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Is Mark Latham Australia's Donald Trump?

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NSW Member of the Legislative Council Mark Latham and President Donal Trump (Screenshots via YouTube)

On the surface, both NSW One Nation Leader Mark Latham and President Donald Trump are “populists”.

According to vocabulary.com, populism is:

'The political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite.' 

Trump, the billionaire, a populist? It is a sign of the parlous state of the world that he has managed to convince his working class “base” that he and he alone is interested in their welfare.

Populism has become just a cynical way of galvanising a fearful minority into a political force. Trump and Latham could easily share the podium with diatribes against feminists, greenies, the "fake" media and communists.

In Trump's case, he is not against all communists, it seems, just the ones who don't loan him money. Of course, he is happy with those top "commies", Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un

Trump also gets his base in a lather over Latinos and the hated Democrats. 

Latham appears to have no public position on either of these but is as eager as Trump to take a jackhammer to the fault lines in society when the opportunity arises.

Trump is unashamedly anti-Muslim. The bigotry goes back a long way. In 2012, he insinuated that then President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim as a racial slur. Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. 

Mark Latham's anti-Muslim views are more muted, if not confused — he posted on Twitter:

'Muslim woman, 39, to run for ONE NATION on "ban the burqa" platform.'

Both Latham and Trump are quick to pour scorn on anyone who annoys them. If the target dares to fight back, they double down on the vitriol.

The style of bullying is very different from the two men, however. Trump is a world-class cyber bully. (Whatever happened to  Melania's campaign to fight the problem?) Trump never fronts up to an adversary in person. He uses Fox News, Twitter or rallies packed with his adoring base to flay his opponents. He also hides behind White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who performs Olympic level distortions of reality to channel her boss.

Latham is a far more overt bully than Trump. He makes no effort to hide his dislike of a person, face to face. There was the memorable moment when he weaponised a handshake by putting former Prime Minister John Howard's hand in a vice-like grip and pulling the obviously alarmed Howard forward until they were nose to nose. No Twitter would have been needed here, even if it had existed at the time. Latham is a street fighter.

Trump, obese and with little hands incapable of a hard squeeze, hurls insults from a safe distance.

Both men are skilled with the media and benefit from the blessing of Rupert Murdoch. Latham's Andrew Bolt on Sky News and Trump's Sean Hannity on Fox serve as outlets for their right-wing line. However, not all is sweetness and light in the alt-right camp. Trump and conservative Fox contributor Ann Coulter have had an acrimonious parting of the ways. 

Coulter said:

'The only national emergency is that our President is an idiot!'

Latham and Trump had vastly different backgrounds, geographically and financially. 

Trump was raised in Queens, a borough of New York. He is a typical New Yorker with little knowledge of, or interest in, the outside world. Trump was never hurting for money, even as a child. He was earning $200,000 per year at age three, as part of father Fred Trump's tax dodge. He had a very privileged upbringing and managed to keep out of the Vietnam war by getting a questionable bone spur diagnosis from a local doctor. The obliging doctor's landlord was Fred Trump.

Latham was born in Ashcroft in southwestern Sydney. After attending the Hurlstone Agricultural High School he enrolled in the University of Sydney, working at the Green Valley Hotel for two years to support his studies. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a bachelor of economics with honours in 1982. He served as a research assistant to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and as an advisor to former NSW Premier Bob Carr. In 1987, Latham was elected to the Liverpool City Council and later became Mayor. Latham then rose through the political ranks to become an outspoken Leader of the Australian Labor Party.

Latham expressed his jaundiced view of politics when he commented in 2002:

I'm a hater. Part of the tribalness of politics is to really dislike the other side with intensity. And the more I see of them the more I hate them. I hate their negativity. I hate their narrowness. I hate the way, for instance, John Howard tries to appeal to suburban values when I know that he hasn't got any real answers to the problems and challenges we face. I hate the phoniness of that.

These comments may explain the aggressive handshake.

Latham has vast political knowledge, even if he is critical of the process. 

In contrast, Trump is presently doing on-the-job training in government. His only work experience is being a New York real estate salesman and TV personality. Political experience, or lack of it, emerges as a major difference between the two men.

Another is the fact that Latham is an educated man, a thinker and a writer of works like  A Conga Line of Suckholes. No one has ever accused Trump of being an intellectual and his one publication is The Art of the Deal, which was, it turns out, actually ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz. Schwartz said, “I put lipstick on a pig.”  The only things Trump has written himself appear to be cheques to silence his former sex partners.        

Now, Latham has joined that odd collection of semi-retired political hacks, gun lovers, greenies and feisty individuals in the NSW Upper House as a One Nation Party member. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before he bails out of the Party like so many before him. The strong Latham-Hanson personalities are bound to collide sooner or later. For the moment, most of Latham's views seem to match Pauline's — including axing the subsidies for renewable energy and support for coal mining. Latham is also calling for the ban on nuclear generation to be lifted. 

Trump would drink to all that.

When it comes to the NRA, Latham and Trump are also on the same page. Latham is protecting One Nation with an attack on the media and the Muslim origin of the story.  Trump just takes the money, no problem.

 

In spite of similarities, however, Mark Latham is definitely not Australia's Donald Trump. Latham may not be able to drain the Macquarie Street "swamp", but he will be the biggest, meanest crocodile in the billabong.

Dr Norm Sanders is a former commercial pilot, flight Instructor, university professor, Tasmanian State MP and Federal Senator.

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