Negative Democracy refers to the rising fad where members of a democracy decide to vote against something instead of voting for it. Negative democracy was ubiquitous in the last American election and we all know how that turned out. Some voted against Trump for the glaringly obvious reasons. Others voted against Hilary instead of for Trump as many people believed that they could not trust Hilary. They believed that their only option to not allow Hilary to win would be if they voted for Trump. It was people picking the lesser of two evils because they did not believe they had an alternative. At home in Ireland, everyone moaned and groaned at the Americans for allowing such a calamity to occur. However, we appear to be following a dangerously similar path ourselves.
We have seen this in our own country during the Repeal campaign. The campaign was overwhelmingly successful. However, the campaign was advocating for a negativizing outcome of repealing law instead of approving – or ‘positivising’ – anew law to overrule the old, out of date law. People will point to how the government had promised legislation to be introduced subsequently after a successful repeal campaign and how these proposals were clear, that everyone voting to repeal agreed that they were voting for this proposal.
However, if the proposals were so clear and obvious, why haven’t they been implemented yet? Why do we need the Dáil to debate a matter which we apparently already had decided, a proposal which around two-thirds of voters were in favour of?
We have also seen negative democracy infest itself in our university during the impeachment campaign of Katie Ascough. If a re-election was held as opposed to an impeachment campaign, we would have the student body voting for their most desirable candidate instead of voting simply against one person. The impeachment campaign resulted in Ascough’s personal and family life being scrutinised in the public spotlight. She was ridiculed, and her name dragged through the mud. Who would run for office again after suffering what she had to go through at the hands of students that voted for her to be in office (Ascough won the original election by over 400 votes)?
6,572 students voted in the impeachment election. However, only 2,610 students voted in the subsequent election a few weeks later. What happened to the 4,000 students that were so passionate about the removal of the SU President. Did they all drop out in a matter of weeks? It is much easier to promote a vision and a campaign against someone and what they stand for instead of promoting an idea or candidate. 2,032 students voted against Ascough’s impeachment, yet only 2,004 students voted to put Barry Murphy in office in the subsequent SU election. Somewhat surprisingly, more students voted to keep Ascough in office than voted to put Barry Murphy there.
This rise of negative democracy is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. As outlined in Muireann O’ Shea’s article in our last edition, it appears that Brazil is destined to follow this treacherous path in their upcoming election it is likely that voters will have to choose between a bold and radical political outsider or a representative of the political establishment that many see as seriously corrupt.
During a talk in UCD last year, Derek Scally of the Irish Times explained that in the last German general election, 66% of voters for the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany didn’t vote for them because they believed in their policies but in way of protest of Merkel moving towards more centralist politics. The Alternative für Deutschland has been described as a racist and antisemitic party by Germany’s Jewish community.
In the current political climate of Ireland, housing for everyone is being demanded by the people, and rightly so. However, perhaps we should consider how we are protesting against the current supports available. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done, but not many people are coming up with effective, sustainable solutions as to what that ‘thing’ should be.
The Take Back the City protests was an attempt to open the government’s eyes in regard to homelessness. The government have repeatedly tried to downplay the extent of the crisis with the use of definitions of homeless people. They have tried to try to justify the ongoing crisis by describing Ireland as having, ‘one of the lowest levels of homelessness’ in comparison to our peers. The Simon Community challenged this claim when it was made back in November of last year, stating that other countries use a broader definition of homelessness when gathering their statistics. In March 2018 the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government decided to change the definition of homelessness used to compile statistics and remove a number of families which had previously been counted as homeless. The government seem to think that the resolution to this crisis, is to change definitions to manipulate the numbers.
The government introduced a €1.5 billion rainy day fund. Does ten thousand of our citizens living without a home not constitute a rainy day? To quote the government’s Rainy Day Fund Consultation Paper, ‘The general approach is to provide for the accumulation of reserves during ‘good times’ which can be deployed in order to stabilise demand during ‘bad times’.’ 9,891 homeless in July 2018; the apparent ‘good times’.
The government have clearly not responded to the people’s demands and actions surrounding the homeless crisis, perhaps then we should commit to positive actions and instead of simply complaining about the issue, to propose effective, sustainable solutions to the government to spell out for them how to combat the issue. The Budget has reportedly put about an extra five euro into the pockets of citizens every week. Are we happy with this allocation of resources or would we prefer to have this money spent on housing? Let’s take back democracy.
By Peter Hoy – Politics CoEditor