Donald Trump attracts about as much interest over here as he does in the UK. Which is to say – quite a lot. The reaction that I hear in New Zealand, in the media and those I speak to, seems more interested in why he is so popular that in what he might do with that popularity. In the UK the coverage does seem to focus on the surfer, and ignores the wave.
There is the same instinctive distrust of politicians in New Zealand as there is in the UK, and indeed in the rest of the world. This manifests itself in Europe and the USA as votes for parties that might once have been described as protest votes. Except that UKIP gaining 40% of the vote in the last European elections in the UK and Donald Trump gaining 60% of the vote in recent Republican primaries, is too much to be describes as a protest.
Further the traditional parties to benefit from protest votes, Lib Dems in the UK and Green parties more widely, are not benefitting as they might once have done. Something else is happening. Indeed Syriza in Greece and nationalist movements across Europe are picking up votes from what might be described in “old political language” as “the working class”. They pick up votes from the left as well as the right. The unifying themes seem to be; concerns over uncontrolled immigration, and the rise of multi-national corporate power.
So when Donald Trump in the USA or Norbert Hofer in Austria lead the polls we are seeing something more than electorates poking the established parties in the eye. They are expressing a profound dissatisfaction with the system that has been characterised by Douglas Carswell (UKIP) in the UK as “crony corporatism”, covering the commercial and political fields. They are making a positive choice for a different way of doing things.
In the UK this is seen most clearly in the rejection of unlimited immigration of low skilled labour. Our political and commercial leaders continue to see this as an aberration. From this distance it looks more like the new normal.