It’s a good thing if Trump doesn’t like us

by Emma Shortis


Instead of worrying about whether Trump hates us, we should be thinking, together, about how to forge a world which remains free of his demagoguery, writes Dr Emma Shortis.

When Donald Trump – prompted by British washup Nigel Farage – made some inane comments about former Prime Minister and current US Ambassador Kevin Rudd, the Australian media lost its collective mind.

Across the mainstream platforms, articles popped up sagely noting that the “risks” of appointing Rudd as ambassador had always been clear. His public criticisms of Trump and the threat he posed to American democracy meant that if Trump were to return to the White House, things might get a bit tricky for the high-profile ambassador.

One piece went so far as to argue that “the former prime minister’s appointment has been a bomb waiting to explode.” While “many Australians would have agreed with Rudd’s comments about Trump”, it continued, Rudd’s comments were “far more personal”. Australia is now faced with the “alarming” prospect that the Ambassador may have to deal with a “leader of the free world who hates [his] guts.”

Almost without exception, coverage of this incident uncritically assumed that if he wins in November, Trump will be the leader of the “free” world and that it would be a bad thing if he doesn’t like our Ambassador and, by extension, the rest of us.

To flip that around, the assumption is that we want and need Trump to like us and that the US – and the world – would remain “free” under his leadership.

Over the weekend, Trump said that there would be a “bloodbath” in the United States if he isn’t elected in November. He said that immigrants aren’t people. According to his former Chief of Staff, he praised Hitler, who he has recently taken to quoting directly. He called violent January 6 insurrectionists “unbelievable patriots”.

Should we really be “alarmed” if such a man doesn’t like us? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if he didn’t?

Not according to the The Australian Financial Review, which implicitly advised the ambassador that “cosying up to a madman . . . [is] a necessity. It’s called taking one for the team”.

If we needed any more evidence that Australia’s alliance with the United States is not in fact about “shared values” but about a craven need for a security guarantee, here we have it. We want and need Trump to like us. Because security.

The Australian government is not, and apparently should not be, willing to wear Trump’s disdain with pride because the risk he poses to the AUKUS pact is, apparently, too great.

Again, almost without exception, the coverage of Trump’s comments about Rudd was accompanied by handwringing over the possible fate of those unbelievably expensive submarines.

Setting aside, for a moment, the significant questions about the strategic risks of the AUKUS deal and the likelihood that the whole thing will sink of its own accord, it’s worth examining the deeper issues at play here.

In the embarrassing freak-out over a two-minute media bite – in which it is fairly clear Trump has no idea who Rudd even is – the focus was entirely on how to make sure Trump doesn’t ditch AUKUS and abandon us to our fate.

The real question is what the risk to our own security – and that of others – might be if he doesn’t.

(L-R) Ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during a meeting ahead of Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations in Brisbane, Friday, July 28, 2023. (AAP Image/Pool, Pat Hoelscher) NO ARCHIVING, EPA OUT, REUTERS OUT
AAP Image/Pool, Pat Hoelscher

What would it look like for AUKUS, and the alliance more broadly, to continue, business-as-usual, under a hypothetical second Trump administration?

What would it be like to “cosy up” to an authoritarian who threatens a “bloodbath” if he doesn’t get the power he wants? What would it look like to be tied to a man who wants “‘my people” to “sit up at attention” like the North Koreans do for Kim Jong Un? What would it look like to support unconditionally a man who tells Vladimir Putin to “do whatever the hell you want”?

Uncritical media coverage is so busy worrying about the risk to the alliance if Trump doesn’t like our ambassador that it is unable to understand what it is actually going on.

The message is that total subservience to Trump would all be worth it. Because security.

In a recent Guardian/Essential poll, only 20% of Australians surveyed said they thought Australia’s role in the world should be “primarily an ally of the US”. Almost double that – 38% – thought Australia should be “an independent middle power with influence in Asia-Pacific region”.

Those numbers would likely increase if Trump does come back to power.

Instead of worrying about whether he might hate us, we should be thinking, together, about how to forge a world which remains free of his demagoguery. A world in which it is considered a good thing that a man like that doesn’t like us. Because then we might know that we were doing something right.

As Rudd has acknowledged, Trump is bad for America. And he is bad for us.

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