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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Anton Savage: The Man With The Magnificent Hair won't win, but will he decide who will?

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Peter Fitzpatrick
Miley Cyrus
Madonna

Donald Trump, billionaire and heir to the company and real estate fortune created by his father Fred, has announced his intention to run for President of the United States.

Which begs a big, giant, enormous 'why?'

It is not like he can win. Independent candidates don't become president (not since George Washington anyway). So there isn't even the tiniest chance that Donald is going to be the Commander-in-Chief. He's going to spend a small fortune and invest vast amounts of time and effort chasing a prize he can never attain.

In so doing, he's also going to make it more likely that the guy he most opposes gets in. America has a first-past-the-post system, so if you vote for Trump and he doesn't get in, your vote dies.

It doesn't transfer to Jeb Bush, or whichever Republican would be next on your list, it dies (and Trump fans won't be voting Democrat).

The effect of this is to split the vote on whichever side the Independent is on, helping the party on the other side -just like Ralph Nader helped George W Bush get elected.

Ralph Nader is a liberal lawyer whose reputation is based on his 1965 book, Unsafe at any speed, in which he argued that a lot of American cars of the time were dangerous.

The book had a significant effect on the US car industry and made Nader popular with liberals.

In later years he seemed to become besotted with this popularity and insisted on running for President despite having even less chance than Donald of The Magnificent Hair.

There are those who argue his presence in the 2000 election split the left-wing vote, thereby allowing George Bush to sneak in.

It's not a foregone conclusion that an independent candidate splits the vote of one side in the US presidential election.

Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire, picked up votes roughly equally from potential supporters of Bush Snr and Clinton in the 1992 election.

Perot, incidentally, ended up being the most successful third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt, but even with his vast riches and strong initial polling, no-one really thought he'd win, leaving analysts to attribute the same motivations to him, Nader and probably now Trump - egotism and hubris.

Those are two characteristics Donald has in spades, so maybe they are motivation enough for him to hurl time, attention and money at a lost cause. But it's hard to see Trump being that stupid. Tasteless and overbearing, yes. But stupid, no.

Trump has to figure he gains in other ways. Either he can bring to bear influence on the campaign and push his world view through ads into American living rooms.

Or maybe he thinks that he can accrue post election influence by withdrawing at the right time, clearing a path for the 'right' candidate. Neither is a happy thought.

 

Why do so many TDs try to get elected to a Dail that's so disappointing?

Former Louth football manager and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick has announced that he will not be standing in the next election - the reported reason being that he failed to make much impact in the Dail during the past four years.

2015-06-18_opi_10472589_I1.JPG
Peter Fitzpatrick TD

He's a member of a rapidly growing club of politicians who appear somewhat disillusioned with the office to which they were elected. Some of that club - like Fine Gael's Peter Mathews and Fianna Fail senator Averil Power - had issues with parties. But for Fitzpatrick, like George Lee before him, the sense of powerlessness is not limited to political grouping.

Not for them the quick shift to independence, rather the complete departure from politics.

It makes you wonder what they thought would happen when they sought their seats.

nagging

Irish politics is about providing the solution which offends the fewest people at any given time. Achieving that is a mire of compromise, consensus, persuasion, pressure, networking and nagging.

Mostly we talk about that as if it's a problem. As if more authority and executive control provided better government. The evidence would suggest they don't - America's binary system of rolling conflict is not one to emulate. Nor is Singapore's effectively single-party state. Nor is Russia's quasi-dictatorship.

Nor should we look back through rose-coloured spectacles at previous Irish one-party governments with strong concentrations of power.

Democratic government is messy, slow, difficult and complicated. It also works. Maybe that needs to be made clearer to candidates, so they go in with open eyes. Bismark's line is clearly not quoted enough to new legislators: "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."

 

Miley's as subtle as a wrecking ball

Madonna may not be the most relevant of singers anymore but she is still selling out big tours, filling arenas and selling records. She is getting top billing at international awards ceremonies and events.

Her continued presence among the world's top-selling artists is thanks in part to her capacity to push the boundaries. It's equally down to her judgement of when to stop pushing them. Which is a lesson she could teach Miley Cyrus.

The former Hannah Montana star has established she's a promiscuous bisexual and has done so many nude photo shoots that the last one needed a live pig to gain attention. She's 22. It's time she learned from Madge and cooled her jets for a while.

 

A distasteful sign of the Times

The New York Times published an article following the tragic deaths of six students in Berkeley, analysing the behaviour of J1 students and raising questions about the visa programme.

 

The (possibly unintended) implication of the piece was that the students were somehow responsible for the accident. The suggestion is as specious as it is offensive. But people and publications  make mistakes.

They don't see implications. The real test is what they do when they mistake is pointed out. The economist John Maynard Keynes is reputed to have said: "When the information changes, I change my mind. What do you do sir?" The paper last night said it never intended to blame victims and apologised "if the piece left that impression". Have they changed their mind?

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