The Trump effect has helped make Australia’s democracy more untruthful, cynical, angrily partisan, culturally charged, and politicized.
In late 2021, as Australian cities were seeing anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer protests against the country’s long-running pandemic restrictions and newly implemented vaccine mandates, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted “Don’t Australia my America.” As someone who has recently moved back to Sydney after covering the Trump presidency for the BBC, I have instead found myself thinking the opposite: Don’t America my Australia. The American variant of democracy is contaminating the body politic of my home.
My family left the United States partly to escape its politics, so it was jolting to watch Trump banners that I was more used to seeing in Mississippi and rural Michigan being brandished on the streets of Melbourne. But the Trump paraphernalia, and crowds of Australian protesters that resemble mosh pits of MAGA diehards, have been only a mild form of the sickness. There have been more malign manifestations. Some lawmakers in the state of Victoria who backed tough lockdown measures received death and rape threats. Demonstrations at its assembly building in Melbourne frequently turned ugly. Protesters urinated on the city’s most sacred site, its temple-like Shrine of Remembrance. A gallows was even paraded through the streets, upon which was hung an effigy of Victoria’s state premier, Daniel Andrews, who has become a demonized figure similar to Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. In November, counterterrorism police arrested and charged a man alleged to have encouraged fellow protesters to come with firearms so they could execute “Dictator Dan.”