I enjoyed the sainted editor, Rowan Dean’s, rollicking Flat White account of his Trump, Trump, Trumpety-Trump election count party. Any joint with Rowan, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron in full flow is a joint well and truly jumpin’.Wish I was there.
But unlike Rowan, I dreaded Donald Trump’s going all the way, even if it meant our American friends electing Hillary Clinton, an undeserving, deeply flawed candidate for the leadership of the free world with more baggage than a goods train. Put it this way: Donald John Trump does not subscribe to the wisdom of a politician who understood human nature better than almost anyone, John Howard: if you over-promise you under-deliver.
And boy, did Trump over-promise.
Trump’s sweeping populism, especially in the ‘flyover’ states of the mid-west and rustbelt states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, carried the day because he saw and tapped the anger and uncertainties of many millions of Americans being left behind by the elites of Washington, New York and Silicon Valley. He promised them salvation, relief and the moon and stars, but arguably he won their votes simply because they believed he was listening to them.
On the ABC’s AM programme on Thursday, Julie Bishop went to considerable lengths to argue that as far as lessons for Australia go, ‘each country’s elections have unique features’, even though Pauline Hanson was cracking the champagne to toast Trump’s stunning ‘people power’ win.
What arrant nonsense from someone who should know better.
The lesson for Bishop, for Malcolm Turnbull and for any other ostriches in our ‘conservative’ government is that the Trump win, like Brexit before it, shows bedrock voters are as mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. One Nation’s resurgence, the rise of Nick Xenophon and his populist parrots, and the endless screeching of the loony-left Greens should tell them the same seething discontent of the displaced and fearful that Trump tapped applies here just as much as in the US.
Politicians and parties of Australia’s allegedly sensible centre – Liberal, National and Labor – are seen by too many of their own former supporters as clapped out, past it and unresponsive to the realities of a world where the elites rejoice at millions of existing jobs going to robots in the not-too-distant future. In the world of the driverless car, these new forgotten people have nowhere to drive to.
Turnbull and Bishop don’t get it. They continue to faff about in their own political private Idaho, directionless, agenda-less, and valueless.
Barnaby Joyce gets it, but his instincts for making hard but necessary changes palatable to his constituency are hamstrung by his majority coalition partners’ leadership vacuum and failure to understand the world outside the Canberra bubble.
But if any of our mainstream leaders truly gets the wave Trump surfed to victory on Tuesday, it’s Bill Shorten. He and Labor have turned our politics upside down and set the stage for sweeping the next election, by embracing shameless populism.
Name one economically-rational policy Labor took to July’s election.Bet you can’t, because there isn’t one to name. Instead, Shorten almost snatched a boilover victory by wilful, unadulterated populism, ruthlessly targeting unpopular Coalition policies and programmes (including some Tony Abbott kept from Labor’s disastrous reign), telling people ‘we hear your pain, so here’s a few tens of billions to fix it’, or confecting the likes of a fraudulent, confected Medi-scare to play to the fears of the alienated and fearful. Any Labor lie repeated often enough became truth, and seat after seat fell to Labor while the Liberal Nero practised the violin in his harbourside mansion.
Shorten may have once described Trump as ‘barking mad’, but he is the Australian heir to Trumpism. His political playbook is Trump’s.His patron saint is Trump. The Donald showed Bill the way, and acolyte Bill eagerly followed it. As the Mortein advert once said, ‘if you’re on a good thing, stick to it’, and Shorten stuck to it like a superglued limpet. Good luck to him, what he did wasn’t illegal, even if it was immoral.
In a cracker column on the US result for Friday’s Australian, former Hawke and Keating minister, Labor powerbroker and now commentator Graham Richardson lamented Trump’s win as a victory for ignorant populism and Kardashian celebrity culture. ‘The American people were dumber than I could ever conceive’, he wrote. Perhaps Richo could have a quiet word to Shorten, whose blatant and unrepentant snake oil salesmanship presumes Labor’s path to electoral victory can never be said to over-estimate the stupidity of Australian voters. He could tell Brother Bill that Australians deserve better than that.
As the dust settles on one of the nastiest American elections ever, and President-elect Trump is now reality, Trump’s win is a loss for sensible centre politics everywhere, but Australia in particular. When our centre-left has left its sensible but boring policy wife to take up with its seedy populist mistress, and our centre-right shows no clue as to what it’s doing and why it’s doing it, is it any wonder that One Nation and the Greens, with the likes of Xenophon sniffing the breeze and blowing with it, are strangling the political agenda and responsible government of our country?
Gawd help us all.