Poor Fellow, my country, indeed: Trump’s Australian fans.

Jan 20, 2021

Most of the democratic world agrees that the scenes in the Capitol were terrifying. But what of Australia’s democracy? A government obsessed with secrecy, faux threats to security, MPs in the grip of the neoliberal sickness, and some who appear in thrall to the failed US President.

The scenes in the US Capitol might still lead to criminal charges against the President; they have already caused him to be impeached, for a genuinely “unprecedented” second time.

The fact that the crowd was incited by Trump is seemingly settled, and politicians from around the world have condemned both the actions of the murderous mob and those of the ‘Instigator in Chief’.

The political leaders include Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern and even Vladimir Putin. They all condemned the revolt, but in good old Australia we weren’t that concerned, it seems.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his “distress”, he could not bring himself to connect the actions of the mob with President Trump. That is a disgraceful omission for a democratically elected leader, considering that Trump’s goal was to incite a violent insurrection, with the possible outcome of seizing power, perhaps permanently. Trump is still the “Commander in Chief” of the most powerful nation on earth.

Some MPs thought Twitter was more at fault

Michael McCormack, acting Prime Minister last week, was asked whether he condemned Trump’s actions, but went on to say that “violence is violence and we condemn it in all its forms” and then compared the Black Lives Matter demonstrations with the attack on the Capitol. He did not want to be drawn on who was to blame.

Liberal MPs Craig Kelly, Dave Sharma and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Nationals MP George Christensen and McCormack are among government members who have condemned the “silencing” of Trump.

Is this because they believe the right to incite violence is more important than the competing right of having ones vote counted and not overturned by a mob of illiterate thugs? These ‘luminaries’ also seem woefully ignorant of the exceptions to the First Amendment. These are as follow:

Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment (and therefore may be restricted) include obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, true threats and commercial speech such as advertising.

Why would Morrison not condemn Trump?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has always been embarrassingly taken in by Trump’s ‘braggadocio’ (an apt term, meaning boastful or arrogant behaviour). Morrison has stopped well short of condemning the President, an extraordinary omission considering Trump’s goal to overthrow the results of a democratic election and retain his power.

A complicating factor is that much of Trump’s electoral success has been built on the white evangelical vote. Footage of charismatic Christians ‘laying hands on’ Trump in the White House may be viewed in Australia as quaint, but is Morrison ‘blinded by the light’ when it comes to Trump? We can only hope he does not see Trump as “the chosen one”, as Trump has been described in the US.

Well after Trump lost the election, he awarded Morrison a Legion of Merit for leadership. Presumably, not for tackling global warming.

So John Howard gets a medal, and we go to war in Iraq. Scott Morrison gets a medal, and we defend Trump’s right to attempt to overturn an election.

Trump has been exposed over the past four years as a violent sexual predator, an adulterer, a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, a religious bigot, a homophobe, a fraudulent businessman, a liar, a thief, an environmental vandal and a putative dictator, and yet many of our elected representatives appear to support his right to invalidate elections and undermine the rule of law.

The death and destruction he caused by mishandling the pandemic are yet to be calculated, but the fallout will continue for years, I suspect. Will he ever be brought to book? Maybe not. Again, where were Australia’s leaders as he touted dangerous and stupid solutions? If you were Craig Kelly, it was shoulder to shoulder.

These matters set Trump apart from most of humanity, and it is worth thanking fate for his incompetence and lack of care for detail. The US is still a democratic republic, and we can only hope Joe Biden can repair some of the damage.

But what of the state of our own democracy? A government obsessed with secrecy, faux threats to our security, unaccountable, most of its members in the grip of the neoliberal sickness, and some who appear to be in thrall to the departing, failed US President. How many times must we utter “Poor Fellow, my country”? It might be time for Australians to actually stop, and think. This is serious.

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