I won’t say I’m not surprised by the US election result, but the polls leading in were pretty damn close so you had to consider it a possibility. Leicester City and the Western Bulldogs have already proved 2016 is the year of the underdog. Perhaps more tellingly the phenomenon of Brexit had shown just how much anger and appetite for change there is among large sections of the western world. And for many who feel left behind and exploited by the forces of modernity, this anger is understandable.
Much has already been written of what a Trump presidency may mean for the rest of the world. I am not going to add much to this because a lot of it is conjecture. Trump has provided precious little detail of how he will “Make America great again,” and punctuated his campaign with so much bluster and blatant dishonesty that who can really know what he intends to do and how much Congress will allow him to do.
Still he has said enough that I am concerned by a few things, although the idea of him starting a nuclear war through pique isn't one of them. His stance on climate change is worrying. I mean this country’s is bad enough, but at the moment we are the pariah for it. When a country like America backs away, it can have a major effect on the global effort to slow global warming. I am also worried about an economic policy which is predicted to weaken his country significantly in the medium term. A weakened America, or just one that is as isolationist as his rhetoric suggests could embolden further Chinese expansion in the South China Sea or Russian militarism in Ukraine. Neither of these prospects are eventualities I am in a hurry to see.
The global outcry of horror and disbelief at Trump’s election has been a noteworthy phenomenon in itself. I get it. The guy is a pig who campaigned on a platform of personal attacks and bigotry, appealing to the worst in people. This win for hatred and fear over reason has been widely discussed and lamented, so I am not going to go into it here, although I certainly see why Hanson, Christenson and Abbott are celebrating his victory as a vindication of their style of politics.
But does it have to be? While I have no doubt that echoes of Trump's brand of divisive politics will be felt strengthening our own homegrown fascist groups, this could also be a galvanising lesson for moderates. We need better government with less spin, less corruption and less policies that preference the powerful elite. The election result does not in fact prove that over half of the American population are bigots. Clinton lost many votes to the left and the political centre due to the equivocal, “Well they are both bad candidates,” line of thinking. To me, this is cognitive laziness. In terms of who was the worst option out of Trump and Clinton, it is pretty stark. I get it that if you don’t like Clinton you don’t want to vote for her, but if you didn’t, spare me the disappointment and horror of Trump’s victory.
This was the same lazy argument I heard people use to justify voting liberal at the most recent Australian election, even after the Coalition’s terrible performance in its first term. When you took the time to learn about it, only one party relied on racist, divisive and hateful rhetoric. The other didn’t- sounds a lot like America doesn’t it?
So the message seems pretty clear. If Australians don’t want someone like Trump elected in this country, don’t vote for candidates that sound like him.
Oh that’s right we already did.
Perhaps we can learn from it though. Perhaps we can stop voting for con men who play on our fears.
Perhaps our governments (well the ones after this one) too can heed the public dissatisfaction with the self-serving status quo and remember they are there to serve their country and its people (dare I say make Australia great again).
In actual fact I would argue that Australia has actually contributed to Trump’s success in our own small way. On both climate and refugee policy, Australia has been something of a world leader in worst practice. And that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Every anti-science or anti-minority policy trumpeted as acceptable by a developed country emboldens these movements in other countries. In this way our country has provided some of the stepping stones of hatred and ignorance that formed part of Trump's path to the presidency.
I should take a moment to comment on the grace of Hilary Clinton’s concession speech. It was certainly something Malcolm Turnbull could learn from in light of his bitter and whiney speech after the 2016 election (and I suspect he may be needing a concession speech some time in the near future).