The Election of Trump: Could something similar happen here?

I was in Berlin when the results of the U.S. election gradually emerged early on Wednesday morning. Having spent the last two weeks of October in the U.S. I was very familiar with the campaign, and with the very diverse views of people there.
Like most most here in Ireland I was shocked and disappointed by the choice made by the American people. But, as the recently deceased Peter Barry said in 1992, quoting Dick Tuck after he had lost the State Senate election in California in 1966, “the people have spoken ……….. the bastards!” And that is democracy. It is by no means a perfect system, but history has taught us, I think, that it is the best we have.
Now we are facing into four years of Trump in the Whitehouse. It is impossible to predict what will happen. He is a man of no political experience, and without any coherent policies, beyond some very wild and general campaign statements. He promises to Make America Great Again, without spelling out in any convincing way how he might even begin to go about doing it. The two possible legacies of this election that concern me most are; firstly, a general decline in decency and tolerance in society, leading to more racism, sexual assault, and vulgar abuse; secondly, the danger that Trump and Pence will row back on Climate Change agreements, which could have disastrous effects for the future of the planet.
During the rest of my few days in Berlin I spoke with a couple of younger German people about the election. They were both unhappy and disturbed. For them, what had just happened in the U.S., coupled with the Brexit vote in Britain, had frightening echoes of Germany in the nineteen thirties. Populist demagoguery, full of extreme statements and wild promises, with no regard for truth or fact, and identifying people, races and classes as the enemy. And all of this feeding off a sense of anger among sections of the people, a feeling that they are hard done by, and that the ‘ruling class’ don’t care about them. Essential to this strategy is to brand the people in power as corrupt and greedy. Trump has mirror images in Duterthe in the Philippines, Farage (and even Boris Johnston) in Britain, and Marine Le Penn in France, as well as other less democratic countries like Turkey.

Could something like this happen in Ireland? I think so, and I fear that it may happen sooner rather than later. Already the foundations are being laid.
The belief that our political leaders are corrupt, that they are only in it for what they can get out of it, is being pedalled constantly in media and public debate. As a result, respect for our politicians, and for the democratic structures, is being eroded. Within politics itself, debate has become increasingly ugly and abusive. Our representatives often show scant respect for each other. Some even show little or no respect for the institutions of which they are a part; a simple matter of not dressing properly contributes to a lowering of the tone. Our parliament is being used by some as a way of maligning people, who have no way of defending their good name because of outdated and ineffective rules around parliamentary privilege. The rules were made for a time when representatives had more regard for each other, and for the institutions of State.

Media programmes like ‘Talk to Joe’ are doing something similar to what Russ Limbaugh and others did in the U.S. They promote populist paranoia, and encourage a sense of grievance and victimhood. Many political commentators are constantly critical and dismissive of everything the government attempts to do, and write as it the politicians were stupid not to see things they way they see them. Even columnists like Miriam Lord, who make a business out of presenting deputies as fools, in an attempt to be funny, are very damaging.
The initial effects of all this are already evident in the election of a diverse collection of populist independents, resulting in the failure to provide an effective government at a time when the international clouds are gathering around us.
But worse could well happen. I can think of a number of ‘celebrities’ who just might see an opportunity to follow the example of Trump at our next election. I have no great confidence that a large number of people would not follow his populist, empty promises.
Sometimes I am glad that I am getting old!