Sunday 15 September 2019

John Daly: 'Green shoots of hope amid US midterm madness'

Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Missouri, ahead of tomorrow's midterm elections. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Missouri, ahead of tomorrow's midterm elections. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

John Daly

If you need a suitable antidote to these dark evenings, look no further than tomorrow's midterm elections in the US.

Not normally an event that would excite too much interest this side of the pond, the 2018 congressional slug-fest has morphed into a Conor McGregor pre-fight extravaganza, complete with the stump-pounding present occupant of the White House doing a red state rope-a-dope for wavering Republican voters.

When WB Yeats observed in 1918, "I have a horror of modern politics and its manipulation of popular enthusiasm by false news", the poet little knew how telling the statement would be a century later. Trump has outdone even his previous standard of fibs and fabrications over the past few weeks with statements accusing the Democrats of engineering the Honduran migrant caravan while clapping his own back as the most popular president in US history.

But even his most ardent supporters have found some of the bloopers hard to process, as shown recently by the ever-faithful Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted 11 days as White House communications chief: "If you want me to say he's a liar, I'm happy to say he's a liar - he definitely has a reality distortion field around himself." Beautiful. Next time I'm caught rotten in a web of balderdash and baloney, I'll definitely be pleading the 'reality distortion' defence.

However, the midterms do offer other more uplifting angles on the state of US politics.

Beto O'Rourke, whose forebears emigrated to Texas from Ireland in the 19th century, has demonstrated an evolving Democratic image in his ability not just to draw massive crowds, but also in attracting record levels of campaign contributions in his bid to wrest the Lone Star State from its 30-year Republican stranglehold.

Of mixed Irish and Mexican parentage, he sees the border in a very different light to the man who wants to build a wall there. "El Paso in many ways is today's Ellis Island for Mexico and much of Latin America," is an O'Rourke credo that resonates dynamically with the new American immigrant, imbued as they are with the same ambitions that fired his own ancestors to cross the Atlantic from Cobh 200 years ago.

Boston is also offering a new Democratic champion in the ultra photogenic congressman Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, grandson of Robert and great-nephew of JFK. Another individual filling stadiums with the faithful, he stands as a reminder just how powerful a weapon honesty can still be in an age of fake news. And proving he has the trademark Kennedy humour, here's his recollection of his first month on Capitol Hill: "I had a tough time learning how to act like a congressman - one day I accidentally spent some of my own money."

Crowds chanting 'JPK' are giving voice to the dreams of a new generation. In 2020, the latest Kennedy scion will be almost the same age as Bobby was when he ran for the White House in 1968... watch this space.

Irish Independent

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