It has been an extraordinary 12 months of media in Australia covering the USA election. I have been around for a long time and am very interested in politics, but I cannot remember another election which received so much Australian media attention. With daily media saturation, you could be forgiven for wondering if we had become just another United State of America.
But, what can we learn? It seems everyone was shocked by the outcome. For some reason, I wasn’t. I had been watching the outrageous circus that Mr Trump’s campaign became. I also watched and questioned Mrs Clinton’s extraordinary election budget and a degree of premature victory in her campaign, which obviously didn’t resonate in middle America.
Mr Trump would offend minorities every day and Mrs Clinton tried to follow suit by offending half of the American public calling them deplorable. Well, that obviously backfired so I guess there is a lesson in that.
Lesson: Mr Trump offered hope and the promise to “Make America Great Again” and Mrs Clinton promised “more of the same”.
I still have trouble understanding their election process. They have Primary votes where the public attends polling booths to vote for their candidate by ballot. Then they have Caucus votes which take place in a public hall after listening to evangelistic community debates. This culminates in the respective candidates who ultimately run for President. Then, rather than the President being elected on a populous vote, the Founding Fathers established what is called the Electoral College made up of Congressmen and Senators from each state (the bigger the state, the more electors it has). In the end, these 270 people decide on the President. That is how Americans ended up with a choice between The Bad and The Mad.
Lesson: Maybe the Aussie electoral process isn’t that bad after all.
Both candidates were very well known to the American public with significant public profiles. Maybe the difference was Mr Trump became entertainment fodder to the media with his outrageous “snackable” media bites. He would say anything for attention. He just played the media every day. Mrs Clinton had no option other than following his lead by rebutting his ridiculous comments. Everyone knew Mr Trump was “Mad”. Ultimately, Mrs Clinton failed to defend her character of being “Bad”. The hint of corruption became a stench when the FBI became involved. Who knows where the truth lies but the mud obviously stuck and millions of people who would not normally vote were disrupted enough to make the effort.
Lesson: Maybe compulsory voting in Australia reduces the degree of swing which caught their polls off guard.
Time in office will define Mr Trump. He has the top job. He has already toned down his insults and comments on Twitter. I suspect he will be forced to be more moderate and become more centre right by his advisers and the “Establishment” (another scary group of people in the shadows). However, he will be President and he will hold the nuclear codes (even more scary).
Lesson: You can say and do anything in an election campaign and get away with it.
Not only did Mr Trump get away with it but the Republicans won both houses of parliament. Now they were the real winner.
On or before 18 May 2019, Australia will go to the polls. If Mr Turnbull promises “more of the same”, he will get smashed. If Mr Shorten (or possibly Mr Albanese) learns from the USA election, we can look forward to outrageous quotes and antics.