By Blake Hampton
The democratic process is alive and well throughout Australia and the United States of America. 2016 is set to be a monumental election year on both fronts as the chief candidates put forward their case to lead their nations on the world stage. But the philosophical distinctions could not be more of a contrast.
The United States has a clear choice between staunch conservatism and outright socialism. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has hijacked the race on the back of an unashamed ego, obscene views on immigration and a refusal to accept facts on climate change and unemployment figures. The property mogul is running on a platform of building a great wall between the US and Mexico, deporting all Muslims from the country, banning Planned Parenthood and “destroying the hell” out of ISIS.
The hierarchy of the party is outraged that this campaign is gaining so much momentum. History suggests Trump’s popularity will decline as the Primary’s expose which politicians have the savvy and experience to win the voters trust, but he has already proven the doubters wrong since being written off months ago. Recent polls indicate that Trump is on a collision course with Ted Cruz for the nomination and if that comes to pass, the American people can expect a hard right candidate on the Republican ticket.
Their brash attitudes and unapologetic stance are drowning out the more moderate voices in the party. Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson continue to fail to make an impact during the televised debates, outlining how angry and hungry for change the electorate is in the United States. With rising income inequality and living costs elevating, voters want a candidate that cuts through the Washington establishment.
For the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders has nailed his colours to the mast as a progressive socialist on the far left. Hilary Clinton is now faced with someone who will challenge her centrist views on various issues, as Sanders is in favour of free college tuition, taxing the top 1% a much higher rate, complete reform of Wall Street, expanding social security, pulling out of the Middle East and making Medicare available for all citizens free of cost.
Clinton’s favouritism remains in limbo as the Sanders campaign taps into the progressive frustration with Washington. Her record of being a proud moderate illustrates that change under a Hillary Clinton administration would come under far more practical measures than the radical policies Sanders is proposing. The 68-year old former First Lady infamously came out in favour of the Iraq War in 2003 and accepted large donations from Wall Street to fund her run for office.
This creates a strong left versus right, black versus white race for the American people to decide within both primaries. For Australia however, the choice between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this year is a challenge to separate the shades of grey. Since the controversial departure of Tony Abbott, these great debates about progressivism versus conservative policy remain absent and the country is poorer for it.
Turnbull’s initial surge in popularity came off the back of deriding Abbott’s negative approach to politics by continually lamenting the Labor Party and refusing to engage in substantive debate. Now he’s in the Prime Ministerial hot seat, Turnbull appears to be an upgraded version of Bill Shorten. Both men are Republicans, believe in climate change and are accepting of “a generous social welfare net.” Although certain policies have yet to shift away from the Abbott manifesto, the Liberal and Labor parties are not convincing the Australian public that they can offer a distinct progressive or conservative mandate.
The benefit of missing out on a long, overly discussed and drawn out election campaign has its benefits. The 2016 US cycle is set to splash out hundreds of millions in political donations through the elite donor class and 3rd party Super Pacs that don’t have to disclose their identity. This is a huge amount spent on politicians promising to balance the budget and tackle the national debt, ironically enough.
But as The Weekly demonstrated on the ABC, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree down under. The Liberal versus Labor fight does not compare to America’s red versus blue because they are all united in their love for one colour – green.