This year’s biggest and most consequential election is not the one that will be held here in Australia. In fact, in world terms we struggle to be peripheral. No, the big, crucial election is the one that will be held the first Tuesday of November in the United States of America. For those who lean right in their politics, this upcoming poll is even more important to stop the worst excesses of the Obama regime from being locked in.
So given the importance of this election to the Republican Party, the obvious question to ask is why the current frontrunner in the drawn-out process to win that party’s nomination is none other than Donald Trump. The answer is not obvious. On a personal level there’s little to recommend the man. (Disclosure: I can’t stand the guy.) He’s nasty, brutish and tall (well, he’s a tad over 6 feet). He has spent most of his life as a Democrat, giving plenty of money to the Clintons, but swings wildly with the various winds of self-interest. He’s a showman who has leveraged an incredibly popular reality TV show (The Apprentice) into the sort of name recognition money literally can’t buy. But if it could, Trump certainly has enough of the green stuff to buy anything he wants – so the usual hassles of raising money, at the centre of all American politics, simply don’t apply to him.
Nor does Mr Trump seem to know very much about policy, any policy. Foreign affairs are for him a black hole, which admittedly still makes him better than President Obama. Still, Trump deals in slogans. And he insults people, seemingly for no reason.
Meanwhile Trump’s main competitors, in the now winnowed down Republican field, are Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and at a huge and increasingly implausible stretch perhaps Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. Marco Rubio is the most electable of the non-Trump crowd. I think he’d beat Hillary walking away. It would be harder for Cruz, but I think he’d take Hillary too. And just to let you know my money is where my mouth is, last year a long-time reader of The Speccie who happens to be a left-leaning voter (and thank God this fine publication has that sort of cross-over appeal) contacted me and challenged me to a bet – he’d take the Democrats’ candidate and I’d get the Republicans’. Come November I hope to be cashing a $100 cheque, baby.
Of course back when this bet was proposed I would have pooh-poohed the idea of Trump winning the nomination. I think it’s still less than a 50 per cent likelihood, especially after the Iowa caucuses this week. Plus of the big three of Cruz, Rubio and Trump, the latter is the least likely to win against Hillary. So why is Trump leading amongst Republicans as we approach the date for the second state, New Hampshire, to make its choice? Well, to try to understand Trump’s appeal – not an appeal that has rubbed off on me, as I said – I think you need first to put aside the usual ABC-type mischaracterisations. First off, Trump is smart and he’s been successful in business. Yes, he inherited plenty but he took what he was handed and made it a lot bigger, by taking a fair few chances (and so suffering the odd corporate bankruptcy). To put it differently, Trump brings infinitely more relevant experience to the table than Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – also a trust fund kid, but one who never finished uni, never had a job worth mentioning (unless you count being a snow board instructor), never did anything at all that would even get him an interview for a middle manager’s job. But Trudeau gets only adoration from the ABC types because he spouts every PC slogan imaginable, and worse, Trudeau seems actually to believe some of what he spews out. Trump’s views, or rather the right-of-centre views Trump is currently mouthing, are by contrast detested by the metropolitan elites here and in the US and so Trump’s coverage on ‘our’ ABC and all the non-Fox broadcasters in the US is (how shall I put this?) somewhat less favourable than what Trudeau gets.
Which is part of Trump’s appeal. He doesn’t play the politically correct game that most right-of-centre politicians – are you listening Tony Abbott, too late though it now is? – for some reason feel compelled to play. He says there’s a problem with Muslim immigration. He makes off-colour jokes that no other current politician would dare utter, though ones that are less ‘offensive’ than dozens and dozens that, say, Churchill made.
This is the aspect of Trump I like, to be blunt. He seems to be on a single-minded mission to tear down the platitudinous pieties of the PC brigade. And Lord knows we desperately need that. Alas, Trump combines that political incorrectness with empty-headedness on the policy front and with a lifetime record of saying and doing anything that will help Numero Uno. In other words, there’s no reason to trust the man on anything he promises and certainly not on crucial issues such as whom to appoint to the Supreme Court (given that the next US President is likely to get two or three picks).
Of course, that sort of maverick appeal only works when the rusted-on Republican voters are massively frustrated with their party. And boy are they ever. The so-called Republican establishment has been a joke. They have controlled both houses of the legislature now for nearing two years and what have they done? Cave in again and again to Obama. Having promised to put Bill after Bill on Obama’s desk to force him to issue veto after veto the Republicans have barely done so a handful of times. They cave in on more spending; they reauthorise the Export-Import Bank; you strain to see why you bothered to elect them in the first place. If that sounds all-too-familiar to Liberal voters here in Australia, the difference is that in the US system there is scope for a renegade like Trump to tap into that dissatisfaction. Here in Australia those long-time Liberals who can’t stand Turnbull and his agenda have no option other than the nuclear one of hoping Labor wins and then the Libs re-orientate themselves.
So that’s the gist of Trump’s appeal in my view. And he’s a keen golfer (and owner of great golf courses) which is always a plus. But even with that thrown into the mix the Republicans would be much better off nominating Cruz or Rubio, as I really, really hope they eventually do. Whether GOP members who are fuming mad with the professional politicians see it that way, though, is anyone’s guess. I hope they do. I want my $100.
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