Thursday, 2 June 2016

Could New Zealand Elect A Trump?

Trump in Auckland, 1993
I have an American friend - he's nearly 80 years old, and he's happy to say why he loves New Zealand: it reminds him of how America used to be, back in the humble old Norman Rockwell days of cherry soda; fresh air and close community. That got me thinking: is New Zealand catching up on old history? Are we still in that idyllic, 1950's stage where everything is smooth sailing, with no trouble on the horizon? The whole campaign mantra of the National Party last election was 'everything is going alright. Don't rock the boat.' Heck, the television ads even featured a metaphorical racing shell which demonstrates that exact message:

'This piece of shit boat is sinking fast, everyone rowing in the right direction?'
But if this is all true, and everything is fine and dandy, where then will we be in 60 years time? Will we still be this perfect country, or will we be in the same place as the present day United States, in 2016? Neglected infrastructure; water crisis; unsustainable debt; mass shootings; heavy domestic surveillance; and an angry, frustrated population looking to a Sanders or a Trump presidency to save the day? Could we have our own Bernie Sanders? Could we have a Kiwi Donald Trump?

Whether you love or hate Donald Trump, his rise to prominence in American politics (after 30 years of failing at this task) will forever change the American two-party system, whether he wins or not. But if he does win, we'll probably see massive changes in the global community for generations to come. But we don't know all the details: Trump has spoken about how he'll deal with China, Japan and Mexico - the enemies, but he hasn't spoken much about his plans for America's closest allies - New Zealand being one of them. If he stuck to his word (which is not common with Trump) then we could potentially see a halt to the Trans Pacific Partnership, as well as a a loosening of military relations as Trump seeks to end America's status as diplomatic policemen of the world. But what about the implications of a Trump presidency for us in New Zealand? Instead of visits from Barack Obama, whom us Kiwis find immensely likeable, how would we treat visits from Trump? If Key loved Obama as much as he did, I'd like to see how Key reacts to a man who more than shares his opulence and egotism. Imagine Teflon John and The Teflon Don playing golf together.
"The Prime Minister could be photographed shooting little kittens in his garden with a shotgun and still be popular."
-Kim Dotcom on John Key, September, 2014
"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters,"
-Donald Trump, January 2016

Shooting kittens that look like you are a different matter.

With comparisons being made between Trump and the Philippine's newest leader, could somebody like Donald Trump come to power in New Zealand? This question has been asked about many English speaking countries, with comedian John Oliver hilariously suggesting that England already had their own Donald Trump in the form of many 'gold loving 18th century Kings' of German descent and funny hairstyles:

'Some Irish, I assume, are good people.'
We had another hilarious video by the brilliant local satire site The Civilian, but the question has never been largely explored by the media in a serious context. Most articles talking about it are just sensationalist in nature - the name Trump is rather good at getting people to click into things. But in some ways The Civilian is right - Bob Jones was like a Donald Trump: He was an extravagant, outspoken property tycoon who, despite being immensely unlikeable and divisive, was at least able to shake up a party-dominated system long in need of shaking up: Jones deserves credit for exposing the inherent flaw of the FPP voting system and encouraging people to rethink their democracy, whether that was his intention or not. Trump likewise deserves credit for exposing the corruption of the Republican party and causing people to rethink the two-party system. I like neither Jones nor Trump, but like Dan Carlin said, I don't have to like somebody in order to think they're good for the system.

'I don't have to like myself to know that I made a difference.'
And this has not been better demonstrated than a short, but powerful video by Youtuber Nerdwriter1. In it, he explains how Donald Trump 'exists at the nexus' of a hate triangle comprised of the public, media and politicians. The public distrust the media; the public distrust politicians. The politicians lie to the public and the media. The media does whatever it needs to do to catch attention, whether its good jounalism or not. Trump has risen naturally from the cesspool of selfish politicians; sensationalist media and the disengaged public; and all three are responsible for his rise to power, but they can also kill him just as quickly as they created him. Anyway, that doesn't do it justice - just watch the video yourself:

From this perspective, I don't think New Zealand could have a Trump. Well, not any time soon, at least. Here's my rationale: first, we have MMP, an undeniably superior system to FPP, and our votes are managed by the impartial Electoral Commission - not the parties themselves, like in the U.S.A. No matter what we think of our politicans, we have much more variety and choice than Americans do, and we have much less reason to think that the system is gaming us. I don't like the National government, but I can at least say that New Zealand chose this government - it wasn't forced on us (does that make me sleep better or worse at night?)

We created this
Anyway, we don't feel like we're picking the lesser of two evils, and we don't feel like the system is preventing independents and outsiders from gaining foothold. But Americans do believe this stuff about their system. No matter where they are on the left-right spectrum, Americans are deeply cynical of their politicians, and the political system that controls them, whether they believe the problem is caused by Wall Street; the Washington Elite or Reptilian Illuminati Aliens. Go to America and ask people just how much they trust their elected officials. But it's not just about disillusionment - it's about anger. America is a deeply angry nation. No matter which of the 50 states you live in, there is always something to be angry about, from crumbling infrastructure; to heavy job loss; a water crisis or the terrible impending crisis destroying our great civilisation that is political correctness.

Here in New Zealand, we don't have a sizeable angry population - sure, we have a few outraged citizens, but as Mike Hosking is proud to point out, they're a very small minority. Overall, New Zealanders are very happy people. We live in one of the best countries in the world. We have all the luxuries of the globe at our feet; our air is still relatively fresh; we dominate statistics in all ranges of positive categories from happiness to equality. If the continuing popularity of the National Party indicates one thing, it's that the majority of the voting population are happy with the way things are. Sure, there is anger in this country, there is alienation; frustration and disillusionment. But there simply isn't enough to necessitate the rise of a radical; game-changing figure who promises to solve all our problems. New Zealand is still great, but one day, it won't be, and mark my words: we'll have some guy come along with promises to make New Zealand into the cutting edge, popular nation that it once was.
Pre-Order now for 2066!

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