Another election. Another Joke.
Imagine for a moment that a joker ran for public office. Now imagine if that joker winning and becoming king. You dont need to imagine it anymore, there is Donald Trump.
Every election in a democratic country throws up one or two novelties. A fringe candidate here, a clown candidate there. You might be inclined to scream “There’s no difference between them, they’re all politicians! They’re all rotten!” “ Wait! What? Another election?! Didn’t we already vote for them so that they work for us?” What’s the point of it all you might ask?
Australia unfortunately (or, fortunately depending on your sense of wicked humour) has not been immune to this growing trend of candidates who one week prior to the election was invisible to the public to suddenly hearing voters shouting at the television: “Who’s that?! Who voted for that guy?!”
Australia also has a few candidates approaching, or who have already reached, joke status that if it weren’t so serious, everyone would be laughing. At the last Federal election in September 2013, mining magnate Clive Palmer launched his own political party and nominated many candidates for representation. Mr Palmer was very successful, that resulted in him receiving a vote approaching six percent total nationwide and have three people elected to the Senate. Two of these Palmer candidates, Senators Jackie Lambie and Dio Wang, were both elected to Parliament with primary votes so small, as to make the public believe they ‘gamed’ the system. Other political outsiders, such as Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiast Party were elected with less than five hundred primary votes but still somehow managed, with a lot of assistance from preference deal making, to elevate himself to secure the necessary eight percent voting quota. This left the impression to many voters that, democracy in Australia was demonstrated very poorly and somehow ‘rigged’.
Every election the voters say they want change from experienced insiders, someone who cares about them, someone who is authentically “real” and not a “fake”. Afterwards, when change does come along in the form of complete outsiders with zero experience of politics, as did occur in the 2013 result, do voters actually realise they preferred the experienced insiders all along to avoid dysfunction. Voters are quick to say they vote on substance and not on style or personalities, yet when was the last time you remember voters openly saying they’re voting for a major party because of their platform and not because they didn’t like or want the opposing party leader as Prime Minister? Further to the point, insincerity should not disqualify a candidate. Candidates with the most bizarre slogans, policies or ideas should still be examined by the public but the worth of their contribution should be highlighted as a point of difference to the main contenders.
MAYBE THIS TIME IT REALLY IS A JOKE ELECTION?
Overseas, the US voting public is currently examining a group of candidates, both new and old, running in the 2016 Presidential race. The race is starting to become heated with both the Democrats and Republicans each having several candidates for the nomination and many debates leading up to the Iowa caucus in February 2016. The race has thrown up many unique distinctions from previous races; Seventeen declared Republican candidates, the rise of unlimited funded super Political Action Committees (PACs) and of course a few policies that are outright wacky. The most fascinating aspects of the race so far has been the emergence of non-office holders leading the polls in the Republican race. Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are the three leading candidates in the polls and openly treat their lack of political experience as a positive strength and not as a weakness or drawback.
The Republican debates have been a rollercoaster all of their own. Having up to ten or eleven candidates on stage at once leaves little room for candidates to break out. What each candidate is aiming for is to have a signature moment, a single memorable phrase, to be replayed on television highlight reels. This helps not just with boosting name brand recognition but also fund-raising from small and big donors. Considering the amount of candidates actively running, the debates serve their purpose in providing insight into how each candidate would respond to matters of electability, policy substance and strength of character.
An example of how a candidate demonstrates their character to voters is Donald Trump. Mr Trump has said publicly on the campaign trail that the US doesn’t “win” anymore and that the leadership representing the country in Washington D.C. are “stupid losers”, where “the rest of the world is laughing at us”. Were Mr Trump to be elected president, it would be interesting indeed, if the world did in fact laugh at the US for electing a man whose outbursts have become increasingly toxic as to be a rallying cry for his supporters and an embarrassment to everyone else.
In complete contrast to the Republican debate being staged in front of Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One plane, the Democratic debate was held bizarrely inside a Las Vegas casino hotel at the same time the candidates on stage were being critical of wealth distribution in society. The debate also served to re-enforce that there are only two main contenders for the Democratic nomination in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The contrast in tone and substance was more self-evident in the Democratic debate as the two front runners were openly commenting on income inequality, gun control, climate change, paid paternal leave and the possible solutions to resolve it.
Should the two nominees be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, the voters will most likely hear and see a repeat election with billions of dollars spent from super PACs where two dynastic families are fighting over what they believed their entitled too.
As for the next Australian election? The public is going to have two candidates. The first, is Malcolm Turnbull who challenged his own leader Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister and the second is, Bill Shorten who, organised the numbers in the two challenges against Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard for his chance to become Prime Minister. In Australia, the idea of a fair go is popular, so perhaps it’s only fitting everyone should try and have a fair go being Prime Minister, if only for a day.