I’m over in Canada for another few days and while here have been getting a lot of news about the US and Donald Trump. On the public broadcaster CBC, all mentions of the US president cast him and his policies in a bad light. It’s unrelentingly negative. The CBC hates Trump at least as much as the ABC hates Tony Abbott or George Pell (or heck, let’s be honest, as much as the ABC loathes Donald Trump, too).
So over here there’s been plenty of coverage of how ‘the Donald’ has favourability ratings at this early stage of his presidency below those of just about all other past US presidents. They’re now hovering just above 42 per cent. He’s missed out completely on the traditional post-election honeymoon. Now my bet – and I don’t know this for sure because I’ve been giving Australian politics and news a break for a fortnight – is that in Oz you’re hearing this ‘Trump is the most unpopular US President ever’ shtick too. And it’s true. That is what the polls over here are saying.
But I’m betting you’re not hearing what the polls are also saying. And what is that? It’s that in a re-run with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump would do even better than three months ago. Is the ABC making that a lead story? You see, just about everyone who voted for Trump last November would do so again. He has held his base almost totally. And this is despite Trump receiving the most negative media coverage of any president ever. Three US academics recently trolled through the coverage of Trump on the main TV networks, minute by minute, and came to the conclusion that some 90 per cent of it was negative. I leave you to guess how former President Obama was portrayed by that same US media in his first 100 days – by which time the Norwegians had already awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize. (In retrospect, of course, Obama’s foreign policy was about the worst in half a century, leaving the Middle East even worse than the incompetent George W. had and basically handing the Iranians a blank cheque to develop nuclear weapons and making Libya a worse hell-hole than when Gaddafi was running the place. Oh, and when do you reckon the Norwegians will award Trump a Nobel Peace Prize? Kidding. We all know the Left looks after its own and the rRight never does. Witness the Team Turnbull government.)
Where was I? Oh, yes, Mr Trump has held his base. If you voted Trump you have no voter’s regret. He’s delivered the best US Supreme Court judge in 50 years, better in all likelihood even than Scalia; he’s actually cutting regulations; he’s been tentatively good on the jobs’ front; he’s certainly done a better job with Syria than Mr Obama (by scaring Assad into slightly more civilised behaviour without taking him out and seeing religious fanatics take over); he’s promising a massive cut in US corporate taxes, which should it transpire will leave Australia with just about the highest corporate taxes in the democratic world (and just about the highest minimum wage, the highest energy costs thanks to RET madness, the most complex tax system – where do I sign up to invest in Australia?).
So not perfect by any means. But a better list of accomplishments than we on the Right would see had Clinton become president, and every sane person knows it. And not by just a little; perhaps the soupçon of a smidgeon of a hair’s breadth of difference that you see between Turnbull and Shorten, but a gaping canyon of difference between what Trump’s delivered and what Clinton would have.
So Hollywood stars like Alex Baldwin and various TV personalities – all without exception Democrats – can bemoan the Trump presidency but Republican voters know they are better off with the Donald than with ‘Lyin’ Hillary’. And that explains the above seemingly mismatched poll results for President Trump of comparatively low approval ratings and yet a bigger win today in a re-run of any election against Hillary Clinton. What explains that is that the US is more starkly divided politically than in a long, long time. There is a palpable partisan divide. In broad terms, the two sides don’t watch the same TV (hence all those pontificating actors and broadcasters are basically preaching to the already Democrat converted). They don’t read the same papers. They don’t even like the same sports these days. (Hint: Ask if they like soccer and if the answer is ‘yes’ odds are a good deal better than even they voted for the Left. I suspect it’s the same with cycling and the Tour de France.)
Now, this is not a first for the US. Just think way back to Andrew Jackson. But it’s not obviously desirable. Still, if the left side of politics is going to shove its anti-free speech, supranationalist agenda down the throats of those of us on the Right, at the very least you want someone who will fight back. Donald Trump for all his many and evident faults appears to be that man. His political strategy is to keep and fight for his base, and to attack the self-righteous moralising of the Left. Notice that it is a completely different strategy than you saw from Messrs Turnbull and Textor whose strategy boiled down to ‘the base be damned they have nowhere else to go, we’re going to appeal to a few inner-city centrists’.
In fact you couldn’t find two more opposite political strategies for right-of-centre political parties and leaders. The Trump one is working in the US because although those answering pollsters may say they dislike the Republican party 62-32, they also say they dislike the Democrats 67-28. But the Republican base is happy. It thinks Trump is doing pretty well, all things considered. What percentage of the Liberal Party base in Australia thinks that of their leader?