Lesson for arrogant elite in 'family' vote
Way back in 1972 as Richard Nixon won re-election to the White House by a landslide, a writer with the 'New Yorker' magazine, Pauline Kael, looked on aghast and stunned. Bewildered and angry, she reportedly declared, without a hint of self-irony, that Mr Nixon couldn't have won because she knew no one who had voted for him.
There are many Pauline Kaels in Irish public life. They can be found in the Oireachtas, the media, the law library, academia, the trade union movement. They have the same opinions on almost everything. They regard with contempt anyone who disagrees with them in any substantial way.
They arrogantly assume that such people belong only to a small and ignorant minority. They never consult outside their own tight circle, which includes the 'social partners'.
This usually doesn't present much of a problem, but every now and again that 'small and ignorant minority', which may not be a minority at all, finds the opportunity to rebel and this is one of the reasons why the Lisbon Treaty was defeated.
If our Pauline Kaels cannot suppress their natural contempt for such voters, not alone will they lose future referendums, they run a real risk that new political parties or new political movements, of both left and right, will be founded to challenge the current dead-eyed consensus in a very serious way.
Let's take the part of the electorate I understand best, which we'll call 'family values voters'. There is probably no part of the electorate treated with more contempt by the political and media establishments.
These voters believe that human life should be protected in law from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. They believe that children tend to do best when raised by their mothers and fathers, and they believe in marriage. They also believe in the value of religion. These are not the views of extremists, contrary to the opinion of politicians with bad memories of the 1980s; this is a constituency which, although diminished, is never going to disappear.
If the main parties had listened to such voters, they would have substantially sliced the majority who voted 'No'. All they had to do was provide absolute legal safeguards against the EU interfering with family law in Ireland and with the constitutional protection of the right to life. A guarantee that the employment policy of religious institutions would not be interfered with would also have gone a long way.
Of course, what Europhiles will tell us is that our abortion law is already protected, and that family law is not a 'competence' of the EU. But while I believe our abortion law probably is protected by the Maastricht Protocol, the EU is using its anti-discrimination powers to interfere in family law in countries like Germany. Lisbon would have made this worse by giving the European Court of Justice (ECJ) yet more power of intervention via the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
In addition, the European Commission recently tried to drastically curtail the ability of religious schools to protect their ethos by refusing to employ people whose views or lifestyles ran contrary to it.
It pulled in its horns on this occasion but if the Commission doesn't revisit this issue, the ECJ probably will.
The political establishment could have found out about these concerns by the simple act of talking to, say, Senator Ronan Mullen for a half-hour, but he is outside of the golden circle and therefore they are practically deaf, dumb and blind to what he has to say.
Here, there now exists a ready-made coalition for any party or movement with the wit and ability to make a pitch for it. That coalition consists broadly of three constituencies, namely mild Euro-sceptics, mild social conservatives and those who want lower taxes and value-for-money public services.
Aside perhaps from the mild Euro-scepticism, Fine Gael should be the party which makes a pitch for this vote. But it won't because it is still in thrall to a liberal, lawyerly class left over from former Taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald's day and is still mesmerised by the 'Irish Times'. This is why, for example, the party has the worst policy position on gay civil unions of all the parties but doesn't even know it because it won't consult with anyone outside that lawyerly class. It is also why it uses grossly offensive terms like 'apartheid' when discussing schooling in Ireland.
Fianna Fail could attract mild social conservatives very easily but instead it gives State money and ministerial attention to 'family diversity' groups who are, de facto, anti-marriage. In its 11 years in power, Fianna Fail has not introduced a single pro-marriage policy and by now wouldn't know a pro-marriage policy if it tripped over it.
The parties can continue to ignore the moderate Euro-sceptics, and the social and fiscal conservatives, but they must realise that Declan Ganley is likely to greet some or all of this coalition with open arms.