It was as if an occult hand, glutted on Yuletide spoils and reports from the frontlines of the War on Christmas, seized my mouse and guided me to Donald Trump’s campaign store. My reason abandoned me; my scruples faltered. A mere $25 was all that stood between me and induction into the greatest political movement of my generation. Without hesitating I punched in my credit card details and waited for the email confirmation. Then the ping. ‘Thank you for your support,’ the receipt read: ‘Official Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” Cap.’ And it was over. Will I really vote for Trump? I asked myself. That I couldn’t say. Will I wear the hat? Yes, all the time.
I’ve written in these pages about how much I abhor Trump – how I distrust his conservative credentials and despise his rude, arrogant grand-standing. And yet just weeks after coming back to the United States for the holidays my resolve began to weaken. Seeing him on the news and the debates with my own eyes, passing one Trump yard sign after another, made a world of difference. When he took some of my favourite commentators like Charles Krauthammer to task, I didn’t get mad. When he said Hillary Clinton got ‘schlonged’ in the 2008 Democratic primary, I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks. This is what it’s like to be in the thrall of a demagogue.
Bill O’Reilly, the popular Fox News talk show host, reckons that Trump’s not running on policy so much as emotion. No doubt that’s partially true, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Trump’s campaign is giving voice to widespread anxieties and hopes that have, for some years now, been ignored or suppressed by mainstream opinion-makers. He’s cutting through the highly technical questions of means, which policy wonks like Jeb Bush thrive on, and getting straight to the question of ends. He’s speaking of the country that so many American voters want to live in; how we get there is of secondary concern.
Take the Muslim ban, which is certainly Trump’s most controversial and extreme suggestion. According to Rasmussen polling, 46 per cent of American voters support the measure, and only 40 per cent oppose it. Rasmussen puts Republican support at 66 per cent for, with 24 per cent opposed, and a striking 30 per cent of Democrats in favour and 55 per cent against. With about two in three Republicans and one in three Democrats agreeing with the most radical tenet of Trumpism, it’s impossible for anyone who takes seriously the concerns of ordinary Americans to simply brush The Donald off as an extremist. As someone who wouldn’t support the ban as such, it’s obvious that the politically heterodox agenda that Trump’s given voice to isn’t going to simply die off if he’s denied the White House.
Nor should it. Whoever I ultimately vote for, I fully intend to wear my Trump hat with pride. The ends might not justify the means, but the ends that Trump is advancing – a revival of American industry, tougher homeland security measures, strict enforcement of immigration laws, and the unceremonious death of political correctness – are noble ones. And while we could’ve asked for a better spokesman, he’s all we’ve got right now. If Trump is here to stay for at least the next year or so, I’m beginning to wonder if true-blue conservatives oughtn’t to harness the energy he’s generating and use it for positive change. At this point, the only alternative might be joining the PC censors in the media and party machines to shut him down. That’s no happy entente.
What’s even more remarkable is that Trump’s appeal is going global. Sky News reports that 30 per cent of Brits support Trump’s Muslim ban, without a single major politician or media personality advocating the same. I reckon the numbers in Australia would be even higher. And as Donald Trump is the natural conclusion of suffocating political correctness, we can bet that similar sentiments will eventually boil over in the UK and Oz. Once the Reclaim movement finds a suitable figurehead, like the Tea Party here, it will grow from a convocation of bogan rabble-rousers into a serious political force – perhaps one strong enough to co-opt the Liberal party.
One thing we can all agree on – Trump included, perhaps – is that a Trump candidacy should never have been necessary. The grievances that Trump airs on the national stage have been festering for years, having been repeatedly swept under the rug of acceptable opinion, and now the dry rot is threatening to bring the entire American political system down.
If the Liberals and Labor want to avoid the public humiliation that Republicans and Democrats are suffering at Trump’s hands, they’ll ignore Duncan Lewis’s call for unqualified appeasement. While whispering sweet nothings about the Religion of Peace might make Muslims happy, it will also make non-Muslim Australians – the majority of whom, no doubt, harbour at least some misgivings about the compatibility of Islam and Western civilization – feel marginalized by their own national leaders. That’s the fast track to a Donald Trump of our very own.
While conservatives in the Liberal party are currently beleaguered – not that small-‘L’ liberals aren’t, too – it’s not unthinkable that an Australian Trump could unite right-wing Libs, right-leaning independents, small party voters, and traditional Laborites into an effective nationalist coalition. The Westminster system, especially with the closed shop that the Liberals are running in their preselections, might make it difficult for this Aussie Trump to infiltrate the Coalition; but as the real Donald’s third-party-run sabre-rattling has shown, Trumpism transcends partisan loyalties.
This is the short of it: when Tony Abbott led his party in an open, constructive discussion about illegal immigration, it resulted in sensible policy being ratified and countless lives being saved. Malcolm should do the same with Islam, lest he go the way of Jeb Bush. I doubt even the PM’s worst enemies would wish him such a fate.
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Michael Davis is the editor of The Spectator Australia Facebook page, where you will find additional articles and comment including the ‘Wentworth Warbler’ series. www.facebook.com/SpeccieOz/
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