Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
No-one likes to be wrong. No-one likes having their mistakes and contradictions pointed out in public. But everyone knows someone who just cannot let it go until they have shown how they were really right all along, no matter how convoluted or plain ridiculous their explanations become.
In a friend or colleague, this trait can be annoying — but for a politician it can be career ending. And for Donald Trump it cost him the first presidential debate.
Trump started the debate strongly. His positions on economics and trade may be largely nonsense, but Clinton’s are no less so and the lacklustre American economic recovery is a huge weakness for the Democrats.
With the moderator failing to protect Clinton from Trump’s interruptions, he rocked her with a dozen different denunciations every time she spoke, while a wooden Clinton wore a frozen smile of disbelief. At one point things got so bad for Clinton she deployed a pre-prepared line straight out of Bill Shorten’s Big Book of Zingers. ‘Trumped up, trickle down’ … How about ‘Hillary’s hoary old clichés’?
And then Trump just fell apart. It was like he simply had to respond to every quip, aside and claim Clinton made about his businesses, his past or his beliefs. Trump’s corrections and interjections invariably made things worse.
Part of Trump’s appeal is that he is not a politician, but the first skill a politician learns is how to shift the focus off topics they don’t want to talk about and on to those they do. Trump couldn’t or wouldn’t do that so he spent most of the debate fending off attacks on his past — so much so that he missed obvious opportunities to attack Clinton over her emails, the controversies over her foundation and her foreign policy failures. He barely mentioned his strongest area: immigration.
Trump’s stream of consciousness, word-salad approach to public speaking might work when speaking to big crowds, but in a debate format it often just made his answers incomprehensible.
Clinton’s performance was exactly what you would have expected — mediocre. Trump showed that he could beat her, but he also showed why he probably won’t.
Trade, tax and temperament were three of the issues on which the two candidates clashed in their first presidential debate.
Clinton did well enough, but victory surely went to Donald Trump — although I was in a minority thinking that in the audience at the US Consulate where I watched the debate.
Clinton — referred to throughout by Trump as ‘Secretary Clinton’ — appealed to her experience of government. Trump — whom Clinton simply called ‘Donald’ — appealed to common sense.
Clinton’s answers were often formulaic and canned. She used gesture phrases like ‘Wall Street’ and ‘taxing the wealthy’ to signal her apparent commitment to equality.
Meanwhile Trump — who began interrupting her just 21 minutes into the debate — used wit and a certain bombast to hit home his message about jobs, growth, trade … and Obama’s legacy.
Massive debt burdens the US economy. In their bids to tackle the problem, each candidate claimed their economic plans had been assessed rigorously.
Clinton’s strategy for stimulating the economy is to soak the rich with higher taxes and increased government regulation. Trump’s is the opposite: lower taxes and less regulation.
At least Trump gets the idea that economic growth depends on generating new skills, jobs, products and markets — and getting government out of the way.
When the debate turned to crime, the differences between were even starker: Clinton spoke of ‘implicit bias’ in the police while Trump emphasised the need for ‘law and order’.
Trump still managed to inject moments of spontaneity, combat and wit. His authenticity helped deflect Clinton’s barbs about tax returns and the focus on Obama’s birth certificate.
All up, Clinton made much of the running on policy specifics which meant that Trump was often responding to her — at times defensively.
But demeanour and appearing ‘presidential’ — demonstrating ‘good’ rather than ‘bad experience — are likely to be more important to voters than a candidate’s mastery of policy detail.
American voters — many of whom fear their country is heading in the wrong direction — will go to the polls to elect someone they see as an authoritative problem solver.
As the race continues to tighten, Trump looks increasingly likely to be elected President in November.
American novelist Lionel Shriver stirred an international controversy during her recent visit to Australia.
Speaking at the Brisbane writer’s festival, Shriver had the temerity to suggest that novelists should not be constrained by the new rules of the identity politics game. Writers of fiction should be free to explore the experiences of ‘others’, even if they are not members of the same racial, gender or other identity groups.
Shriver’s so-called apologia for ‘cultural appropriation’ is relevant not only to works of imagination but also to the humanities and social sciences.
There is a growing trend for scholarly enquiry into certain subjects to be deemed inappropriate if the researcher lacks ‘lived experience’.
Political criteria also apply, as the social psychologist and critic of the lack of intellectual diversity in the modern academy, Jonathon Haidt, has pointed out.
Activist scholarship committed to fashionable notions of social justice that campaigns for the rights of oppressed racial and gender group is welcome.
But any work that is critical of a particular group, or which make members of the group feel bad about themselves, is unacceptable.
But the real victim of the stultifying culture of political correctness is our ability to accurately, objectively, and effectively describe and address important social problems.
Take the difficult task of overcoming Indigenous disadvantage. Activist-academic accounts perpetually blame every problem in Indigenous communities on the racist legacy of invasion and dispossession.
According to this school, research that explored the links, say, between traditional Aboriginal culture and contemporary Aboriginal men’s violence against Aboriginal women would be condemned as ‘victim blaming’.
We see similar things happening in the debates around Islamaphobia, marriage equality, feminism and gender.
Identity politics — let alone obsessing about the identity of the author — is a poor substitute for focusing on importance of good scholarship that tells the truth about controversial social issues.