QED

Wanted: a ‘Positive Deviant’ in the Trump Mould

Some years back a former colleague explained his theory of “positive deviants”. Simply put, a positive deviant is an employee or representative of an organisation who refuses to go along with the party line and who speaks truth to power within the organisation, and through some form of contact with the organisation’s stakeholders, especially its customers, saves the reputation of the organisation.

Here is how he discovered the theory.  He was at the time living in New Zealand, and as a visitor was having trouble arranging health insurance for his family.  He tried repeatedly to get people at health insurers’ call centres to clarify complex systems, explain options and provide basic assistance.  To no avail.  After a time he figured out a solution.  He began to cut off the call centre folks mid-conversation and, using call centre shortcuts, keep trying different people till he found someone who would offer him practical help – solutions even – sympathetically acknowledge his frustrations and, above all, stop simply spouting the company line.  And really, really annoying him.

He concluded that about one in four employees was actually interested in customer service and not merely in getting rid of difficult complainants – “managing them” – and so making life easy for “company policy”.

Anyone who has suffered from CCHC (call centre hatred complex) – and who hasn’t? – will relate to this story. But my friend went further.  He concluded that these oddball helpful employees who bucked standardised behaviour actually saved companies from the wrath of their customers and helped them to survive.  Absent positive deviants, many an organisation would go bust amid a welter of seething malcontents.

We live in an era of not just cynicism about the political class but, for many, of genuine hatred – of politicians who insist on solving problems we don’t have, who interfere in our lives, who tax us to the max only to squander our money on idiot schemes, who speak in talking points and gobbledegook, who talk about and, alas, act upon, issues that concern no one, who sell off our assets to foreign powers, who are tethered to ideologies when what we need is “club sensible” policies, and, above all , who don’t do what they say they will.

This cynicism, bordering on hatred, has delivered many widely known examples of popular pushback.  Pushback almost universally derided as “deplorable” by the Davosoise (as the eminent American conservative John Fonte and authors at the former Journal of American Greatness have described the globalista class).

The ultimate political positive deviant, of course, is Donald Trump.  And, wow, has he been under siege.  Basically, he has thrown a live grenade into the cesspit that is American politics.  He and his ghastly Deplorables.  He has pitched American politics a curve ball.

He may just have rescued an American political system thought almost beyond hope in the eyes of the average voter – a system run by crooks, shysters, chancers, hangers on, Deep State bureaucrats, politicians who don’t address normal people’s issues and endlessly bang on about ones they don’t care about.  For Trump has done many weirdly normal things, things that people outside the Washington Bubble actually like – and, just about as important, talked the language of the everyday person.

Trump has created the atmospherics for creating good jobs and incentivised those who create jobs. He has implemented a controlled, sensible, non-theory-driven and strategic economic nationalism. He has repeatedly given the middle finger to a media hopelessly disconnected from reality. He has refused to be cowed by those who scare most governments into “climate action”. He has given foreign policy grounded in realism a pretty good shot. And he has more or less done what he said he would do, given that everyone else in the system has tried to stop him doing just that.  He has given conservatives some serious red meat.  Look at the composition of the Supreme Court, with more joy to come pending a 2020 victory.

An obvious question for us Down Under: where are the positive deviants of Australian politics who might just save the system from the utter cynicism that has gripped the country? 

Many Australians think, rightly, that politicians are either on the take, or wedded to ideologies and the disastrous policies that are downstream from them (climate change, privatisation, light rail, new urbanism, wasting water, making water unaffordable for farmers in a drought), or simply say anything without believing it, or break promises routinely, or forever tell us how to lead our lives, most often while spouting politically correct rubbish.

While the American system, with its republican form, primaries process and separated arms of government, does allow – admittedly not very often – for non-machine political figures like Trump to emerge and to prevail, our system seems not to, alas.  At least as it is currently constituted.  We are totally constrained by factionalised and rigged pre-selections, a circle-the-wagons political protectionism that seeks at all costs to protect “the party”, committed log rolling and deals, a shared wokeness and a coward’s utter fear of social media driven mob fascism.  The latter, of course, is shared by feeble corporations and the cowering class generally.

On the right, we have had the now departed Cory Bernardi, in many ways the Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio of Australian politics – earnest, only occasionally outrageous, policy driven and patently conservative in policy orientation and in brand, and well-meaning – who didn’t get to first base with his relatively conventional approach. Bernardi’s attempt at positive deviancy didn’t achieve cut-through with the clearly disgruntled punters.

Tony Abbott was another obvious contender.  Enough has already been said on Tony.

Pauline Hanson?  As the billboard outside the tiny town of Tiaro (pronounced Tiro) near Maryborough in Queensland says, “I say what you all are thinking”.  Yes she does.  And she has Trump’s down-market cred.  She has been a trooper.  But she has been narrowly focused on the migration issue, or at least has been seen as such.  Treated as a joke by the left of centre hipsters for a generation, she still survives, even prospers.  But does she have the base to broaden her support base into a positive deviant force that will shake Australian politics?

Not on her own.  But she now has an offsider in New South Wales that could just provide the gravitas she has hitherto been lacking.  His name, of course, is Mark Latham.  He hates the right people.  He is a scrapper who has mellowed and shaped his always innovative policy inclinations towards an emergin, cranky base of ordinary Australians.  His eminently sensible policy platform at the recent NSW election, where he was incredibly successful, has been augmented by outbreaks of much appreciated sanity —  see under abortion, Margaret Court and his general abhorrence at the sleazy deal making between the Liberal Party of Michael Photios and the homo-fascist Greens.

Latham has potential appeal to a cross-section of the disaffected.  Brand appeal, profile, policy respectability, political smarts and brilliant instincts.  He talks, and people listen.  Mind you, he stands out, especially in NSW politics, for the lack of credible competition.  NSW is the last refuge of the political no-hopers, and has been since about 1992.

Yes, we do need a positive deviant.  Badly.  Someone who connects with the punters, who is grounded, a fan of the late Christopher Pearson’s “club sensible”, purposeful in his intent to do good politically, instinctively non-ideological, and, above all, has cut-through.  Just list Trump’s characteristics.  That is the job description.

All we need is applicants.

7 comments
  • rod.stuart

    True. But we need more than one. We need several.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Many Australians think, rightly, that politicians are either on the take, or wedded to ideologies and the disastrous policies that are downstream from them (climate change, privatisation, light rail, new urbanism, wasting water, making water unaffordable for farmers in a drought), or simply say anything without believing it, or break promises routinely, or forever tell us how to lead our lives, most often while spouting politically correct rubbish.

    Be that as it may, but I have long maintained that any political party becomes in its internal life a microcosm of the society it seeks to create. Policies can change with the breeze, but not party constitutions and internal rules.
    The ALP arose out of the defeat of the great maritime-shearers’ strike of 1891, and in its internal life arguably became the leading institution of Australian democracy, and what former PM Ben Chifley christened ‘The Light on the Hill.’
    It of course attracted opportunists and rent-seekers by the trainload, and by 1921 had been taken over in Victoria by the corrupt Wren Machine, of which one can read a great deal in Frank Hardy’s novel, Power Without Glory. Then it was moved in on by the Santamaria Grouper machine, leading to the 1954 split and the formation of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).
    Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) has had a fairly stormy history to date, out of which it has emerged with all the power that matters (ie over policy-making) in the hands of Hanson and nobody else. It is as its name suggests, and such will be the reality for this country should her party go on to accumulate increasing power and electoral support.
    Before entering politics, Hanson ran a fish and chips shop in Ipswich, Qld, which apparently gave her a lot of contact and opportunities to talk to people while cooking and wrapping up their orders. She has emerged from all that as a populist whose main appeal is to the disaffected rural working class. She has managed to recruit former Federal Labor Leader Mark Latham, though how long he will be prepared to play a subordinate role to Hanson remains to be seen.
    In the likely event that control-freak Hanson cannot get along with control-freak Latham, the latter will have only one course open to him: split the party and take out as many members into a new organisation, which will have a variety of possible names. I would tip ‘Mark Latham’s Other One Nation’ or ‘Mark Latham’s Second One Nation’, or some such. (It will probably not be as nasty as the contest between those two German control-freaks Hitler and Roehm, which was settled in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1934.)
    In whatever eventuality, neither PHON, nor MLOON nor MLSON will be the slightest bit internally democratic, and will draw its membership and a large part of its electoral support from those who seek to be led, and see themselves as born to follow.
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Hanson%27s_One_Nation

  • whitelaughter

    As a part of winning trivia team, last wednesday we were thrown the question of “which party did Cory Bernardi start?” – I was the only person on the team who knew, and the youngsters had never even heard of him. This from a group whose expertise is obscure facts!

    Trump was able to win because he was already famous before entering politics. As such, I suggest an obvious deplorable for OZ would be Israel Folau.

  • padraic

    Ian, you left out the Communist rent seekers who displayed their patriotism on the wharves during WW2, to say nothing of their courage in striking for more money for loading munitions while our fathers were doing their bit in New Guinea.

  • Ian MacDougall

    padraic:
    Yes, and them too. But careful, now, careful. At any particular historic juncture, who is making what and how much out of it has to be a closely guarded secret, and the books should never be thrown open. It could cause embarrassment to those who prefer not to be so.

  • Lacebug

    Paul, I’m throwing my hat in the ring. I live in Sydney’s Inner-West where I have managed to piss off nearly everyone. Things became particularly heated when I referred to the face-mask wearing mothers at the school gate as ‘respiratory princesses’. And it pains me to hear them talk, on one hand, about workers rights, and on the other about bogans.

  • Ted

    “All we need is applicants”

    I think there is certainly an opening for a new populist movement that leans slightly left on economics but is conservative on cultural and immigration issues. Immigration in particular is a big sleeper issue in Australia. Paul seems to think Hanson has focused on it too much. Yet I would argue that she has failed to exploit voter disquiet over Australia’s ridiculously high immigration levels.

    Matthew Goodwin and Eric Kaufmann in the NY Times on how immigration and cultural issues are reshaping politics elsewhere in the Anglosphere:

    “Realignments in British politics have been generally rare: Most recently, infighting on the left in the 1980s led to a breakaway party and, eventually, the rise of New Labour and Tony Blair. Today, Britain is in the grip of another realignment, one that is rooted in something else entirely: a new cultural divide.

    The cultural issues — related mostly to immigration and ethnic change — are also reconfiguring American politics.

    Britons’ anxieties about the pace and scale of immigration, something that Mr. Johnson pledged to restrict, lie at the heart of Britain’s political realignment; many voters are now putting their cultural preferences ahead of their once-tribal party political identities.

    The immigration attitudes of individuals strongly predict attitudes toward Brexit. Liberalism on immigration correlates with the share of university graduates and, to some extent, the proportion of young voters in a constituency.

    Left-wing and progressive parties are increasingly made up of whites inclined toward difference and change, as well as ethnic minorities. The right is increasingly made up of whites who tend to view difference as disorder, and change as loss.

    “Fast versus slow” is a better framework for understanding this than “open versus closed.” Mr. Johnson and the Conservatives have tapped into this strong feeling of cultural insecurity and anxiety over rapid social change; Labour, by promising to uphold the free movement of European Union nationals and large-scale immigration, merely offered more of the same.

    Another important dynamic is occurring in Britain, as it is throughout the West: the ethnic sorting of the electorate.

    Minorities are increasingly diverging from white Britons, though the effect is not as pronounced as in America, given that racial minorities represent less than 15 percent of the British population. Together, the 2011 ethnic composition of a region and the level of support for Brexit in 2016 predict over 40 percent of the variation in 2010-19 shifting between the left and right blocs.

    If, as research from the Voter Study Group showed, the average American voter is left on economics and right on culture, then this zone is the sweet spot for both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Yet as the British writer David Goodhart notes, Labour, like many Western left parties, finds it much more difficult to speak to the identity anxieties of the median voter over immigration, family and national identity.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/21/opinion/uk-election-immigration.html

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