“I’m too old to move to Canada. I guess I’ll just have to wear my pink triangle with pride.”
“As someone of German heritage, I never understood how people could have elected Hitler. Today, I understand.”
Just two of the many reactions to the Trumpocalypse in my Facebook messages. I have read every analysis I could find in the last day or two, and spent a couple of restless, largely sleepless nights trying to get over the shock and make sense of it.
I don’t propose to get into how and why this happened: many others have already addressed this, and I have posted a host of links on my personal Facebook page (some at the end of this post). Except to say that it does no good screaming and yelling at the people who voted for Trump.
John Howard is very far from being my favourite politician by a very long way, but he was right when he pointed out that you don’t get people to vote for you by calling them deplorable (even if they are). And you won’t change anyone’s mind by calling them moron, racist, idiot, fascist (even if they are). Or by ignoring what drives them to these extremes.
WALK TOWARDS, NOT AWAY
Reactions in the US have ranged from impotent rage on the streets of American cities, to truly serious consideration being given to the secession of the State of California from the United States, backed by tech billionaire money. Which is all very well if you can afford it, I suppose, but it’s the selfish cowards way, to pack up your billions – California is the engine room of the US economy – and walk away from people who already feel you have left them to rot.
PIVOT TO ASIA
I want instead to look at the implications for Australia in general, and LGBTI people in particular. In general terms, I think Paul Keating, the best Australian Prime Minister of the last century, has it right.
Keating says Trump’s ascension should prompt a thorough rethink of our foreign policy, which for far too long has consisted of running after the USA shouting “Me, me, pick me!” That has been a disaster even under relatively benign US administrations: it would be a complete catastrophe under the incoming President.
Once and for all Australia must begin to weaken, if not altogether cut, its ties with the US, and cease its pretensions to be a Western nation. We are not. We are a multiracial multicultural Asian nation, in Asia, and ought to be tightly woven into organisations like ASEAN. We must be good friends to Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Among many other benefits, this will allow us to finally craft a proper regional solution to the refugee problem and close down our offshore concentration camps. But we have no business in bed with a white supremacist regime in Washington.
We must seek a rapprochement, if not an actual alliance, with China. The stupid affectation of posing as America’s “Deputy Sheriff” in the region must be ditched. Instead of standing with America and speaking on its behalf to China, the relationship should be the reverse. We need to be speaking to America with China at our back.
Turning to the implications for the Australian LGBTI community, the omens are not good. Let’s look first at what may happen to LGBTI rights in the US. Trump has pledged to signed the First Amendment Defense Act
“It was first introduced in the House on June 17, 2015 and would effectively legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the board, including among employers, businesses, landlords and healthcare providers, as long as they claim to be motivated by a firmly held religious beliefs.”
Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, probably the most homophobic person in Trumps inner circle, is a truly frightening man. He is closely allied to the Alliance Defending Freedom (of which I have written before, the richest and biggest anti-gay organization in the USA. They fund, and provide lawyers for, every state-based battle against marriage laws, anti-discrimination laws, and so-called transgender bathroom bills. But their baleful influence doesn’t end there: they fund and staff anti-gay initiatives at the United Nations and around the world, including Australia.
Their lawyers are in India fighting decriminalistion. They are behind the push-back on gay rights at the UN. They are in Africa, Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia helping to draft anti-gay legislation and briefing anti-gay politicians. They have literally billions of dollars at their disposal: and they are closely linked with, among others, the Australian Christian Lobby, and Tony Abbott. Which brings it straight to our door.
IMPACT ON AUSTRALIA
The virulently anti-gay wing of the Coalition (and not a few of the social conservatives lurking in the Lady Chapel of the Labor Party), have been hugely emboldened by the Trump win. They see it as vindication of their stance for traditional religion and against LGBTI equality. They see it as a repudiation of the entire progressive agenda.
George Christensen sat in parliament proudly reading a Donald Trump book. Corey Bernardi, itching to start a new extreme right wing conservative party and openly encouraging LNP members to come across, claimed Trumps ascension proved everything he’d been saying about political parties ignoring the mainstream. Pauline Hanson took to the lawns of Parliament House toasting the Trump Victory. Eric Abetz said:
“I personally think there is a fairly strong sentiment against political correctness. And the polls are backing that up… they are sick of political parties hiding behind non-elected bodies preaching from on high down to the ‘lowly’ people”
And we can all decode that quite easily. It all goes to show how shockingly extreme the right wing of the Coalition has become, and will embolden them to try to drag Malcolm Turnbull further to the right. Unless the PM discovers some hitherto unsuspected courage and principle, and dares them to either shut up or split the party, the job of getting a free vote for marriage equality just got harder. A lot harder.
It also shows how very wise the LGBTI community was to refuse the toxic offer of the plebiscite. In the current atmosphere, the NO campaign would have been even more lethal than we feared.
ALL AUSTRALIANS FOR EQUALITY
What now? Firstly, I think we must acknowledge that we cannot separate the battle for our freedom and equality from everyone else’s. Now more than ever it will be important to make friends and allies across the spectrum. Marriage Equality cannot be won in isolation.
Australian Marriage Equality / Australian 4 Equality has a warehouse full of caps, t-shirts, badges (and, for all I know, underwear) emblazoned with their “Equality” logo, which they bought to distribute as part of a plebiscite YES campaign. They are reliably reported to have millions of dollars. They have a well-staffed HQ.They make glossy, if somewhat baffling and diffuse, TV ads. They already go out on the road to take the message of Marriage Equality to people. To ‘engage’ people in conversations about Equality.
This is a good idea, but far too narrow. In the absence of a plebiscite and in the face of an emboldened opposition, they need to rethink this. They need to stop behaving like an elite bringing enlightenment to the masses, and get in amongst ordinary people, especially those marginalized and damaged by this government, and demonstrate first-hand how we are on their side. How treating LGBTI people and kids decently and fairly is in line with traditional Aussie values, and not against them.
They need to broaden their focus. To remake their roadshows into a campaign for Equality For All, not just Marriage Equality: Equality for everyone, not just LGBTI. For single mothers, unemployed, first Australians, Muslims, whatever we got: get out there and show them how Equality for us is also Equality for them; stand with them as they fight for it; ask them to stand with us. Go to the people who are most susceptible to the poisonous rhetoric of Pauline Hanson, or George Christensen, in their constituencies, and show them Safe Schools is nothing to fear. If nothing else, it will help clear the warehouse of all that currently useless merchandise.
HEAL THE RIFTS
Meanwhile, our best lobbyists continue to work parliament. By whom I mean Rodney Croome, Shelley Argent & PFLAG, and Ivan Hinton-Teoh & just-equal. They made the right call, to stop the plebiscite. And despite being shunned and cast out by AME/A4E, and deprived of any funds to carry out their campaign, they won. If it hadn’t been for these three, not to mention Shelley Argent spending $200k of her own money, we would now be facing a vicious NO campaign emboldened by Trumps victory.
They have reached out to AME/A4E to try to heal the rift this opened up, but to date, AME/A4E has not responded. This is childish. Now, more than ever, we need all our advocates working together. In my personal opinion, a decent first gesture from AME/A4E would be a sizable donation to the crowdfunding campaign for Shelley currently running here. And then sit down and work out how to work together in future.
OLD v NEW STYLE POLITICS
There is much else to do. Much of our current predicament has arisen because the two traditional parties are, at branch level, almost dead. They struggle to attract members and money. Especially the LNP. As a result, determined and focused groups of rabidly conservative ‘Christians’ found it easy to stack and capture many local branches, especially in Queensland and New South Wales. This is ‘the base’ (Arabic translation- Al Qaeda) that right wing MPs refer to when they warn Malcolm Turnbull not to stray into supporting equal marriage, or climate change policies.
If we want to have an influence inside the LNP, or indeed, inside any political party, then we need to infiltrate and take over branches. Believe me, anyone who joins a local branch, brings in other members and money, will be welcomed like the prodigal son in most places. This is not a job for the faint-hearted. Or the lazy. Or the easily bored, because nothing is more tedious that a local branch meeting. All of which lets me out, thankfully! This is the long term solution.
The alternative is to find a charismatic leader, an Anti-Trump, on the progressive side of politics, not necessarily inside any existing party, and create a movement, after the fashion of Bernie Sanders, or Jeremy Corbyn. If we do not, we risk leaving a vacuum for someone from the other side to do the same, as Donald Trump did in the US. And as Cory Bernardi clearly fancies himself doing here. Someone like Waleed Aly would be great, if he had the stomach for it.
In the short term, we need to put time, money and effort into organisations like GetUp, to run campaigns in every homophobic MPs seat (and not just during elections) to get them out of parliament at the next election.
AME/A4E could usefully spend some of their war chest here, too. This worked spectacularly well in Tasmania – it needs to be rolled out across Australia. And this is something we should be doing now. The situation is volatile; the government could fracture and fall at any time.
I don’t claim to have any definitive answers. But I do know that the longer we spend NOT doing things like these, the more space we leave for the Donald Trumps of this world to come charging in and ‘grab us by the pussy’ and slap a pink triangle on our coats.
MORE READING, IF YOU CAN BEAR IT
Michael Moore’s list http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/michael-moore-morning-after-do-list
The political correctness argument http://reason.com/blog/2016/11/09/trump-won-because-leftist-political-corr
Left needs new populism https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/the-left-needs-a-new-populism-fast
National Organisation for Marriage http://www.joemygod.com/2016/11/09/nom-issues-plan-work-donald-trump-inevitable-reversal-sex-marriage-ruling/
Calif(ornia)exit http://sd24.senate.ca.gov/news/2016-11-09-joint-statement-california-legislative-leaders-result-presidential-election and http://www.businessinsider.com.au/california-secession-calexit-2016-11?r=US&IR=T and https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/09/trump-win-california-secede-calexit-silicon-valley