Read this if you think the US election doesn't affect you
Updated: Feb 25
It’s 3 November, a day that might not mean much to some Aussies, but means everything to Americans. Election day is breaking in the US; the polls will open in a few hours on the East Coast and Americans will have one final day to have their say. While we Australians have been exposed to a tonne of media coverage on this election, there are many of us who haven’t thought much about it. Here are two (huge) reasons why we should be thinking about it no matter the election outcome.
That’s a little flippant, but it’s a case of I laugh to keep from weeping. Trump is a threat to democracy. Not just democracy in the USA, which is borderline nonexistent as it is (read this article if you don’t know why), but also the democracy of the Western world who model themselves after America, ie. us.
If Trump loses the election, a lot of people are banking on him refusing to step down. We are talking dictator territory. In case you missed Deb Frecklington’s concession speech, one of the very first things she talked about was the importance of democracy and respecting the vote of the people. She said this because Trump will not utter these words if he loses tomorrow (or in the days and weeks that follow).
We do live in a democratic society outside of America, but we are tied to the US in many ways. According to former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Australian national interest lies in defending the election result against any threats that undermined confidence in US democratic institutions and thereby helped rivals such as China and Russia.
Former LNP Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly agreed with Rudd, saying "once you start challenging the legitimacy of your democratic processes, then you're basically undermining the legitimacy of your country, of your democracy." Many world leaders have urged US political parties to accept the outcome of the election and, more specifically, have urged Trump to state that he will step down should he lose to Biden.
The weight of these two leaders from opposing sides of the political spectrum (even if you do think Malcolm was an undercover lefty) is significant. Many issues in our society are split down party lines, the left vs. the right, so an issue that brings the two together is one to pay mind to.
Australia has close relationships with the US. A threat to their democracy leads to a threat to trade and political deals, partnerships, and, eventually, our democracy.
While it might seem obvious after reading the above quotes that the Australian government should push back on Trump, should he choose not to concede in the face of a loss, there is a huge risk either way. For Prime Minister Scott Morrison to publicly come out and urge Trump to concede if required to do so is to run the risk of making a very powerful enemy for Australia.
The violent minority
Trump has violent views and committed followers, and they do not all call the US home. We have Trump supporters, neo-Nazis, and alt-right groups right here at home. If Trump wins the election, it will give a greater voice to these groups. Whether or not Trump wins the popular vote (which he probably won’t), his victory will be a victory for those who align themselves with his views.
Whether or not Trump is these things himself, he followers include racist groups, hate groups, misogynists, pro-gun groups, anti-choice groups, anti-LGBTQIA groups, and the list goes on. A Trump victory will pour fuel on the metaphorical fire for these groups. They will feel heard and they will feel empowered. There were reports of hate crimes spiking all over the world after Trump won the 2016 election. That will happen again.
When Trump was elected, progeressive Australian women marched. When George Floyd was murdered, lefty Aussies rallied. We reflect and we stand in solidarity with the US in terrifying times. If Trump wins, the alt-right will rise.
Along with empowering these groups, a Trump victory will provide a more significant platform for the likes of Pauline Hanson, a vocally anti-immigration (among other things) politician who already has too much power. Many alt-right individuals and groups feel repressed by the so-called war on free speech and push for a PC-gone-mad society.
This article has been all doom and gloom, and there is always the chance Trump will lose the election and quietly step down in a few months, but it is vital that we are prepared for these outcomes.
There is something bitterly unfair about having absolutely no control over a situation that could crumble our sense of democracy. But, there’s nothing we can do but brace ourselves, watch, and hope.