Saturday, February 8. Just a few weeks for the Republic to discuss the issues of the day and vote for representatives in what will be the 33rd Dáil. Absolutely shocking.
Traditionally it is the sitting Taoiseach who gets to set the date, and I have no problem with this. But let’s be clear on what has actually happened in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar was consulting heavily with the so-called leader of the opposition Micheál Martin over the timing of the election.
Why? Because they have been in a virtual coalition government, that’s why. The official terminology is “confidence and supply” but the reality is that by abstaining on votes for legislation, Fianna Fáil have effectively been supporting Varadkar’s agenda. Now we are suddenly expected to see them as rivals yet again, while those who are actually offering a real alternative to the electorate are left on the outside.
Then there’s our system of voting on these shores. In my opinion, the “PR:STV” method we employ, while it includes the words “proportional representation” in its title and thus creates the illusion of being inclusive, is actually anything but.
In my opinion, offering voters the opportunity to choose a second option* does appear democratic, UNTIL you realise that most constituencies have the leading parties running multiple candidates. If you voted Fianna Fáil number 1, chances are you will also vote them number 2 if you have the chance. So, much like the infamous “first past the post” system used in the UK, the non-establishment parties are generally shut out.
What I would prefer is for something like a merger between the two systems. Currently there are 158 seats. Rather than 3-, 4- and 5- seat constituencies, I would have 158 x 1 seat ones (actually I’d prefer fewer TDs, maybe 150 or less). THEN we can use a simple PR method of voting where there is infinitely less confusion over counts, surpluses and transfers, plus we know for sure that over 50% of voters chose the winner. And to be clear – although I favour progressive candidates, should we employ this method and the FF/FG duopoly still prevailed, I could hardly complain about it, could I.
Anyway, that is of course more of a technical matter – what lies ahead right now is a shortened election campaign, with the ridiculous posters already going up on lamp posts within 24 hours of the announcement being made.
I’m going to do my best to follow the “campaign trail” as best as I can over the coming weeks and see what kind of promises these people will be making (if any) plus how the Irish media is covering it all. JLP
* – yes I know we can also vote for 3,4 and 5 etc but seriously, how critical are those choices when it comes to your ballot being counted?
The majority of the corporate media may well be ‘anti-Trump’ but they also take care to make sure progressive issues are at best, ignored or at worst, belittled.
Clip by Lawrence O’Donnell in YouTube on Wednesday, July 18, 2018
“…the most perfect of White House press corps teamwork unfolded…”
It’s hard to disagree with Lawrence O’Donnell and for the most part I enjoy his MSNBC show The Last Word, particularly in the Trump era. But much like news coverage by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, you often have to ask yourself if they are always covering a given topic to its fullest and consider what is being left out.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefings are always contentious occasions, but yesterday’s was always going to be even more so given all that happened surrounding Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian despot/president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and its aftermath.
Of course Lawrence is right when he points out in the above clip that it was nice to see NBC’s Halle Jackson and The Hill’s Jordan Fabian working together to prevent ‘SHuckS’ (why isn’t everybody calling her that????) from dodging important questions, having seen the entire briefing I think it would have been prudent for him to also mention what happened regarding April Ryan from the American Urban Radio Network.
Ryan and SHuckS have had several heated exchanges in the past and on this occasion, I thought her question was not only relevant but also one that was unlikely to have been asked by her fellow journalists in this session.
In her defence of the president’s approach to election security, SHuckS listed a range of measures she claims has been taken by the Trump administration. Ryan wanted to know if voter suppression, in other words actions taken by mostly Republican state legislatures around the country, was also on the list.
At first, her question was completely ignored. To be fair, Ryan was eventually allowed to ask it, yet while SHuckS offered some words in reply, none of them could really be considered a ‘straight answer’.
But this post is not about SHuckS, rather O’Donnell and the corporate media for which he works. If there really was a general sense of teamwork among the White House press corps, then Ryan would have received the same help from her colleagues that Jackson did.
Ryan’s experience wasn’t completely ignored by the wider media. Josh Feldman of Mediaite wrote of it in his piece : “April Ryan Confronts Sarah Sanders For Not Calling on Her in Briefing: ‘I’ll Keep Asking the Question’” while a more conservative slant was put on it in “April Ryan keeps interrupting Sarah Sanders – Sarah finally loses it” by the Daily Caller’s Benny johnson.
But with Trump finding new creative ways to shoe horn himself into the headlines every day, I can’t see the very real issue of voter suppression coming even close to the mainstream again any time soon. JLP
Gerrymandering is a process widely practised in democracies across the world [including Ireland] and has been proven to have a significant impact on representative government, yet it is broadly ignored by the mainstream media.
Podcast by Best Of The Left on January 19, 2018
“These district lines are the building blocks of democracy and when they get perverted and twisted as this, it leads to deeply undemocratic outcomes…that damages the levers of representative government and that is how elections are rigged and that is the kind of rigged we need to be talking about, not what Donald Trump is talking about.”
Packing. Cracking. The Efficiency Gap. Prison-gerrymadering,
IMO it is vital that we fully understand those terms – in fact I only learned about that last one regarding prisons from listening to the above episode of Best of the Left, a twice-weekly podcast which collates snippets from different online media sources on a specific topic.
We need to know every aspect of this process of gerrymandering, as well as how widespread it is. At the moment Donald Trump is rumoured to be placing a man named Thomas Brunel, known to be heavily involved in rigging several districts in favour of Republicans, in charge of the next US census, which in turn decides most of the electoral boundaries across the country.
Do you think this practise doesn’t happen in Ireland anymore? Think again. There are over 150 TDs yet with only 26 counties to cover, many are lumped together in constituencies like Cavan/Monaghan, Sligo/Leitrim and Carlow/Kilkenny making it possible that entire counties can go without representation.
Then we have a practise I call ‘GerryAdamsing’, namely organising your votes to ensure multiple candidates from a particular party win seats. Sinn Féin are far from the only party to do this but they are definitely among the best and the overall point is that it should not be possible at all.
But I am straying too far into my own personal opinion on the subject of voter suppression. The point of this post is to encourage everyone to bring themselves up to speed and form their own opinion, and I recommend this episode of BestOfTheLeft as a good starting point. JLP