Australians Watching American Politics: ???!!!!***$%%#
The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australian office. Sign up to receive it by email. This week’s issue was written by Damien Cave, head of the Australian office.
Australians used to talk about American politics like sports – following the ups and downs, marveling at the competition, and trying to figure out who would win.
This year? Rather, it is the discussion of a car wreck involving a neighbor or an uncle.
Friends and even strangers have been asking if my relatives are healthy for months, fearing that they perished in the American coronavirus disaster. And this week, after a debacle of a debate and the news that President Trump and Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, I saw and heard more than just empathy – including shock, dismay, fear, heartache and just head-shaking alarms.
Van Badham, a commentator who writes often for The Guardian (and occasionally for the New York Times Opinion), responded to my tweet about Mr. Trump’s positive test result with what many Australians seem to be feeling:
“I have just
I can not
I immediately emailed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office for comment – and got nothing for the moment, at least. My guess: the Canberra brokers were also trying to get their jaws off the ground.
Earlier this week, after the debate in which Mr. Trump interrupted Joe Biden or the moderator 128 times after counting, many Australians seemed eager to lend a hand to my Amis colleagues. They offered therapeutic help, alcohol and an invitation to visit (or escape) to Australia, a country with national Medicare, unsolicited and easy postal voting, and a successful response to the pandemic.
But across the country (and around the world) there were also signs of mounting frustration. Michael Fullilove, who heads the Lowy Institute and wrote a book about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, criticized early and sullenly: “The words I missed most in this debate: ‘You are mute’. “
David Rowe, a political cartoonist for the Australian Financial Review, quickly published an illustration entitled “undebatable” showing President Trump in shirtless clown shoes with a single phrase on his body: “Me the people.”
When I asked Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at Australia National University, how he would follow the debate, he said two emotions came to mind: dismay and sadness.
“In particular, it has renewed my confusion that over 40 percent of Americans are ready to consider voting for Trump,” he said. “What does that say about your views on the presidency?”
He added that the politic-free back-and-forth also “reinforced my feeling that Biden is indeed a very weak candidate whose only claim to the presidency, as he himself acknowledged, is that he is not Donald Trump.”
And he said, “It deepened my fear that the election result will be controversial and chaotic.”
Jen Overbeck, a two-time American-Australian national who teaches power and management at Melbourne Business School, said observing the campaign from a distance brought them closer to Australians as they all share a mixture of fear and helplessness.
“It has been more terrifying to watch what is happening in the US, how legitimacy has declined (or should I say assisted suicide) and Trump’s extraordinarily effective way of using brute force to destabilize and break or re-establish institutions for a short time, ”she said.
The US, she added, has moved from a system of controversial politics to one that has simply “fought for the sake of brute force”.
What Mr. Trump’s diagnosis means for this approach – and the race in general – is a very open question.
As our White House correspondents put it:
Mr Trump’s positive test result could pose immediate difficulties for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger, with just 33 days to go before the November 3rd election. Even if Mr Trump, 74 remains asymptomatic, he will have to withdraw from the election campaign and remain isolated in the White House for an unknown period. If he gets sick, it could raise questions about whether he should stay on the ballot at all.
It looks like Australians like the rest of us will have a lot more to see and respond to by Election Day on November 3rd.
Here are our stories of the week.
Australia and New Zealand
… And over to you
In last week’s newsletter about spring and the Melbourne easing, Besha Rodell asked: How do you find happiness these days? Here are two answers:
Just looking out of the kitchen window at greener grass and a few pink flowers in my largely neglected garden can make my repetitive days a little easier.
– Andi Yu
I drew strength from the fact that previous generations have survived wars, famine and many diseases without a cure, and now we must work together to get through this unexpectedly difficult time.
My family has chosen to consciously appreciate the little things in life that bring joy and to make the most of this year’s slower pace. We said thank you for living in a beautiful city, for our homes, our families, and a determined government that cares about our safety.
– Anina Fitzgibbon