Appearing on Lateline the other night as the only Trump supporter the ABC producers could find willing to predict a Trump victory, I was informed – seconds after explaining why I hoped and thought Trump would win – that “only the most reprehensible individual could even countenance the possibility of a Trump victory”. I am used to being sneered at on these sorts of shows by the usual cohort of lefties, but this was a conservative journo whom I have huge respect for firmly placing me in his own basket of deplorables. I felt beads of sweat break out on my forehead and, for a fleeting instant in the claustrophobic bowels of Ultimo, even I had my doubts The Donald could pull it off.
But I pushed the thought straight out of my mind. I knew Trump would win. I’d known for nearly a year, and had said so at every opportunity, much to the consternation/disbelief/horror of any I had made the comment to. (The moment he said he was banning Muslim immigration into the US “until we can figure out what the hell is going on” I knew he would not only win the nomination, but also the presidency. The first genuinely politically-incorrect leader of the modern era; unafraid to say the previously-unsayable.)
So it was amused when Ross Cameron, my fellow Sky News chat show panellist and former Liberal MP, phoned me on Friday and said “Let’s do a ‘Trump’s Last Stand’. We’ll hire a venue, get some balloons, wear silly hats, and get every Trump supporter we can find. If we’re going to go down, let’s go down in style. We’ll invite a few media along. Have a few Buds. Could be fun. May as well go out in style…”
There was a pause, as we both thought the same thing.
“And of course, he might win!”
“I’m in,” I said, without hesitation. “Let’s get Latham, too.”
“Done!” said Ross.
Thanks to the ever-effervescent Tina McQueen, Ross was able to pull it all together in time. We assembled at the NSW Rugby club in a bar behind Pitt Street at 8.00 am yesterday morning. Ross, Tina and Ross’s boys had been up all night decking out the venue. Cut-outs of Donald and Hillary, tee-shirts, hats, balloons, a couple of giant TV screens. “Trumps Aussie Mates” declared a giant banner. It was perfect.
Mark Latham wandered in around 9.00 am. Others soon started turning up. Journalists, a couple of camera crews. A dozen or so die-hards. Excellent coffee on tap. We sat watching the screens. Nothing much happened for a while.
And then, around about 11.00 there was that subtle shift in the air. All those TV chat show experts appeared, weirdly, to be hedging their bets. That guaranteed victory of only a few hours ago now seemed to be, bizarrely, in doubt. The tone of the reporting was a bit like that moment on a long hot Sydney sweltering summer’s day when you detect, several hours before it arrives, the tiniest shift in the atmosphere signalling a southerly buster is on its way.
Mark, Ross and I did various TV and radio interviews. Bronwyn Bishop, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, Rebecca Weisser, Bettina Arndt were all welcomed as part of the excited crowd. As was The Guardian’s Bride Jabour, a somewhat bewildered expression on her face. Our confidence was growing, but we dared not jinx it by suggesting that – OK, whisper it softly – The Donald might actually pull this off! Lunch came in the form of southern fried chicken and chips. What else?
“Are we there yet, Dad?” I said, leaning excitedly over Mark’s broad shoulders around 3.00 as the results carried on trickling in.
Much merriment was had by the diehards in watching the ABC coverage on the smaller of the two giant screens. Stubbornly, the ABC “experts” had Clinton in front during the early afternoon. The numbers on the ABC screen appeared to be completely inverse to those on the American networks.
Then came the ashen faces of one ABC reporter after another, as they self-evidently fought back the tears and stared uncomprehendingly in stunned belief as the southerly buster gathered force.
There was an agonising two hours as we awaited the final results from Pennsylvania and Michigan. Mark had to disappear to go on The Bolt Report. By now, the ABC talking heads were predicting Armageddon, World War 3, world food shortages, collapsing share markets, and plagues of locusts – or so it seemed. When the result was finally called, Ross Cameron clambered up on top of the tables, surrounded by balloons, and gave a terrific rousing victory speech.
We headed home shortly afterwards. It was raining. The buster had arrived.