Culture

What Does Trumpism Look Like In Australia?

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Donald Trump has been voted out of the White House, but there are fears the ideologies he’s inspired could linger around for a while yet.

Trump’s adoption of populism has led to a real political and cultural division, not just in the US, but globally.

But does Trumpism exist here in Australia and if so, what will happen when the US has a new president?

What Is Trumpism Exactly?

The political approach of populism works on an idea that ‘the people’ are right and ‘the elite’ are corrupt. During his presidency, Trump really married this populist approach to a strong sense of nationalism to create his own special brand of Trumpism.

There were some parts of Trump’s populist leadership that really tanked, like his unscientific response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But some experts are worried that Trump’s most successful strategies could be his most enduring legacies – like the way he undermined peoples’ confidence in democratic institutions and how he emboldened the conservative media to become more extreme.

These strategies delivered huge engagement, ratings and new revenue streams for far-right politicians and conservative media, and we’ve seen this play out in Australia too.

What Does Trumpism Look Like In Australia?

James Cutler: “I think largely what we’ve seen here in Australia has been an adoption of both that right-wing populism and also some of the political and socio-cultural division that comes along with it. So we’ve seen local figures in right-wing media and politics seizing upon this opportunity.”

That’s James Cutler, a researcher specialising in far-right extremism.

He told me that just by Trump being in the White House, he gave extremism unprecedented legitimacy, and that throughout Trump’s presidency, there’s been a real increase in rhetoric around conspiracy theories and climate change denialism, even from some media figures and politicians here in Australia.

Like when Federal Coalition backbenchers George Christensen and Craig Kelly wrote a letter to the Queensland Chief Health Officer trying to get the TGA ban on hydroxychloroquine lifted after Trump popularised it.

James argues that even Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election and his claims of voting fraud are chipping away at how a democracy should work, and he’s influencing Aussie’s politicians on it too.

JC: “Here in Australia what we’ve seen – perhaps more particularly on Sky News with figures like Alan Jones, but even in Federal Parliament with guys like Craig Kelly and George Christensen – is the adoption of that viewpoint. So that election fraud stance has been taken on quite passionately. And these figures in turn, become the go-to figures for this conspiracy and for this direct line to Trumpism, if you like, here in Australia.”

What Are The Implications?

Ultimately, Trumpism has been built on undermining the legitimacy of establishments like the media and democracy, which James told me has played into the hands of the far-right in the US but also here in Australia, and he’s worried this could end in violence.

JC: “We fear we are going to see another event like for example the Oklahoma City bombing, where that level of distrust and disdain for government meets with that sort of right-wing populist rhetoric and far-right nationalism. And the combination of the two ends in tragic circumstances.”

What Will A Change Of POTUS Mean For Australia?

Aussie critics are hoping the change in US President will have a positive influence on our own government and media, especially on issues like climate change.

But James warns that just because Biden won, it doesn’t mean that voter sentiment has returned to supporting career politician types rather than celebrities.

The Takeaway

Ultimately, the populist beliefs of Trump’s supporters still remain in the US and even with a new president on the way, Trumpism is an underlying threat.

And while they are around, we need to remember that democracy doesn’t just happen by itself. It needs to be protected.