Plenty of steam has (and will be) given off this week for the visit of President Trump to Ireland on the tail-end of his visit to Europe. Almost three years into his term, Ireland’s progressive classes have failed to properly acclimate to a leader they repeatedly fail to get the measure of.
Following on from talks with the departing Theresa May as well as the 75th D-Day commemorations, President Trump is scheduled to spend two days in his privately owned Doonbeg resort.
The tired accusations of racism/misogyny trotted out, with the usual suspects assembling to protest the visit. A certain part of them must wonder that if Left-wing anti-racist demonstrations were to stop Trump, they would have by now. Since he announced his candidacy Trump has been plagued by such protests and denunciations, none having an effect on his ascent to power.
The vitriol that Trump engenders is part of the dialectic that has allowed him to demolish his opponents since 2014, and which Irish progressives are willingly complicit in fanning. Anti-Trump hysteria, particularly from Irish people, verges on the irrational. While it is perfectly understandable to dislike a sitting American president to the point of protest, Trump embodies a hatred far more primal.
My diagnosis is that the man represents a certain patriarchal archetype they are dead set on rebelling against. In a world where secular progressive signalling fills the void left by Christian morality, Trump flies in the face of the current liberal moral order.
By simply shrugging at accusations of xenophobia he has come to represent a form of Right-wing Satanism in their eyes. The response by the Left is the equivalent of rosary clutching Catholics reacting to a Black Mass. For the first time in modern history we have an American President who is genuinely counter-cultural, even if he has mellowed a lot since taking office.
Despite candidate Trump’s bombastic approach, his actual administration ranks as that of a standard centre right President. Fears of a global world war have been shown to be overblown, with foreign policy successes in North Korea and a notable de-escalation of tensions with the Assad regime. The American economy chugs along, all the while Trump’s key promise of a border wall with Mexico remains unfulfilled.
Arguably the main Irish concern from his administration is something scarcely mentioned by anti-racist street protestors. With a commitment towards economic nationalism Trump could potentially call time on Ireland’s FDI and offshore tax based economic model. Ireland’s de facto money laundering operation regarding corporate profits has long vexed American politicians, with Ireland labelled a tax haven by American senators in 2013.
In the Trumpian worldview Ireland is freeloading off profits generated by American corporations, and who can blame him for being irritated at that? While his detractors claim to be anti-capitalist, it is clear that Trump and his pursuit of Ireland’s offshore economy keeps Google and Apple awake at night more so than any People Before Profit activist.
Those who disparage Trump’s visit claim that the Irish government is prioritising profits over principle, and on that claim they are correct. Trump could probably crash the Irish economy with a single twitter tirade if he wanted to. The power disparity is always going to be there between us and America. We are an American economic satrap as much as we are a European one, and while Ireland is happy to humour anti-Trump rhetoric Varadkar and company know where to draw the line.
Irish-American relations are defined by a one-way obsequiousness. The era in which the Irish lobby carried real weight has long since passed since the heyday of JFK or even the hammering out of the Good Friday Agreement. The sad spectacle of the Irish Taoiseach paying homage to American presidents is perhaps one of the most pathetic events in our political calendar, but it is one that our government wants to keep no matter who is in charge. For all the signalling the powers that be in Irish political and economic life understand the need for good relations with the United States.
Famously in 2017 Enda Kenny slyly denounced President Trump citing the latter’s to curb illegal and Islamic immigration in front of the man himself. From The Young Turks to all across the progressive spectrum Kenny was lauded as a liberal flag bearer against a regressive Trump administration.
While the acclaim surely buttressed Kenny’s ego, little was thought of the potential consequences of such an act. While extolled as a virtuous act of sticking it to a xenophobic brute, Kenny’s actions could have imperilled Irish economic security with zero reward. Playing to liberal audiences at home and abroad may be very well and good, but when done without any tact or backup plan, it can be a dangerous.
While Kenny can be praised for pluckily standing up against the mighty America, this was done for cheap progressive signalling rather than the national interest. Anti-Trump protestors are right to point out the sycophancy of the Irish government towards America, but fail to take into account how ready and willing the government appears to be to sacrifice economic wellbeing for good write ups in the New York Times.
There are good reasons to be hostile to both Trump and his visit, but those assembling to protest the American Commander in Chief miss them by a mile. Trump’s economic nationalism has the potential to shatter the economic ecosystem Ireland has built up for itself. His recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as recent sabre-rattling towards Tehran is enough to rattle the cage of any Irish person of good will. Even the ten million euro price tag of his visit which will largely consist of to playing golf is enough to frustrate any taxpayer.
Three years on from the Brexit and Trump shockwaves of 2016, progressives are still very high on indignation, but very short on solutions to the causes of the populist surge. The simple truth is Trump and Brexit originate in the systemic flaws in liberalism and will continue to flourish so long as these issues are not addressed. Disparities emanating from globalisation, national identity, and mass immigration being central to them. The prospect of a second Trump term in 2020 hinges on the people inhabiting a few deindustrialised Mid-Western states, an electoral audience which progressive screeching is only going to alienate and anger.
Ultimately Trump and his visit will be met by indifference by the vast majority of the Irish populace. The Irish public has had three years to accustom themselves to Trump and his rhetoric, and while we don’t have to like the man, we have to understand he is part of the furniture of geopolitical life.
In a rather amusing statement denouncing Trump, president of the Union of Students in Ireland Síona Cahill accused the President of de facto proto-fascism alongside racism and misogyny, all the while claiming to represent the student population. The opinion of this student (who Cahill and the USI do not represent) is one of mild indifference, and I imagine most students of Ireland take a similar approach. Trump feeds off the anger generated by banal progressives like Cahill both in Ireland and in America.
The radicalism of Trump lies in how he discombobulates his opponents who are accustomed to triumphing by hurling accusations of racism. For years, I thought nothing was more pathetic than the Irish Taoiseach bending the knee each March at White House. The anti-Trump hysteria of Ireland’s progressive classes has sadly topped even that.