Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Essay - Donald Trump, Joe Biden; what does it mean for Australia?

I have struggled to write anything sensible on the current US election campaign. I suppose that I've really tuned out in circumstances where commentary in Australia and the US is so polarised. I also wonder if it actually matters outside the US who wins. This may sound extreme, so I will try to explain.

We live in unexpectedly troubled times. 

At global level, we have seen the decline of what has been called the rules based order, essentially the institutions and rules that have governed trade, commerce and international relations since the Second World War. These may not always have been effective, but they did provide a framework. 

We have seen a rise in nationalism and in politics based on national and ethnic identity, We have seen a focus on "race" and "racial issues" from both left and right that has taken me back to a past that I thought we had put behind. We have seen a decline in humanitarian ideals, the rise in me first, a decline in the willingness to make sacrifices for others or the greater good, a fall in tolerance of difference and a disintegration in commonly held values.  

We have seen a rise in state actors asserting raw power wrapped up in the rubric of national pride and the redress of past wrongs. 

Certainly President Trump has been part of this process, but he is really a symptom rather than cause. He appeals to people who feel, rightly to my mind, that they have been ignored and have become, or at least risking becoming, the detritus of a change process. They feel, again rightly to my mind, that their beliefs are denigrated and belittled. In a way, they have been shafted by the libertarian right on one side, the left on the other. 

As an older Australian, I find the extremities of US thought very strange, The US is a far more complex society than ours, although the US extremities are represented here. However, I can recognise and respect. the views and grievances of Mr Trump's supporters even when I find them alien. There are similar groups and concerns in Australia. I understand them too even where I disagree. 

When I look at Mr Trump as a symptom as well as president, I think of him (in  Donald Rumsfeld's words) as a known unknown, known in the sense that we understand the broad parameters, unknown  in that we have no real idea what he will do next. He is a random element, a disruptor. This is not always bad. In shaking things up, he forces shifts in the way we perceive the world. I may dislike it, but it does cause shifts.  

I see Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris more as an unknown unknown. From a purely US domestic viewpoint, they may or may not be a good thing. My feeling is that they will bring more stability, but I'm not sure that they can bridge the divides. 

From an Australian and indeed global viewpoint I have no way of making a judgement. I just don't know. The current US presidential campaign is a US campaign driven by US domestic issues. There is no clarity on the US global approach that is so important to the rest of us. 

That is why I said that I wonder if it actually matters outside the US who wins. My feeling is that the US domestic focus will continue, that confusion will continue, that very little will actually change so far as the rest of the wold is concerned, 

So what does or should Australia do? That's a topic for another post.      




Kanani said...

Trump is a disruptor, but he's not exactly necessarily a symptom of his followers who feel they have been ignored economically, educationally, and socially, rather, he's a cagey marketer who knows how to appeal with the fewest amount of brushstrokes. And often these are terrible stereotypes, and nonsensical rants all wrapped up in red caps.

That the Republicans and the Democrats have pushed forth two candidates that offer no surprises is telling of a certain lethargy within both parties. Perhaps the more interesting race is between Harris and Pence. Pence, a longtime known representative of the Christian right, and Harris who swings left but also faces criticism from the African American community for putting so many males in prison in California, each representa an entrenched political player from a state that despises social change (in fact fights it -look up Bei Bei Shuai), and a seasoned political and social observer from the most populous and tech savvy (but poorly governed) state. Within these two, is where the biggest rifts occur amongst their supporters.

I think you might enjoy Victor Davis Hanson's often true observations about California, and the coastal elites who are the power players in the 5th largest economy in the world --who have brought Harris to prominence.
While Biden is currently spending more, and Trump has had to roll back his own campaign spending, a win isn't guaranteed. Trump stands a chance at winning. Why? In part because despite of all of his bad qualities, the Dems have shown a certain tone-deafness when it comes to trotting out celebrities who are 'celeb-splaining' to everyone not only that they should vote, but who to vote for.

And in part, that's the problem. No one likes a celebrity who makes millions telling them what to do, or by a Duchess who hasn't lived in the states for 10 years, and her Prince husband who has never voted. While there is no doubt that those in red states will benefit from increases in some sort of public healthcare, public education, and job programs, none of it will be solved by celeb-splaining, or the increasingly expensive over-reach of the tech sector into private lives. And that's what Trump's supporters are responding to -changes that they know they have very little sway over.

But for me, it's time to get rid of the meanness, the recklessness of this martinet, and the entitlement of his children, who also suffer from a knowledge of either professionalism or boundaries. I think it's a shame that Biden's son didn't live to run -he would have been great. I'm glad Joe is still around, and that Harris is astute and articulate. Biden's wife Jill did an exemplary job with military families during her term as the VP's wife. But we will have to watch the tone-deafness, and the willingness to do marketing-speak that tries to reduce all our needs to an app.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of interest Kanani - how do you feel about the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett?

I enjoyed reading your above comment, and I hope you and your family were not affected by the fires that seem to plague California, as much as they do here in Australia.


Jim Belshaw said...

That was a very thoughtful comment, Kanani. I had to look up both Bei Bei Shuai and Victor Davis Hanson. When I read the material on Bei I did remember her, but Victor remained new to me. I suspect that I would enjoy his writing and should follow up.

I get very frustrated about the failure of the "progressive" left to recognise rather then denigrate other viewpoints. Many, perhaps the majority, of my friends fall within this persuasion and I have learned just to shut up in private conversations. It's not that I'm right, the majority of the conventional Australian measurements place me left of centre especially on social issues, but I can't stand bigotry. We need to actually engage on issues on merit if we are to preserve our our system.

Sue said...

Hi Jim
If I said;
"I get very frustrated about the failure of the "conservative" right to recognise rather than denigrate other viewpoints..." I would expect to be criticised for a sweeping generalisation. Specific issues? examples?

I was surprised that you didn't publish my first preliminary comment. I had not thought you of all people would censor comments.

Jim Belshaw said...

Urg3ent! Sue, I do not censor posts. Apart from spam comments, the only comments I have censored, a very small number and then reluctantly, are where the comment exposes me or the commentator to the risk of legal action. To my knowledge, I haven't seen your preliminary comment. If I deleted it, it was by accident.

I wrote:"I get very frustrated about the failure of the "progressive" left to recognise rather then denigrate other viewpoints." Today the left has adopted the term progressive. The Guardian among others uses the term progressive as a label to cover sets of certain views. It's become a synonym for the left. I put the term "progressive" in inverted commas because I greatly resent its misuse. Among other things, I regard myself as a progressive, the party Drummond ran for first was the Progressive Party, and yet I am not a progressive because I do not share some of those sets of views that I am expected as a "progressive" to see as self-evident.

We live in a polarised society. That's probably always been the case, I have certainly met it before, but its more evident because of social media. Things such as trolling cover all persuasions. My comment focused on the "progressive" left because that's the group I am most exposed to for reasons I alluded too in the post.

I could dig back and find many examples, but I have already largely lost one friend because I unthinkingly said something that challenged his views. To my mind, he has moved from a person capable of issue specific rational argument with many views in common to me to an ideological warrior. I can forecast every one of his tweets or retweets.

I used to buy the Australian from time to time because it sometimes has good material and I wanted to get alternative views from the dominant positions I am usually exposed to. That's become more difficult, in part because the free on-line section of the paper has become so restricted. The Australian has become a ghetto appealing to a particular set of readers.

I am still, if with increasing reluctance, a financial supporter of the Guardian. They send me details of the campaigns they are running all centered on certain popular tropes that have nothing to do with reporting. I am not opposed to newspaper campaigns, but when it affects the direction and balance of reporting I have a problem.

I read CNN from time to time for its US news, but its political coverage has become very unbalanced. That bias has spread to other parts of the paper. As an analyst, I am interested in what particular Trump measures might mean, but you can't really get it from CNN.

Oh well. Hope that you are well

Anonymous said...

Sue, I have never seen Jim censor an opinion on here in the many years I have been commenting. Even when I have deliberately posted something foolish to simply provoke reaction he, at most, has responded with amused disbelief.

So I would suggest your comment either didn't make it, or was accidentally swept out with the spam which seems to infect all blogs from time to time.

Have a lovely weekend!


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, kvd! One thing that worries me is the changes to the blogger format. Under comments there used to be a spam heading where blogger parked comments classified as spam. I used to check this from time to time. One of your commented ended up there! It's disappeared in the new format. I don't know whether or not there is still a spam trap. I do know that I'm getting a lot more published spam that I then have to delete. :(