I started A Bit Left and A Bit Lost in June 2017. Initially, it was something to do while I moved countries and searched for a job. A way to combine my interest in politics and current affairs with that little spark for writing I think I've always had but rarely used.
It's been a great seven months. I've written around thirty articles and even got a few published on Slugger O' Toole. However, I love having everything I write on my own medium, so I can link back to previous articles and develop some themes and trends. These trends can evolve over time or dissipate in numerous ways. From key characters stepping aside or a catalyst for change.
The Political Punts page allows me to make "hard" predictions on a certain date and then look back and either bask in a little self congratulation or try to identify what I incorrectly assumed or based the bet on.
These 2018 predictions are a mix of themes and potential events. I always place at least a little wager on the political punts so finding markets online to match my views and predictions can be tricky. For these, they are more general predictions and most touch on topics I have covered in 2017.
Trump to continue his Erratic Foreign Policy but No War: The United States is in disarray under Donald Trump. Trump has already had spats with numerous leaders and caused widespread outrage with his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He has shown little ability to maintain a coherent foreign policy. Trump is easily distracted by individual events and I expect this to continue. I think, in time, 2017 will be seen as a year of regression for the US but for now the buoyant global economy is giving Trump some breathing space.
The Global Bull Market Run to Continue, Just About...: 2017 has been a great year for the global economy and stick markets. We are definitely getting close to the peak and there will eventually be a market correction but there should just about be enough fuel left for 2018 to be another positive year. If this is the case, I will probably be making a very different 2019 prediction.
China to Continue its Steady, Low-Key Ascent to Global Hegemony: It was a good year for China and its leader Xi Jinping. He managed to consolidate his hold on power, prevented Trump from delivering on his pre-election threats on trade and China avoided any hard economic landing, while extending its global diplomatic and economic reach. I expect 2018 to be a similar year and would be surprised if there are any major negative stories.
Tories to Survive and Brexit is Happening: 2018 will be a tough year for the United Kingdom. Brexit is not going to be reversed with the current government (or a Labour alternative). The current Tory Government will probably survive but continue to stutter along. It is hard to see how the UK will be in a better state this time next year than now. However, politics in the UK has been so shocking since the Scottish Independence referendum was first called and there is every chance that something equally surprising and unexpected will happen in 2018.
Fine Gael to increase seats lead over Fianna Fail in any Irish General Election: The economic headline figures will continue to impress and this will be enough for many to approve of Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael. Furthermore, the "Brexit talks bounce" will continue to help Fine Gael and paralyse Fianna Fail. 2018 should be a good year for Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar.
The Irish Abortion Referendum Campaign to be Brutal: I think this will be a very nasty, divisive election. Much more similar to the last US Presidential election or the Brexit Referendum than the Marriage Equality Referendum. It is a much more partisan topic than marriage equality, which I believe the average Irish voter ultimately viewed as a matter of common decency and fairness. It should pass but if the odds go above 5 or 6/1 I may take a small speculative punt on it not passing.
Iran to get even closer to Russia/China and avoid a Revolution: The news has been filled with coverage of the current unrest in Iran recently. I don't think this will reach the levels of 2009 and the Green Revolution. Iran will continue to forge deeper links with Russia and China as Trump will make occasional threats against Iran, mainly at the best of Benjamin Netanyahu and the American pro-Israel lobby.
Thank you for reading this year. Keep following and have a happy and healthy 2018!
The image above is a summary for a campaign I ran on Facebook recently. I had just set up a Facebook page for the website and when I posted for the first few times I received a notification basically asking me if I would like to “boost” my post.
In this sense, boosting applies to paying for my post to appear on people’s walls on Facebook, so as they scroll down it will appear. As an introductory offer, they “give” you 30 Euros worth of free advertising to get started. I did avail of this offer and for 5 euros I was able to appear on 1,050 Walls and 200 people read the article (or at least clicked on the link).
I was able to narrow this down to 18-65 year-old males in UK, US, Hong Kong or Singapore who have explicitly labelled “Politics” as one of their interests on their profile. There were further options to specify available which even allow further focus.
Fake news is a topic that is consistently discussed in political forums. It has gained traction since the election of Donald Trump as US President. It has been used to describe everything from news reports by CNN to alleged attempts by foreign governments to influence elections and public opinion in other countries. There are some excellent articles on this from the Guardian.
In recent times, Facebook have made announcement that they will crack down on media outlets who appear to promote fake news. However, there is still a lot of scope to spread opinions or articles that are very borderline and misleading.
When you consider the resources available to think tanks and potential agencies social media is still a hugely unregulated medium of information dissemination and good old-fashioned propaganda. For example, I just went through the motions of creating a campaign in California for people interested in “Politics”. For 10,000 Euros, you could reach 1,700,000 to 2,000,000 over the space of a week.
This is not a topic that will go away. While I am sure in time there will be ways to enhance greater regulation, for now governments and corporations more opportunity to influence elections and referendums than ever before in a legal manner….
Trump piles Pressure on N Korea and Iran at Inaugural UN Address but fails to deliver a coherent Message
Trump’s first speech to the UN was like a typical campaign speech we saw at his rallies across the US in the run-up to his election. It was full of rhetoric about the greatness of America, while sending threats to “rogue states” around the world.
After some self praise for the buoyant state of the American economy, Trump honed in on North Korea. If possible, the language was even more aggressive than we have previously heard.
“forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
One interesting addition to the North Korea part of the speech was his expressed gratitude for China and Russia for backing the sanctions.
“the United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions”
I think Trump has finally woken up to the fact that any agreement or deal with Kim Jong Un will need to have at least some input from the Chinese, if not their outright approval. This is a point I have made since the spat erupted, back in July.
It is also interesting to note that this was the only direct reference to Russia in the speech. There was a veiled threat to Russia when he spoke of the
“threats to sovereignty from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.”
However in general it seemed evident to me that the US-Russian relationship isn’t a topic Trump wants to broach right now.
Trump transitioned from North to Iran without any differentiation between the regimes. It was a bit of a throwback to George W Bush and his “axis of evil”. His criticism of the Iranian regime was quite predictable and nothing that hasn’t really been said before
“It has turned a wealthy country, with a rich history and culture, into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”
His quotes on the Iranian deal would be quite worrying to all those who have invested time and effort into it;
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
Fortunately, Trump has already had opportunities to cancel the "deal" as the agreement must be renewed every quarter, most recently on July 18th. The bombastic language was probably at least partly influenced by his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the day before. I still think Iran may benefit from Trump’s inability to focus and tackle an issue on a consistent basis, as I laid out here previously.
The last part that was noteworthy was Trump’s discourse on refugees and where they should be located. He explicitly thanked Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey though he made it clear he believes refugees should stay in their ‘home region’ until they can return to their country
“For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region.”
Ultimately, we learnt little from Trump’s speech. The jingoistic sentiment would have appealed to his base back in the US while his “enemies” would certainly have gotten the message that he at least talks a tough game.
For the rest of us, we learnt more from what He didn’t say. No reference to the Paris agreement , the Palestinian question or his plans for the trade imbalance with China. Trump failed to lay out his grand vision for his administration’s foreign policy. It was little more than nationalist, sabre rattling that leaves me with little confidence that Trump’s views on America’s role in world affairs has evolved since his first campaign speeches back in the AUtumn of 2015.
To the casual observer of world news and press photography, the contrast between Justin Trudeau and Vladimir Putin couldn't be starker.
Justin Trudeau is the darling of the liberal world. Tall, good looking and not afraid to "have fun". His media appearances are often at cultural events which offer fantastic opportunities for pictures. This works well for him and his Liberal Party. It also adds to Canada’s ever increasing soft diplomatic power as the antithesis to Trump’s America.
On immigration, he has taken a strong stance of making Canada a warm and open place for refugees. On other topics, he is often less vocal. He can rely on the goodwill from the Canadian public and the support of news outlets like the Huffington Post to go easy on him. Why wouldn’t they when he gives them so many opportunities to pen such insightful articles like this.
Compare this with the image of Vladimir Putin. The many photos of him hunting, fishing (mostly shirtless) or even competing in his beloved judo are often the object of derision and ridicule across the West. “How can the Russian people take him seriously?” and “he looks ridiculous” abound across comment boards and social mediums.
Putin believes that this strong image resonates well with the Russian public and with his allies around the world. He certainly is popular with the Russian people. While data may not be reliable, he has consistently polled high, even while sanctions have damaged the domestic economy. Furthermore, many of Russian’s allies around the world are also lead by “strong men”. Just this week Putin promised to give Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, a judo lesson.
Both politicians are very successful at choreographing and managing their public perception to the tastes of their target audiences. The fact that many liberals simply laugh at Putin, and the seemingly ridiculous array of meme-worthy material available, is an indictment of their political acumen above most else. Simply dismissing his approach and neglecting to provide a counter argument or narrative is a very naïve approach.
Equally, if we simply fawn over Trudeau (and closer to home Leo Varadkar as I've mentioned before) without also pushing for progress in legislation and policy, we are being equally distracted from the realpolitik.
Of course, Justin Trudeau has been a positive influence in many ways. Canada is a beacon hope for many around the world today. Just remember that these images and actions aren’t always entirely altruistic and both men advance their aims and influence through shrewd use of the media resources available to them.
After my first attempt at an article I wanted to write about something a little lighter. This topic has gained a lot of traction in recent times and is something witness on a regular basis. I have seen a lot of articles across the media suggest 'XYZ election' could have been won if the youth (normally the 18-35 age profile is referenced) vote had turned up in equal numbers to their elders. LSE-sponsored Opinum polls suggest that in the Brexit vote only 64% of 18-24 year olds voted versus 90% of those 65+. As the title suggests, this article will initially look at what I believe drives Millenials psyche and then actually translate that into solid, concrete votes. Basically a two prong approach of how to get those likes etc and then how to translate them into votes
I am not going to discuss policies here. It goes without saying that the Youth are typically more attracted to the left leaning peers, both in terms of economic and social policies. Whilst this is not quite a universal truth it holds up quite well across the globe (open for contradiction here if any regions demonstrate the opposite).
Appealing to the Youth
First thing first, get a candidate that is affable and can handle impromptu interactions with the public. Social Media has completely changed how politicians are perceived. An example of a politician who handles this well is Justin Trudeau, possibly the poster boy of the progressive Left. The cynical side of me sees his casual moments that 'happen' to be caught on camera as very calculated and cunning. He is the face of a very well oiled public relations team. Just remember the candid picture of him photobombing a wedding while jogging was taken by his official photographer.
The flip side to this is that every moment of unscripted interaction with public is a potential major setback While powerful oratory skills are still a great asset to have, a powerful 20 minute speech that is applauded by the broadsheets can be undone by a 5 second answer caught on a camera phone that gets turned into a parody video and share 500 thousand times. It really is that simple.Theresa May is an example of a leader who looks so uncomfortable interacting with the public, she never looks comfortable and you can tell she is being reined in from now to the finish line. Hillary Clinton was more effective at this but still looked a little shaky at times.
Social media is crucial but so far I don't think it has been utilised as effectively as possible by candidates. The crux of it is that it's easy to get followers of a well managed Facebook page or Twitter feed but I don't always see how that translates into high turnout and votes. This is where a party needs to think about what drives the Millenial mindset and moves me perfectly to the second part of article
How to get the Millenial Vote Out
Utilize the 'FOMO' concept. Millenials are constantly looking at what their peers are doing and what needs to be done. If you choose the correct candidate described above you can rely on an organic social media game through viral sharing of positive videos etc Channel these funds into events on election day where the potential electorate can attend and 'check in'. This will be the next level fo Millennial support here after simply liking or following a candidate. Crucially however the party will then provide transport to the polling stations (or as close as possible given the varying local voting laws). A number of events can be held over the course of the day and these will generate publicity and increase momentum. Turn voting into an experiential concept. The more aspects of the process that can be 'shared' and done together will increase the desire to participate.
The more radical suggestion would encounter a lot of obstacles and in all likelihood is more Minority Report than mainstream politics. However it would undoubtedly be a game changer with the younger vote. If voting could ever be doen digitally or online I believe the youth turnout jump instantly. This would meet resistance from incumbent, conservative parties, traditionalist and , given all the allegations of Russian interference in Western elections, most national security agencies. However for parties who know they clearly much more successful with younger voters it should at least be on the radar.
Ultimately making the youth turn up and vote is not an easy endeavour. They are disillusioned with many mainstream parties and cynicism typically ruins supreme. I don't believe they'll vote as much on policy as they will on gaining peer acceptance and approval. Unless they think it's something that their friends are doing they wont bother. Its no longer so much a case of 'win the hearts and minds' as it is of borrow their desire to be accepted, validated and not miss out.