into the spotlight.
Different directions...Hillary Clinton leaves the stage as Donald Trump moves into the spotlight.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

How do you explain Donald Trump’s victory? How do you explain Brexit? How do you explain what’s happened to Libya after Muammar Gaddafi was taken out? How do you explain the rise of far-right parties in Europe and elsewhere?

Not in a sentence, or in a paragraph, or in 1,000 words for sure – and perhaps some of the forces that impelled those changes are beyond explanation at all.

Just as the universe continues to expand so does Trump’s enormous ego. His favourite method of communication is Twitter and all you get from him is a constant stream of self-congratulation and self-massage of his ginormous ego.

Trump’s election in 2016 was the biggest shocker of the year. Only the Brexit vote last June came even close in terms of people’s jaws dragging along the floor.

People are innately conservative (by nature, not by politics) especially as they get older. They tend to resist any major change, preferring it to happen incrementally and, sometimes, not at all – but this generation has experienced some massive changes.

Some have caused upheaval and have usurped the old order. Mass digitisation and mechanisation has made millions of jobs redundant.

If you look at Britain, many of its huge industries (shipping, coal, gas, steel, pottery) have dwindled. On top of that, there have been multiple ongoing conflicts, not least the terrible civil war in Syria.

Mass migration has seen large movements of populations into European countries, leading to resentment and xenophobia from the natives. All of the above, plus the uncertainties of economies caused by globalisation, have conspired to increase the trend in people opting for firebrand populist and anti-establishment politics. It has also led to an increase in support for right-wing politics in Europe and America.

I remember reporting on then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s visit to New York in 2004. Hillary Clinton was then a senator for New York and the front-runner for the Democratic presidential ticket – all that came undone when a relatively unknown senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, electrified the Democratic National Convention with one of his amazing oratorial power-plays.

Anyway during that five-day visit, I got an opportunity to see Clinton at close quarters several times.

I was really impressed. She was in command. She was disciplined. She was able to retain high levels of concentration for hours and hours on end. She had thought-through views and was a really good communicator. She looked like she was – to use the fashionable phrase of the time – the real deal.

But then Obama came along and he was a realer deal. And then in 2016 Trumper came along and he was a wheeler dealer. On each occasion Clinton had done everything perfectly but it just wasn’t enough.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.