Every morning the first thing I do as I lay in bed is check Twitter, what has he tweeted. My YouTube suggested videos are all political news stories on him. I spend my entire commute to work reading stories on him. I am obsessed with Trump. Not in a good way, but in an “Oh my God this has to stop” kind of way.
It’s a state of affairs shared by millions of Americans who feel compelled to become involved in politics to a state never experienced before, and lets be honest, politics has never been so interesting.
But there is one thing different about me to most ‘resisters’ as they’ve come to be known. I’m Australian, I don’t live in the USA, and I certainly don’t vote. I am largely unaffected by US social policy or US domestic politics at all. So the question is fair to be asked. Why do I care about Trump? Good question.
There are two reasons. The first is the fairly obvious and drastic changes to US Foreign Policy. Only a few years ago, in the midst of the Obama administration (seems like so long ago now), the entire Western Democratic Order presented a unified front against the forces of evil in the world. If you were a liberal democracy it really felt like you were on the right side of history with Obama and Merkel standing in defence of freedom (and free trade).
Putin faced a united Europe, headed by Germany and the UK, who stood side by side with their friends across the Atlantic. Together they formed a formidable economic partnership able to punish the Russian regime with crippling sanctions for their exploits in the Crimea and Ukraine. These sanctions actually hurt Putin and the oligarchs that surround him. As did the Magnitsky Act, more sanctions universally imposed across the West as punishment for the extrajudicial killing of a corruption whistleblower in Moscow. This capacity to act as a unified bloc in defence of democracy against dictators was effective and unprecedented in history.
One of the main architects of these sanctions was of course Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The effort by Putin to ensure Clinton would not become US President (thus ensuring a continuation of the crippling sanctions) will be judged by history to be one of the greatest foreign policy achievements against a superpower in history. Instead the US installed a man seemingly afraid to speak ill of the Kremlin let alone enforce Congress ordered sanctions.
Only a year before this the UK broke from the ranks of the European Union, a campaign on reflection also heavily influenced by Russian misinformation. Merkel and Macron managed to maintain an anti-Russian alliance within the Union despite overwhelming Russian propaganda, but only just.
That powerful union that kept us all safe from Russian expansionism and Iranian nuclearisation only 3 years ago is now a collection of isolated and inwards looking parties. Well played Putin.
The White House, now occupied by amateurs and yes men are more occupied with saving money than continuing America’s role as the leaders of the Free World. The State Department’s budget cut so severely that a once formidable institution is left to decay like Roman ruins in once easily held corners of the empire.
Filling the void, China of course opportunistically increases its influence across the third world, happy to build infrastructure, but with no interest in building democracy or improving human rights.
China has already began to flex its financial muscle here in Australia, using political donations and commercial interests to influence our once impervious democracy. We would be keen to turn to our traditional ally for help, our big brother with whom we have fought in every war since World War One, but alas… there is no US Ambassador to Australia anymore.
But the thing is, whilst Trump’s foreign policy is bad for Australia, bad for the Liberal Democratic Order, and good for dictators, it isn’t abhorrent. It is just an isolationist foreign policy that many Americans have held from time to time. I disagree with it but I understand where they’re coming from.
I don’t hate Trump for his foreign policy. It’s just something I don’t agree with him on.
But I do hate Donald Trump. I hate him for what he is doing to the institutions of Democracy. This is something that affects me directly.
There is an old saying when talking about the world’s financial markets, “when America sneezes the whole world gets a cold”. The tenets of this saying should not be reserved for the concerns of economists however.
America helped spread democracy around the world by showing the world how it was done. The separation of powers, the influence of Congress, the strong independent media, the very notion of ‘acting Presidential’, was a blueprint for fledgling nations to look to.
My sincere and genuine fear is that when a nation like the US descends into the state of affairs that is becoming accepted now, it could irreversibly spread to my own democracy. As it stands I believe it would be unthinkable for a Prime Minister of Australia to get away with shamelessly and unapologetically lying about basic facts. Certainly our politicians break promises (that perhaps they never intended on keeping) and they obfuscate the true reason they do things, but to lie about observable facts like Trump does in front of the US media, with seemingly zero repercussion, is unimaginable to most other western democracies… for now.
As his first year becomes his second, everything Trump does is being normalised to the American people. Publicly demanding private citizens get locked up, using his status to bully people, calling the media the “enemy of the American people”. This should terrify Americans.
It would be fascinating to watch the slow deterioration of democratic institutions in the USA if it weren’t for the sincere terror that it would invariably damage the institutions in mine. The moment we begin to accept the state of affairs in America as normal, the harder it will be to prevent it in our own countries.
The fact is, the USA is too big to be allowed to fail. The demise of the once immutable US democracy would undoubtedly inflict collateral damage upon all the democracies of the world. The rules of normalisation are being set by the ubiquitous US media and culture that we have consumed with little afterthought for generations. But now it threatens to spread a disease that attacks the institutions of democracy from within.
How the American people deal with Trump affects the whole world, it affects me, all the way over here in my underpopulated island nation. We watch on nervously, sometimes fearfully, but hopeful that the American people will once again be recorded in history as the defenders of global democracy.