There is a slightly painful irony to Australians joking about Trump voters.
Australians generally don't show a great amount of interest for in depth analysis of national politics (thanks in part to the appalling and partisan coverage of commercial media networks), let alone international politics. But even so, most Australians seem at least peripherally aware of the colossal and ongoing train-wreck that is the Trump Presidency.
I noted a few months back that the number of Australian commentators willing to stick their necks out in support of Donald Trump had quietly diminished over the previous twelve months of demonstrable incompetence and dishonesty. Now Australians of many political persuasions (except perhaps One Notion voters who would probably vote for him if they could) sneer at President Trump and the voters who still support him, even as he dismantles their country for the benefit of the ultra-rich.
This reaction might seem perfectly reasonable to most people, but it actually really pisses me off.
Let’s look at the Trump administration for a moment.
The President is an unrepentant, almost pathological liar who views anti-Islamic fears within the community as an opportunity to exploit. The administration is stacked with science-denying religious conservatives who refuse to acknowledge even the most blatant of wrongdoing and instead try to deflect through dog-whistling. It is a government that works for the benefit of only the wealthiest individuals and corporations; and its corruption and incompetence is obfuscated from the public through the deliberate lies and spin of the Murdoch-owned Fox News.
You might think there is plenty of reasons Australians might think Donald Trump’s government is laughably undeserving of its position- but it can’t be any of the points I just mentioned, because they are all just as true about the Morrison government. It frustrates me that Australia's disdain for the Trump Administration does not correlate with disgust at our own Coalition government, when they are just so similar.
Don’t believe me? Go through it yourself. Morrison’s litany of lies and false claims about refugees, the economy, the environment (and now bizarrely about cars) seems to increase every time I hear him speak. He is also widely reported as having suggested in a cabinet meeting that the Liberal Party seek to exploit anti-Islam fears for electoral gain. The Coalition’s disdain for science and antipathy for renewable energy is well documented, as has been their ongoing religious crusade against LGBTI rights. With their emphasis on cutting penalty rates, and tax rates to the wealthy as well as their protracted and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to protect the banks from the Royal Commission- all while cutting services to the most needy in society- they have also shown clearly their primary concern is for the wealthy and their lucrative corporate connections that they will leverage for financial gain after leaving politics. Overall, the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government has had more scandals and failures than any government has the right to get away with, but rather than ever taking responsibility they just try to distract the public with the aid of the Murdoch-owned papers and Sky News.
And they might get away with it. Two-party-preferred polling still somehow has Labor only slightly ahead of the Coalition and the Murdoch press is doing everything it can to narrow the gap. So yeah, I’m worried and frustrated.
Perhaps more Australians approve of Trump than I realise, but they've certainly gone quiet. It seems much more likely that a lot of Liberal voters and conservative commentators can see that Trump is a conman and would think themselves too smart to vote for him. This was borne out last year in polling by The Australian showing 54% of Coalition voters disapproved of Trump's performance as president. And if you are one of those people, you might think I’m being unfair because there are other odious things about the Trump Administration that I didn’t mention above and that you wouldn’t vote for.
But it can’t be Trump’s disdain for the basic structures of democratic institutions. Peter Dutton has shown time and again that he believes the less informed the Australian people are and the less civil rights they have, the better; and spent millions of dollars fighting our legal system’s judgements that sick refugees be brought to Australia for treatment. Meanwhile Michaelia Cash is willing to spend nearly a million dollars of taxpayer’s money to fight court orders for her to cooperate with AFP investigations into the politically motivated leaking of information from her office.
It also can’t be Trump’s sex scandals and general misogyny, unless you’ve forgotten about Andrew Broad, Barnaby Joyce and the treatment of Julie Bishop and Julia Banks. Nor Trump’s smug disdain for the poor, considering the years of continued attacks on Australia’s most vulnerable by Joe “Poor people don’t need to drive far” Hockey, Scott Morrison and Christian Porter. Trump's refusal to condemn white nationalism and neo-nazis even has parallels with the Coalition's support for Pauline Hanson's It's okay to be white senate motion (later withdrawn) and their initial support for Fraser Anning's Final Solution speech; while Trump's general boorishness and even his willingness to mock the disabled is matched by Peter Dutton at every turn.
I could go on too. There may be no Access Hollywood tapes, but if you are okay with all of the things above, it’s hard to see what it would take to change your opinion.
We live in a democracy so please make up your own mind on this one. Maybe despite everything I have referred to, you still plan to exercise your right to vote Liberal. You might be very rich and waiting on further tax breaks to the wealthy, or you might be in some way tied to the fossil fuel industry and not believe in climate change. Maybe you are more worried about a Labor government than the economic collapse the self-serving Coalition government has us headed towards. If that is what you believe, I doubt I can change your opinion, and you have every right to vote for whoever you think will best serve this country. But don’t tell me you wouldn’t vote for Trump if you lived in America too.
There is obviously a lot that could be discussed in the lead up to the federal election. And different people are energised by different issues, but this observation really frustrates me. Right now we have an incumbent government plagued by so many scandals it is hard to keep up. One whose only strategy to distract voters from their incompetence is to scream about refugees as hysterically as possible. This is plainly and transparently similar to Trump shouting about his ludicrous wall, but according to recent polling, far more Australians seem to approve of ScumMo and Dutton’s exaggeration and deceit about boat people than Americans approve of Trump’s wall. Does that mean, as a nation, we are actually more stupid than America? I’m not going to draw a conclusion of that one, but it certainly makes it a harder argument to say we wouldn’t be stupid enough to vote for a fraud like Trump (Clive Palmer certainly thinks we are stupid enough to do just that).
The way I see it, if you are willing to vote for a Morrison government in next month’s election, despite everything they have done, then you would have been willing to vote for Trump too. So if you laugh at Trump and his supporters, the joke is really on you- and the rest of Australia if we have to suffer another three years of Liberal Government due to your choices.