As billionaire property developer Donald Trump continues to bully and bluster his way towards the Republican presidential nomination in the United States, many are left scratching their heads at how this could happen. A man who is openly racist, sexist, mocks people with a disability and threatens to sue those who cross him could become the next leader of the Free World.
In Australia, the rise of Trump was at first amusing, then bewildering. Now it is alarming. Even former Prime Minister John Howard, who admits to preferring a Republican in the White House, says he “trembles” at the thought of Trump being president. Speaking on Sky News, Howard said “There’s an instability about him that bothers me.”
Howard went on to attribute much of Trump’s success to his ability to tap in to people’s frustration with ‘political correctness’.
As Australia approaches a federal election, is this frustration evident in our country? Throughout the past decade, the public have witnessed leaders once full of passion and radical ideas temper their rhetoric when they reach the top job. Controversial issues such as marriage equality, climate change, taxation reform and asylum seeker policies have all ended up in the ‘too hard’ basket.
Some would say social reform is stalled because our political leaders can’t make difficult decisions and try too hard to please everybody. Finding the middle ground has led to a perceived ‘blandness’, where message delivery and ‘optics’ have become more important than substance.
Is bland politics a breeding ground for the disenfranchised to search for a radical change? While we watch with alarm the political chaos in the US, have we created an environment where a home-grown Trump could rise to prominence here?
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.