The Philistine

Hail to The Donald

Why was Donald Trump such a remarkably successful president, both in politics and in policy? Anyone who doubts his success in politics, or thinks he bought his way to office, need only look to the unsuccessful presidential campaigns of Nelson Rockefeller, Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. And anyone who doubts his success in policy need only look to his record: tax cuts, regulatory reform, a four-year pause in illegal immigration, Arab-Israeli peace, the US-Mexico-Canada agreement, and the building of a Western consensus against China. Even his coronavirus performance was a toss-up: most of America’s excess deaths are attributable to the incompetence of Democratic governors, and Trump can rightly take credit for the push to develop vaccines in record time. About the worst that can reasonably said about President Trump is that his Tweets were impolite—and he was extraordinarily ungracious in defeat.

This review appeared in April’s Quadrant.
Subscribers enjoyed immediate access

So how did the Donald do it? We’ve all heard lots of opinion from academics, journalists and just plain philistines, but Richard Alston in Donald Trump: The Ultimate Contrarian writes from the perspective of a practical politician and policy-maker. A former senator, cabinet minister and president of the Liberal Party, Alston writes that Trump’s

…genius was to discern what no one else understood—that the political establishment and its acolytes had gone off the rails and were much more interested in media-driven priorities … than bread-and-butter issues.

Once elected, he was then naive enough to actually keep his political promises. The result was that, through the unlikely avatar of a New York property developer, middle America took control of the White House. Commonsense (seat-of-the-pants?) politics and policies trumped the refined civilities of the professional political class. Alston calls it “democracy’s finest hour”.

Alston writes of Trump that “the seeds of his triumph and Hillary Clinton’s defeat lay in the creeping atrophy of politics … in recent decades”:

an elite, self-absorbed game practised by insiders, indulging their pet projects and pandering to their support bases amidst the studied neglect of those less fortunate than themselves.

He’s writing here about America, but he makes clear throughout the book that the same message applies to Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He further attributes Trump’s foreign policy wins to a “refreshingly commercial approach to international mediation”, which he likens to an unconscious application of the “Henry Kissinger school of diplomacy”. Alston gets an occasional detail wrong (Trump certainly did not pursue “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”) but his insider explanations of the big issues are invaluable. Even readers who obsessively follow the American news will benefit from Alston’s insights into the inner workings of electioneering and government.

Alston does not address the January 6 Capitol occupation. And although The Ultimate Contrarian is strong on explaining Trump’s successes, it is weak on explaining his final electoral loss. Alston mostly accepts at face value the conventional view that Trump defeated himself with his “relentlessly boorish behaviour”. Of course, Alston recognised that in 2020 the odds were stacked against Trump, with the entire political establishment determined to bring him down. Nonetheless, Alston concludes that “second time around it can be said that the left media got their man, but not really—he got himself”. In Alston’s account, Trump’s “never-ending verbal aggression ultimately proved counter-productive and led to a significant breakaway movement of Trump defectors who had supported his policy initiatives but had become sick and tired of rhetorical indiscipline”.

That is to discount the fact that Trump’s vote total actually rose between 2016 and 2020. Whatever those of us who engage in polite literary discussion may think of Trump’s tweeting, the numbers suggest that Trump did not lose voters in 2020. What really happened was that the electorate expanded. Whether that expansion was legitimate or illegitimate, it was certified by the states and accepted by Congress. Trump may have been able to expand his own vote total even further had he moderated his inflammatory language, or even to have prevented an expansion in the vote against him. But attributing Trump’s defeat to his indiscreet language is at best a guess, and at worst wishful projection.

Alston dedicated The Ultimate Contrarian to “identifying those concrete achievements and policy initiatives of Donald Trump, which could be seen to be the key to not only electoral success but getting America back on track”. He can be congratulated for a mission well done, and in just over a hundred breezily readable pages. Now if only Alston can find the key to Australian electoral success and getting Australia back on track, he can make a real difference. He does advise politicians everywhere to “be brave, or at least confident, believe in yourself and not the polls, make sure you deliver to your target audience, then give them some tasty morsels to chew on”.

Australian readers have the tasty morsel of this book. Australian voters are left with … Clive Palmer? Well, you never know. If nothing else, Trump proved that an outsider can win. Alston’s message for the next one is to “cultivate the mainstream … because that is where the majority of the votes always are”.

Donald Trump: The Ultimate Contrarian
by Richard Alston

Connor Court, 2021, 105 pages, $24.95

Salvatore Babones is the Philistine

21 comments
  • DougD

    What a pity Morrison and all the Liberal progressives won’t be bothered reading this book.

  • Adam J

    Trump lost because Covid wreaked havoc on the USA. The lying media then painted him as a conspiracy theorist and anti-vax. The states gave out mail-in ballots like clowns giving candy, including probably many illegal immigrants.

  • pgang

    DougD, you can’t read when your head’s up your .
    Trump’s ‘loss’ vindicated all the worst instincts of the media/political class.

  • 27hugo27

    The fix was in – Trump never had a chance after a 5 year media war on him, starting with Shrillary’s co-opting of the deep state and culminating in a stolen election, right under the noses of the populace with breathtaking arrogance and confidence. The confected virus all too convenient, and hyped.

  • tommbell

    As Hanoi Jane so eloquently put it, the Wuflu was “God’s gift to the Left”. No shame. Just boasting . Confident that the elites would knowingly grin with her. And anyone who thinks some version of the mail-in vote scam won’t be attempted at the upcoming mid-terms is deluded. Mind you, Joe’s handlers are working overtime to make him a “Wartime President…” as there are votes in that too.

  • 27hugo27

    Tommbell – yeah, G.I ( Geriatric incumbent) Joe.

  • terenc5

    Still amazed at the number of people who remain ignorant of the evidence for the stolen election. Would a party that invented the Russia gate scandal hesitate to commit electoral fraud? The evidence for a rigged election is overwhelming, The mathematical impossibilities, the video’s of counters producing suitcases of ballots hidden under tables once the observers had been hustled out. Dinesh D’Souza’s doco on Democrat voter harvesting (fraud) and of course Sleazy Joe’s open admission the Dems had organised the largest voter fraud in American history. Joe was just senile enough to sometimes tell the truth. This vid can still be found on utube. Trump is not a sore loser he is a righteously outraged victim of a vast conspiracy and treason.

  • PT

    Trump would have won if it were not for the deliberate suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. And the expose on that hard drive could still lead to Biden’s impeachment and removal if enough Dems side with the Republicans. Hence why “the Squad” and others have him by the “short and curlies”.

    Paradoxically his best bet is if the Republicans smash the Dems in the midterms. But putting illegals on the roll makes this less likely.

    What a quandary. His personal interest is in keeping the Republicans a real threat and hence keeping the Dems in line. But is he still aware enough of this?

  • RB

    “Whether that expansion was legitimate or illegitimate, it was certified by the states and accepted by Congress.” He lost in every manner that it matters. Bleating about it years later does him no credit.
    Ole Trumpy boy was a boorish chap whose policy instincts were on point, if only we had the option of voting for someone here of his ilk. Oh wait…

  • 1735099

    “Trump is not a sore loser he is a righteously outraged victim of a vast conspiracy and treason”.
    Bollocks.
    Even a faux enquiry set up by his supporters found exactly the opposite -https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/09/28/fact-check-arizona-audit-affirms-biden-win-doesnt-prove-voter-fraud/5846640001/
    And now the big lie has seeped across the pacific and is a real threat to Australian democracy -https://www.aec.gov.au/election/disinformation-register.htm

  • Peter OBrien

    Adam J, yes, I think you’re right. From what I can remember, prior to Wuflu the polls had Trump on track to win.

  • pgang

    Peter O’Brien Trump was well on the way to winning on election night – it was done and dusted. Have we already forgotten the magical overnight vote spikes that occurred when counting was inexplicably halted, with no auditors allowed on premises? We also know from Maricopa that there is very little control over the process. You couldn’t make fraud more obvious if you tried.

  • rod.stuart

    Does anyone seriously believe that Sleepy Joe, after a summer of self inflicted house arrest, got more votes that Obama?
    Of course the election was stolen.

  • terenc5

    Hey numbers, you’re wrong and remain ignorant

  • Edwina

    That there are people out there like numbers astounds me. Does he really believe what he writes? Surely not! Or is he a contrarian? Does he have an agenda? Otherwise how can anyone come to such strange conclusions? How can anyone really be so profoundly stupid?

  • Edwina

    My husband just added,
    “Or paid”
    He might have a point!

  • 27hugo27

    Astounds me too, Edwina – and they vote! For him to ignore Shrillary’s pure lifelong evil , culminating in the biggest state run fraud in history – the “Russian Collusion” . and ignore Biden’s corruption , incompetence and Hunter’s laptop (The biggest media/state suppression in history) takes , to quote Shrillary ,a “Willing suspension of disbelief”!

  • 27hugo27

    BTW, there is a film about to come out, by the Salem group, “2000 mules” with evidence of the ballot stuffing in the early hours of the election. See what big tech tries to do about it.

  • Andrew L Urban

    US election figures that deserve scrutiny:

    In 2012, Barack Obama won 1,773,827 votes in Georgia. In 2020 Biden was credited with 2,473,633 Georgia votes, a stunning 699,806 votes more than the much admired Obama.

    In 2012, Obama won 531,373 votes from Nevadans, but Biden, was credited with 703,486 votes, 172,113 more —improving on Obama’s performance by 32.39 percent. Trump, who got 669,890 Nevada votes, would have soundly defeated a candidate turning in an Obama-level performance.

    In 2012, Obama won 1,025,232 votes in Arizona. Biden claimed 1,672,143, a whopping 63.10 percent improvement over Obama’s performance. Trump, who won 1,661,686 votes in Arizona, would have handily defeated a candidate turning in an Obama-level performance.

    Was Biden more popular than Trump? If the voting is taken at face value, he must also have been more popular than Obama!

  • whitelaughter

    Edwina – another option is a bot; it would be fairly simple to write a program to post such drivel.

  • Mark Dawson

    Any talk that the US Biden v Trump election was ‘stolen’ is pure poppycock … and more relevantly from a conservative political perspective, complete ‘loser’ talk. Trump lost fair and square for one reason, the impact of the COVID19 pandemic and the manner in which he responded to that pandemic. Had COVID 19 not hit the USA in Feb 2020 it is almost certain that Trump would have been re-elected in Nov 2020. However, the inadequacies of his responses in the face of the obvious health risks facing the US and his general boorishness condemned him to failure. Protecting the realm is the most fundamental tenant of conservative politics which he was so patently oblivious or wilfully ignorant. The second tenant of conservative politics should be humility and respect … commodities definitely resource constrained in the case of Trump. In any event, he was most clearly the architect of his own demise … and his alone. TBF, Biden was perhaps one of the weakest possible political opponents that Trump could have faced in the circumstances … and it is obvious that he could not overcome that obstacle.
    Successful conservative politics requires balance .. not extremism

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