The inauguration is over and we now have the most unlikely of US presidents. A complete outsider to politics and not even a military man. Who would have picked it? Certainly not the assorted ‘experts’ working on ‘our’ ABC, who as late as election day were assuring all their watchers and listeners that there was no chance Mr Trump could win. The same goes for the massively taxpayer-subsidised US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, which seemed not to have a single, solitary pro-Trump person on its payroll. That’s ‘balance’ of the sort you find in our universities.
Heck, most of the pontificators writing in the Australian were just about as anti-Trump as their ABC colleagues, meaning they didn’t think The Donald could win just as they didn’t think he should win. Well, not that surprising, I suppose, given that paper’s whole-hearted support for Mr Turnbull.
But what can we make of Mr Trump? Let’s be honest. The man is a vulgarian. He’s a boor. He gives every indication of being a philistine. All that is obvious. And yet in my view, then and even more so now, he was the clear better choice over Hillary Clinton. I wanted him to win; I was hopeful he would; and I think he’s picked a very good cabinet.
Here’s how to think of Mr Trump. He is a populist brawler, not a conservative, with nothing much more than contempt for the political class, both Democrats and Republicans. There are things I like about his views – his rejection of big scale immigration of low skilled workers; ditto his honesty about radical Islam and that it most certainly is linked to Islam itself, both statistically and in terms of some of its tenets; ditto his willingness to say out loud that the climate change rent-seekers, from the renewables crowd seeking ever more government subsidies to the attenders of international gabfests, are like the Emperor wearing no clothes; and ditto his strong support for the nation state as the only place where democracy can function and hence his strong scepticism of supranational bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations (an incredibly anti-Israel body that lacks all perspective on that topic).
Of course, there are Trump views I don’t like: Trump’s apparent rejection of the benefits of free trade and his protectionist instincts. That conceded, my view has always been that the US Constitution is designed for a man like Trump. It is chock full of checks-and-balances that basically didn’t function during the Obama years because the Democrats were prepared to see the then president issue executive order after executive order without ever standing up to ‘their man’, while the courts rolled over time after time on almost every big federalism case that might have limited him. This will not happen with Trump. Many in the Republican Party detest him. Meantime the Democrats who under Obama didn’t understand the meaning of ‘constitutional checks on power’ will rediscover them pronto. So the hyperventilating about how dangerous Trump will be is just nonsense. Leave foreign affairs to one side and he will have to carry the Republicans in Congress with him, or he will be severely limited in what he can do, save for revoking each and every one of Mr Obama’s executive orders which Trump can do with the stroke of a pen. And in foreign affairs don’t you think it’s odd that for nearly a century the lefties have bent over backwards trying to excuse the then Soviet Union’s mass murders and the rest but now, in large part because Mr Putin may (I say ‘may’) have had a role in releasing wholly true emails showing how the Clinton camp tried to rig the primaries, many on the left see Russia as the West’s greatest threat to democracy? Hmm!
I said above that Trump is a populist brawler, not a conservative. Yet that hasn’t stopped Trump from choosing the most conservative US cabinet ever. Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t have picked any of them. None is an inner-city luvvie; many are military men (yes, men); Obama’s love of Ph.D.s jettisoned for practical experience and tough-minded views. Let’s just say that not a one of them would have made the shortlist for ‘Australian of the Year’ (admittedly the most devalued, ridiculous award in existence in Christendom after last year’s winner).
It seems to me this has happened because today’s conservative politicians are unwilling to stand up for their beliefs (assuming that they actually have conservative beliefs, which is patently untrue as regards a good few Liberal MPs in this country). They crave praise and acceptance from the ABC, which is a fool’s errand. They obfuscate once in power and refuse to implement things that might go against the progressivist worldview.
Trump the populist is wholly unlike the standard conservative. He knows that many on the other side hate him and he doesn’t care. He never backs down (a fault as well as a virtue, but more the latter at the moment). Nor does he immediately equivocate and seek to ‘reach out’ to his opponents. In this he copies the Left side of politics which virtually never compromises with the Right. Think of ‘we won, you lost, elections have consequences’ Barack Obama who basically never lifted a finger to win over a single Republican vote on anything. The press was fine with that. But it clamours for Trump to be a good little conservative and immediately compromise. (Think Tony Abbott here, alas.)
Look, I don’t like the vulgar and boorish side of Trump. But if that’s what it takes to get a bit of backbone into conservative politics, well that’s a price well worth paying. Who else would say the EU is an effete institution that will soon lose more member states and that Brexit was terrific? Certainly no conservative politician in this country. But Trump is wholly correct on this, as he is in his blunt, combative dealings with an almost uniformly hostile press that has been a complete joke in terms of any sort of disinterested impartiality. The Libs here could learn a lot from Trump about dealing with the ABC. Call them out, all the time, and shun them. Oh, and maybe pledge to cut the funding drastically unless a bit of balance – or even a couple of conservative presenters on a main TV current affairs show – appears, and does so immediately.
In my lifetime, 2016 was the best year ever for Anglosphere conservatives who value democracy. Brexit was the most important vote in a half century, and Trump’s win comes second. Optimism abounds for both countries. As for Australia, pessimism remains the order of the day, and that will remain the case until our conservative side of politics gains the courage of its convictions (again assuming it has any).