Riding A Zeitgeist He Didn’t Create But Others Have Missed



From top: Donald Trump arrives at Shannon Airport; Derek Mooney

Many of Donald Trump’s potential voters are not blind to the fact that the few solutions he offers are unworkable or that he has no grasp of foreign policy.

They are using him as much as he is using them.

Derek Mooney writes:

“Donald Trump looks as if he was playing a President in a porn movie.”

This was Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle’s scathing put down of the Donald on BBC radio four’s News Quiz last Friday.

Maybe it is something to do with the Donald’s addiction to calling everything ‘huge’ (or as he says it: huuuuuge ) and lauding his own achievements with outlandish superlatives but Boyle’s taunt perfectly captures Trump’s OTT and hammy public appearances.

Trump’s emergence as a real contender for the White House has surprised most pundits including – if one of his former publicists is to be believed – himself.

How could this gauche, egotistical, property dealing demagogue tear up the US presidential campaign playbook and beat a string of long established Republican hopefuls?

Hard though we may find it to comprehend from this side of the Atlantic; but part of the Trump phenomenon is that he has teed-up this US presidential election to be a fight between the Washington insider: Hillary Clinton and the outsider: Trump.

Though we may find it difficult to conjure up the image of Trump as an outsider, but in the contest of Clinton Vs Trump, that is what he is.

The term “outsider” is a relative one, not an absolute. It is nothing to do with his history, background or experience, it is about the attitude and outlook he conveys.

Trump does not embody the outsider spirt, but he speaks to it – bluntly – to rally many millions of ordinary middle Americans who, rightly or wrongly, feel that they are now outsiders.

Since the 1970s the American middle class has shrunk from 61% of the population to 50%, while the American dream has become an increasingly distant prospect for the majority.

Many voters believe that America has lost its way and believe Washington is to blame. So, Trump paints the former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and member of the newest US political dynasty as a member of the Washington elite and a part of their problem.

It is hardly a new tactic. First you paint your opponent, particularly if [s]he is an incumbent, as out of touch and elitist and then contrast yourselves with [s]he while reciting your voters complaints back at them.

But what Trump has done is a few steps beyond that. He is riding a zeitgeist that he didn’t create, but that others have missed.

Many of his potential voters are not blind to the fact that the few solutions he offers are unworkable or that he has no grasp of foreign policy. They almost embrace these failings.

They are using Trump as much as he is using them.

He is the battering ram with which they can break what they perceive as a broken and corrupt political system. It is why (and how) you can have the seeming incongruity of some Sanders supporters telling pollsters that they are willing to back Trump now that Hillary has beaten Sanders.

Though the analysis and solutions on offer from Senator Sanders differ huuugely from those hinted at by Trump, the core message is the same – America cannot tolerate more of the same.

Things have to change.

The insider versus the outsider analysis also applies in Ireland, particularly an Ireland still coming to terms with the economic upheavals of the last decade.

It explains, in part, the last election results and the massive losses suffered by Labour and Fine Gael.

The Irish Labour Party’s problem is that it has too many insiders and is now led by the arch insider. Though its one “token” ministerial outsider, Alan Kelly tried hard to portray himself as an outsider, but as I mentioned in a Broadsheet piece a few weeks ago, his fast-tracked “rise without trace” to the top makes him an insider.

Meanwhile, Labour’s former BFF, Fine Gael, is also replete with insiders, both generational and aspirational – by aspirational, I mean those whose career paths has followed the line: college – YFG – FG research office – TD’s parliamentary assistant – Ministerial Sp/Ad – TD – minister, without any stop offs in the real world.

With his capacity for kicking against the traces, Leo Varadkar is possibly the closest thing that FG has had to an outsider since John Deasy.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sinn Féin and the various alphabet left alliances are, on the surface at least, full of political outsiders. Though, in the case of SF, it is hard to portray yourself as a complete outsider when your leader predates the electrification of the Howth/Bray rail-line and shares Trump’s penchant for the outrageous tweets.

Traditionally, in Irish Politics, the Independent TDs have been the outsiders. In particular, people like Neil T. Blaney or Jim Kemmy, who broke away from their parties or Tony Gregory who described party politics as strangling.

Which of today’s much larger crop of Independents from the Healy-Raes to the McGraths to Ross, Halligan and Zappone will still be regarded as outsiders in two or three years time will be interesting to see.

Which brings us to Fianna Fáil: Ireland’s outsider insiders.

For most of its history, there has been something of the outsider edge to Fianna Fáil, indeed the party has been at its most successful when led by outsiders, such as Ahern and Lemass.

Even Haughey, for his love of horses, fine dining and hand tailoring had a bit of the outsider/arrivisté about him – especially when contrasted with Garret Fitzgerald’s professorial, relic of aul’ deceny.

As I said earlier, in the context of Trump’s positioning of himself, being the outsider is a relative position, not an absolute one. It is how Michéal Martin’s Fianna Fáil has repositioned itself on the political spectrum.

Compared to Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael and Joan Burton’s Labour, Martin is – despite his long experience around the cabinet table – more of an outsider.

Not only has he has learned the lessons of the crash, he demonstrated over the course of the last election and in the weeks since that he has grasped that we need to change the way we do politics and that what kind of worked in the 90s will not work today.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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61 thoughts on “Riding A Zeitgeist He Didn’t Create But Others Have Missed

  1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

    Just like Farage, right-wing parties in Europe – the “outsider” who is anything but who taps into political disenfranchisement and fear that is not based on reality. I’m not sure how you combat that.

    1. pedeyw

      It’s very difficult. In the minds of their supporters any criticism of Farage/Trump/whoever just exaggerates their false “outsider” status.

      1. Kieran NYC

        The best way that I’ve found of persuading Trump supporters is to just repeat his words back at them. The more he speaks, the more doubts they have. I know a really (otherwise) intelligent friend of mine who a couple of weeks ago was very excited to vote for him in the NJ primary today.

        Now, he ‘will probably’ vote this afternoon.

        1. Shayna

          In my French ‘A’ Level translation paper back in the the 80s, there was a phrase “saute ruisseau” – old French, kinda sums up your friend?

  2. ahjayzis

    Can you put the paid-lackey of Fianna Fail part at the top so I don’t waste my time in future? Cheeyourz.

    Sneaky bugger even waited til the last paragraph to tell us Bertie Ahern’s chamber boy is the great hope of new politics. Get fupped.

    1. Shockabilly

      +1 it all turned sour at the end.

      Micheal Martin’s single year as a teacher hardly qualifies him as having much in the way of real world experience….

      So YFG =insiders and Ogra FF = outsiders. Now I geddit.

      just another FF shill – poor job broadsheet.

      1. ahjayzis

        Michael Martin as minister opened my schools gym when I was 11, after which he government with FF for another 10 years leading us into the greatest economic crisis in our history. New politics my hole.

        These odious little tribal FF creeps really do think we’re fupping idiots.

  3. LW

    It’s a bit of a leap to paint the party who’ve been in power most over the history of the state as outsiders

  4. classter

    Why is Broadsheet giving a forum to disgraced FFers?

    Why is Bertie Ahern slowly being rehabilitated by the media?


  5. bisted

    …is this party political broadsheet on behalf of the FFers going to be a regular thing?

    1. ahjayzis

      His Twitter bio would seem to indicate that.

      As long as Fine Gael get one too in an effort to move away frm BS’s left wing stance.

      Otherwise BS are actively playing into the ridiculous myth that FF are tending leftward, when nothing could be further from the truth.

  6. some old queen

    Anyone with half a brain can see that the outsiders in Irish politics are SF. It was glaringly obvious by the way in which certain media outlets went after them in the run up to the last election. And the more they are demonised, the more gains they will make. Such is the cynicism of the electorate.

    Of course the self serving carry on in forming a government has been a gift to SF but both FF and FG only have themselves to blame for that.

  7. ahjayzis

    “Even Haughey, for his love of horses, fine dining and hand tailoring had a bit of the outsider/arrivisté about him – especially when contrasted with Garret Fitzgerald’s professorial, relic of aul’ deceny.”

    What bubble do you live in where you fail to mention his love of kickbacks and bribery? He was probably the most corrupt government leader in Europe at the time, and the most corrupt politician we’ve ever had? In a long, long line of Fianna Fail corruption. Yeah, thieving, grafting slime balls tend to have a splash of the arriviste about them alright. Totes. Seriously. You crowd are beyond parody.

    1. Jordofthejungle

      But Ahjaysus – the Irish love a bit of a rogue apparently! Look at Berlusconi, even with a permanent and dramatic cloud of dodgy-dealing suspicion hanging over him, a huge part of the Italian electorate had no problem voting for him and his Forza Italia party time and time again.

    2. pedeyw

      Haughey’s last insult was to make me late for band practice when his funeral held up the dart. I know this is insignificant in the scheme of things but I found it funny that even in death he found ways to screw over the population for his own aggrandisement.

  8. classter

    There is something in this but it is essentially incoherent (perhaps because of the author’s biases).

    Being an ‘outsider’ is about attitude & outlook, we are told, but then there’s a strange dig at Gerry Adams’ longevity. SF – former paramilitary wing, associations with criminality, populism, no experience of governing down South – are surely outsiders according to the author’s definition, however long Adams has been in-situ.

    Lemass was an army captain, son-in-law to Devalera & a long-time, loyal minister to Dev. How did he have an ‘outsider’ air in any way?

  9. classter

    This ends in some complete raimeis about Michéal Martin having ‘learned the lessons of the crash’. What empty, partisan stupidity. Why is Broadsheet sharing this?

    I can read this nonsense in any of Ireland’s lazy, mainstream newspapers.

    At least Merceille, for all his faults, is sharing a view not given a sufficient airing in the public discussion.

  10. Friscondo

    Boyles best line about Trump is surely, “has the manner of an arrogant televangelist suspected of murder by Colombo.” It’s horrific to think it will be him or Clinton in office next year. She’s as bad as him for different reasons.

  11. Eoin

    Let me break it down. Trumps likely VP pick is Jeff Sessions. He is vehemently anti- TTIP. If Trump gets in TTIP is dead. If Hillary gets in TTIP is go. So to fall in line EU either reduces worker holidays to be in line with the US or US workers get a couple of weeks more holidays. Now seriously, which one do you think is more likely? You want your annual holidays dropped to ten days? Well then I’d start praying for Trump. Because that’s what we’re going to get with Hillary.

    1. Rob_G

      “So to fall in line EU either reduces worker holidays to be in line with the US or US workers get a couple of weeks more holidays.”

      – does this have any basis outside of your fevered imagination?

  12. Mike Oxlong

    Back under that rock of yours Mooney. You and your ilk have sufficiently dirtied your bib in the bankruptcy of the state.

    Jog on.

  13. sendog

    “Even Haughey, for his love of horses, fine dining and hand tailoring had a bit of the outsider/arrivisté about him – especially when contrasted with Garret Fitzgerald’s professorial, relic of aul’ deceny.”

    “Martin is – despite his long experience around the cabinet table – more of an outsider”

    wtf!! haha!

    Haughey lived in a mansion and was chaufer driven around in a merc. or in a helicopter. I doubt he saw much of outside at all. Martin was so far on the inside that he was virtually anonymous for the 14 years he was in government.

    Braodsheet, is this lad shaping up to be the next Noel Whelan?

    1. classter

      Ha, yes that was the problem with Haughey, he liked expensive things.

      Oh wait, no, he was COMPLETELY CORRUPT, he weakened the state & destroyed (eventually) his own party.

      If that’s being an outsider, then please give me insiders.

  14. ollie

    “Not only has he has learned the lessons of the crash”
    If you are going to b u l lpoo us Mooney, at least try and make it vaguely plausible.

    1. ahjayzis

      Lessons such as get out when the going’s good, since the likes of Hanafin (it’s my only income!), Coughlan, Dempsey, et al made more money over the last 5 years from NOT working for us, than Meeeehole did as a TD.

  15. Caroline

    There’s a lot of good stuff in here Derek. However we recommend applicants keep their covering letter brief, with just a few paragraphs summing up their particular suitability for the job.

  16. Rob_G

    Starts more-or-less well, than struggles a bit when trying to extend the ‘outsider’ analogy to Ireland (surely Ming Flanagan or Shane Ross would be much better examples?), then turns into a weird exculpation of any responsibility for Michael Martin for the crash.

    D+, must do better.

  17. Anne

    “that they are willing to back Trump now that Hillary has beaten Sanders.”
    Beaten? Sorry now, but he’s not been ‘beaten’ yet.

    “As I said earlier, in the context of Trump’s positioning of himself, being the outsider is a relative position, not an absolute one. It is how Michéal Martin’s Fianna Fáil has repositioned itself on the political spectrum.”

    Yeah, Meehall is as much an outsider as Trump.. that’d be he’s not an outsider at all.

    What a pile of poo. Don’t make me read this again, please.. ban him admins. Do it. I’ll sleep with ye all.

    1. The Key of G

      He ( Sanders) has actually Anne. Hillary has enough delegates now apparently

      1. classter

        She hasn’t!

        AP’s call that she has (out of nowhere & presumably prompted by Hillary’s media team) includes super-delegates who aren’t counted until the delegation.

        Part of it will depend on how today’s primaries go.

        Realsitically, she is almost certainly going to win but she has not won yet.

          1. Anne

            Superdelegates don’t vote until July 25th.

            The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee – based on a so-called “survey” of these superdelegates by the Associated Press.. the timing of that announcement is a bit suspicious to say the least.

            What are superdelegates, you might be wondering .. here ye go.


          1. classter

            I don’t believe for a second that Hillary’s team were annoyed. I reckon a high turnout is more likely to help Sanders. Clinton wants the primary voters to accept her as a done deal.

            I have been disgusted at the way that she has been effectively annointed nominee well over a year ago & I reckon her contacts in the media (call it conspiracy) have done a sterling job of ensuring she barely had to fight a campaign. That sense that she thinks that campaigning is below her may well come back to haunt her later.

            I still accept that she is very likely to win both the delegate & superdelegate count.

          2. Kieran NYC

            Clinton wants people to turn out to vote for her. People might not bother if they think she has already won the thing. Whereas Sanders supporters will be even more p/ssed off and motivated to turn out.

            Barely had to fight a campaign? What news have you been watching? Seriously – a nationally unknown Senator from the backwoods of Vermont has created a political movement out of nowhere and run her very close, all things considered. And for ‘friends in the media’, you’d think they would have been nicer with the sustained vitriolic attacks on her the last 25 years.

            (Also Sanders tends to do better in caucus states where the process helps keep turnout low. And she is ahead of him nationally by about 3 million more votes.)

          3. The Key of G

            Yes last week I read Sanders might still have a chance of getting to the convention if he held a good caucus in California.

  18. The Key of G

    It’s really well-written – well done – but a total load of bollocks


  19. Jordofthejungle

    We’ll no doubt see how “outsider” Michael Martin is & his real commitment to “a new way of doing politics” once he returns possibly in the next election with either a Fianna Fáil majority or at least the Soldiers of Destiny as the largest party. I have a sneaking suspicion, it’ll be Back to the Future with Fianna Fáil…

  20. Mulder

    Listen is it true that, FF, intend to sell Ireland to trump for a large golf resort and then blame FG.
    With both splitting the profit to form a new political force, the Fach gall party, who intend to purchase a small island off the coast of South America and set up the ehh, new Republic.
    Where all water will have to be rationed and paid for in advance.
    The new health service on this island, will have, at least 3 cottage hospitals. with any number of witch doctors in attendance so no worries regarding health.
    Who would have thought.
    Plus president Trump.

  21. Truth in the News

    Lemass was not a Captan in the Irish Army, his son in law one Charles Haughey’s
    Father was an officer in the Free State Army, they way its going now the insiders
    are becoming “outsiders” indeed outcasts, and those on the outside are becoming
    “insiders” even an elite, could the real irony of it all be that the unfinished revolution 100 years ago might well be finalised before the year is out, as the two civil war parties look over their shoulder at the emerging Sinn Fein, the hand of
    history turning the wheel full circle.

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