Consider this tale of two elections: the US has over the past 48 hours voted in a president who brags about committing sexual assault, while Canberrans last month elected a parliament consisting of a majority of women in which the deputy leaders of both major parties are thoughtful, compassionate women.
Everyone I’ve spoken to in person or online in the past 16 hours has been as stunned as me at Donald Trump’s victory in the US election, and my social media feeds are filled with comments about the impact his win will have on how America is viewed internationally and on our children’s futures.
This is one as a sample:
“So, if outright lies, misogyny, racism, violence, anger, hypocrisy and aggression can prevail above all basic commonsense and rational thinking, putting an unqualified moron into the highest office in the world, one has to question whether our great western democracy may have reached the end of the road?
When the US president wields so much power and influence over the world, never mind the USA, how democratic is it that a proportionate minority of white Americans can put into power such a destructive world leader against the will of the global community?
Have we really moved on from the 19th Century?
Certainly many democratic countries will no longer look to America the way we once did. It can’t go any lower, surely? Can the US system still be held up as the aspirational, gold standard for the free world? Anyone else not feeling the warm glow of the democratic libertarian ideal?
Tectonic shift? I’d say! I’m glad I’m learning to speak Chinese. Phew, what a day. Here’s a cliche I never thought I’d have to say. I’m shit scared for my kids’ future.”
Google was flooded with searches for “Move to Canada” last night. There has been a torrent of shares of posts about the Canadian immigration website crashing as the US election result became clear, parody posts about Canada building a wall to keep US asylum seekers out, the Mexican border being swamped by fleeing Americans and Queen Elizabeth II offering to restore British rule over the US.
Other shared articles include one about the 10 best places to emigrate after Donald Trump’s victory (Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Vancouver, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Copenhagen and Sydney) and an SBS story about the 2016-17 Skilled Occupations List for would be migrants to Australia.
In fact, US citizens looking for a new life in a city with a progressive government could do a lot worse than Canberra. Join us! We are (for the most part) adequately housed, fed, watered, educated, employed, connected and entertained. Just don’t come to the country by boat, because our Federal government’s policies on boat arrivals are worse than anything Mr Trump has come up with so far.
Australia’s appalling offshore detention policies exist in my view for the same reason that Mr Trump was elected: because many, many citizens are not living the cushy life of the inner-city elite.
Americans looked beyond or even embraced the fact that this is man who mocks disabled reporters, calls global warming a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and says women should be punished for having abortions for a reason.
What does their support for such an individual over a competent and experienced woman tell us about their outlook on life?
Among them are voters who are feeling disenfranchised and seeking alternatives who recognise their predicament and promise to act on it.
These are the voters who have embraced Pauline Hanson in Australia, Brexit and the UK and Mr Trump in the US. They say things like “don’t let refugees in because they’ll steal our jobs” because they’re living in fear. They fear for their families’ futures as they are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs due to economic change driven by globalisation. They’re looking for someone to blame, and for champions who will stand up for their right to a better life.
Rather than vilifying these voters we should listen to them and think about what can be done to assist them in their predicament, because while they remain angry and scared about the state of the world, they will always choose a maverick like Mr Trump over the status quo.
Pauline Hanson knows it. She celebrated Mr Trump’s win last night with champagne in her office. You can belittle and demean her or you can try to understand her perspective. The same is true for the electors who put her there, and those who have entrusted their nation to Mr Trump.
Please don’t think for a moment that because I am encouraging attempts to understand where these politicians and their electors are coming from I support their racist or in Mr Trump’s case misogynistic views. The opposite is true. I am horrified by it, and find Mr Trump’s blatant dishonesty abhorrent.
I am as fearful about what this election result means for us all as the US President-elect’s supporters are of globalisation.
As I said at the start, I’m very pleased to be living in an open-minded, progressive city like Canberra today.
What do you think about the US election result?