If Trump is elected President, should Australia be alert AND alarmed?

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(Image via @Pollizer)

U.S. pundits are picking their collective jaws up off the floor after the shock poll surge by maverick Presidential contender, Donald Trump. Have Americans gone barkers or is it just voter fatigue with professional politicians?  Ian Halford asks whether Australians should be worried.

THE POLITICAL world is transfixed on the current U.S. election cycle more than any I can remember, and seven years ago they elected a black for the first time. The interest in this election is largely due to one man — Donald Trump. Though there are other points of interest such as the possibility of the first female President or another Bush, the world is far more interested in the billionaire who speaks his mind.

The voting public appear to be tired of the same repeated rhetoric that politicians deliver, as if they are reading from the same playbook on how to win an election. But Trump has thrown this out and, rather than toe the party line, says what he wants when he wants. With every apparent political gaffe Trump surges in the polls, as it is refreshing not to hear a candidate disguise his true opinions in voluminous political spin. Whether or not Trump wins the election, just the fact that he is in the race is forcing the other candidates to throw out the playbook as well, and for the first time, be honest.

Though much of what Trump says is offensive to a lot of people, a large segment of society are fed up with feeling they cannot express their own opinions without being reprimanded. It is because of this that even when Trump makes promises that experts say he can’t deliver – such as bringing all the jobs back from China – his poll numbers continue to rise. He is telling people what they want to hear the same way every other politician is, but he is doing it in a manner that comes across as sincere.

While the rest pander to the public to and get caught in their own web of contradiction, Trump pleases the überpatriot and cares not a jot about anyone else.

Trump has a chequered past, the likes of which would usually destroy a candidate’s chances, but the U.S. voter is so fed up with political rhetoric that many of them are forgiving. Trump inherited his father’s company and bankrupted it in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. He did this by taking massive risks, which allowed him to make billions of dollars, which he would subsequently lose, though he was only personally bankrupt in 1991.

People will argue that it shows his ability to recover even when all seems lost which is exactly what the U.S. treasury needs right now. On the other hand, the risks that he has taken have affected only himself and his employees, if he was to make those same mistakes while in control of the U.S. economy, the financial crisis into which the world would be plunged would make the great depression seem like minor blip.

Fortunately, all these promises he has made like taxing foreign countries and abolishing corporate taxes are promises which he cannot deliver because tax changes can only be made by Congress. The U.S. system is set up in a manner that wont allow a single person, even a president, to make executive changes to the tax code, therefore, no single risk taker can play Russian Roulette with the U.S. economy. Because of this, a president’s business acumen is of much less importance than his or her ability to get bipartisan support from Congress and the Senate for any real changes to happen.

This is where Trump’s approach is refreshing. Most politicians take a diplomatic approach in trying to persuade opponents to support them where as Trump is authoritative. Whether the tactics that have allowed Trump to succeed in the boardroom can be effective in politics are yet unknown. From an outsider, it seems that in the business world, money eclipses all else. So deeply offending someone won’t necessarily be a deal breaker if there’s a profit involved.

But will the general arrogance of most politicians allow them to make a deal if the feel they have been offended? This is a problem considering Trump will likely offend his fellow politicians, resulting in congress deadlocks. Though President Obama is the consummate diplomat, Congress has failed to function during his presidency. Congress’ approval rating languishes at a deplorable 16 per cent which really can’t get much worse. This is due to the Republicans trying to halt progress to stop the Democrats being re-elected.

If Hillary Clinton were to win, she would face the same truculent congress.  As childish and obvious as this tactic has been, if the American public vote for the Democrats out of spite, nothing will change. This gives the Republicans an edge that they almost seem willing to throw away by pandering to their peerage of upper class white folk while alienating everyone else. 

This is what has driven Trumps support. He has pandered to Americans as a whole rather than one particular demographic. The idea of making America great again resonates with every American. Couple this with the growing number of constitutionalists who feel that political correctness impinges free speech and Trump suddenly looks good.

On the negative side, Trump is a victim of his own hypocrisy.  He says we should not waste our time on political correctness and then sues Bill Maher for joking that he would pay Trump $5 million if he could prove he wasn’t the son of an Orangutan.


If America forgives Trump his past and he is elected, what does that mean for the rest of the world? Trump threatens to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. But how?  You can’t force another country to pay for something unless you are willing to go to war. He’s promised to bring all the jobs back from China — something else that experts say can’t be done. Ironically, if he were to succeed in bringing all the U.S. jobs back from China, he’d end up with a labour shortage resulting in more immigration.

Australia’s destiny is entwined deeply with that of the U.S. With free trade agreements that would likely not change under a Trump presidency, people may not care. The problem is, with our military ties and our recent trade ties with China, Australia is in a precarious position. Australia has supported the U.S. in every war since WWII. If the U.S. however, or more accurately Trump, were to start a war with China, we would see our military security up against our financial security.

For the first time in history, we’d have to decide which side should we want to be on. With the prospect of modern mutually assured destruction, most grievances are settled around a table rather than on the battlefield. However, given Putin has no problem defying international mandates, we have to wonder what Trump might do. He speaks of taxing China, which holds most of the U.S. debt, and suggests he would simply not pay them back. We don’t know whether this is political rhetoric or legitimate Trump goals. What it does mean, however, is that this U.S. election is very important for Australian security and prosperity.

Unfortunately, we don’t get a vote and decisions made in Washington have the potential to affect us more than some made in Canberra.

You can follow Ian on Twitter @halphI.

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If Trump is elected President, should Australia be alert AND alarmed?

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