How the left can rise again – in three steps

Liberals and left-wing types are usually well-educated, yet, time and again, they show extraordinary ignorance about what motivates people to take one political stance over another.

The idea that voters calmly and unemotionally weigh up the pros and cons of Remain versus Leave, for example, or Clinton versus Trump, is a fantasy.

As the Scottish Enlightenment thinker David Hume wrote: “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

A hundred years of cognitive science has shown this to be the case: humans are intuitive creatures. Emotions come first, justifications for a decision or action come later.

It might be a welcome thing if we were all unflappable, reasoning machines, but if the political left is banking on this to achieve its goals, it will have to wait effectively until society is run by artificial intelligence.

So what should the left do? As someone who always self-identified in that camp, I humbly suggest three things:  Continue reading

Advertisements

Rebranding socialism as humane and socially responsible capitalism

Thirty years ago Desmond Fennell observed that socialist thought in Ireland was “virtually non-existent”. James Connolly “is still the chief reference source of Irish socialism, with no other Irish thinker intervening” since.

That summation still holds good, as does Fennell’s conclusion that “socialist activism has been confined to the margins”. Since the foundation of the State, the s-word has been a turn-off for the electorate.

In the 1969 general election, the Labour Party campaigned under the slogan “the seventies will be socialist” and it promptly lost four seats. The IRA’s promise to deliver, by violence, a “32-county socialist republic” did little to help the left-wing brand. And while the electorally successful Bertie Ahern proclaimed to be “one of the few socialists left in Irish politics”, voters – understandably – took this as a joke.

Today, socialism continues to play badly at the ballot box. Those politicians who used to canvass under the socialist tag now go by the name Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit, presumably because they copped on the Irish are more likely to vote against austerity than for an “ism”.  Continue reading