Category Archives: Election
Now the State election has been called – see https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/queensland-state-election-basics/ – the Government moves into what is called “Caretaker Mode”.
Caretaker Mode is all about both maintaining public sector impartiality, and ensuring no decisions or commitments are made which will bind a new, possibly unwilling Government, post-election.
Many public servants interpret this incredibly widely – far more so than is intended or appropriate, and this can be a real nuisance for anyone trying to do business with the State Government.
Official guidelines for the conventions which apply during the caretaker period are set out in the Cabinet Handbook, section 9, here https://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/policies-and-codes/handbooks/cabinet-handbook/caretaker-conventions.aspx.
- Caretaker conventions are merely conventions and not binding at law – but are nearly always adhered to;
- Caretaker period starts the moment the election is called and lasts until either te result is clear or a new Government appointed;
- Things to avoid during the caretaker period: appointments of significance, implementing new policies, entering into major contracts or undertakings;
- Normal Departmental operations are to continue, but with care to ensure there’s no presumption about who will win the election;
- Departments should not at Ministerial request develop new policy initiatives;
- Opposition access to public servants is through requests to the Minister and any such discussions are confidential, but public servants may not discuss the merits of policy options with the Opposition and should keep no official notes;
- Departments prepare two sets of briefing documents for the incoming Government: one for a returned Government, and the other for a new Government;
- All Cabinet documents are readied for destruction;
- All Bills in Parliament lapse and must start again from scratch after the election, and any Acts not yet proclaimed by the Governor must await the intentions of the incoming Government. In some circumstances subordinate legislation may be approved;
- The Premier will determine whether Government advertising campaigns continue – anything highlighting the role of Ministers or covering matters of political controversy are usually stopped;
- Ministers generally don’t go to Council of Australian Governments meetings which occur during the caretaker period.
Here’s a downloadable PDF file for your reading pleasure, courtesy of Ethical Consulting Services! http://bit.ly/2hnbr4p
Here are three reasons it’s historic:
- it is the last time the Government gets to pick the Election Day – after this one, Queensland moves to a fixed, four-year election term;
- it is the first time preferences will be compulsory since 1992, when they were made optional*; and
- the number of seats has been increased from 89 to 93, which means to win Government a party or coalition needs 47 or more seats.
New or updated enrolments close on 3 November, and nominations of candidates close on 7 November. If you need to update your enrolment the best place to do it is via the links on this page: www.ecq.qld.gov.au/voters-and-voting/enrolment.
Because the number of seats has increased, electoral boundaries have been changed all over the place. Here’s a table of changes driven by new boundaries, from psephologist Antony Green www.abc.net.au/news/elections/qld-redistribution-2017/#ChangeTable.
Green’s analysis of the political impact is here www.abc.net.au/news/elections/qld-redistribution-2017/#PoliticalImpact, and his new electoral pendulum is here www.abc.net.au/news/elections/qld-redistribution-2017/#Pendulum.
You can access his overall guide to the election here http://www.abc.net.au/news/qld-election-2017/.
… and here’s a link to the latest polling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queensland_state_election,_2017#Opinion_polling.
* Corrected – thanks to Cameron Milliner for noticing the error!
Last week several business organisations, including one of which we’re members, echoed calls from Liberal-National Party Leader Tim Nicholls, and demanded the Palaszczuk Labor State Government call an election immediately.
Apart from this echo chamber, it’s hard to detect any groundswell of demand for an immediate election – it’s due by 5 May, and the (usually but erroneously presumed three-year) Parliamentary term isn’t up until late January 2018 (the anniversary of the last election) or more appropriately 14 February (the anniversary of the Palaszczuk Ministry) – or, legally and correctly, 5 May*.
Premier Palaszczuk has said several times she intends the election will be in 2018.
There are always constraints in choosing an election date, and here are some presently operative in Queensland:
- The Queensland election process must take a minimum of 26 days, from announcement (issuing of the writs) to Election Day – incumbent parties normally give little more than the minimum notice, for tactical advantage;
- Don’t look like you’re calling it early for expediency or advantage – voters aren’t dumb and can usually see through that;
- Don’t cut across
- football finals (in this case, AFL and NRL, which expire on 30 September and 1 October, respectively);
- school holidays (which commence from 17 November for year 12 students, from 24 November for years 10 and 11, and 8 December for the rest) because
- so many people are away and will get cranky at the inconvenience of voting, and
- if voters are away they will mostly miss appreciating the value of all of that money you’re spending on election ads …
… schools mostly resume on 22 January 2018;
- Christmas and New Year;
- The Commonwealth Games run from 4 to 15 April: if the Government changes in the month before the games, or there is campaigning across the games, there will be major distraction from the Games and this may harm the success of the game;
- If you announce an election between Christmas (really, mid-December) and Australia Day, you will either cause chaos because so many Members of Parliament and public servants are away, or you’ll tell them they can’t take leave which gives the game (and tactical advantage) away:
- Members of Parliament, and particular Ministers, take their holidays between the last Cabinet meeting of the year and the first of the next year – the Monday nearest Australia Day: if you call an election before Australia Day, you’re doing it while many sitting Members of Parliament are still away – that’s arguably quite unfair to non-Government MPs;
- The Queensland public service shuts down from Christmas Eve (this really commences in mid-December) until late January, say Australia Day;
- Most polling places are in school halls or similar, and it can be an incredible nuisance to get proper access to school halls during school holidays;
- The Party in power hasn’t finished selecting all of its candidates yet, although the few remaining are not in highly targeted seats;
- And, as Michael Todd reminds us: after this election Queensland moves to four-year fixed terms, with the election on the last Saturday of October (starting in 2021) – choosing a late October/early November date tends to bring this election into alignment with the future.
These things in combination mean the election could be announced
- Anytime up until 2 October, for a 28 October Election Day, if the Premier is prepared to explain why it can’t be next year as she has previously said, or
- Anytime up until 9 October, for a 4 November Election Day, with the same proviso, or
- Not between 10 October and Australia Day for the reasons advanced above, and
- Not for a date after 10 March, to avoid the Commonwealth Games and their build up, and
- Just possibly after an early Cabinet meeting on 22 January, for 17 February, or
- More likely, sometime in the two-and-a-bit weeks after Australia Day, for an Election Day of 24 February, 3 March, or 10 March.
The Queensland Premier (and her staff) has not been consulted in the drafting of this article, and nor has she consulted us!
The Australian Labor Party had never governed in the Territory, and never looked like they would win the 1997 Election. Labor polling showed them heading for a bloodbath – they were starting with only 7 seats in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, but Party polling showed they were on track to lose several more.
From early that year, Labor’s caucus led by Maggie Hickey seized on the many issues of weakness for the governing Country-Liberal Party (CLP) and worked with real focus in the run-up to Election Day. Labor’s polling showed the electorate had little regard for the CLP, and the aggressive advertising campaign closely paraphrased the research findings.
The TV ads, in particular, were controversial and met with a mixed reception, but all evidence is that the average voters, mostly, loved them:
- CLP Strategy Meeting: http://bit.ly/2wQO5NN
- Snouts in the Trough: http://bit.ly/2xwcZPW
- Tighten Your Belts: http://bit.ly/2xwd5qM
- Crime in the Northern Territory 1: http://bit.ly/2iEKagI
- Crime in the Northern Territory 2: http://bit.ly/2vq0Vm1
The result? Labor lost one seat, for local reasons quite unconnected with the main campaign.
Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk has restated her intention the next State Election should happen in 2018. In anticipation, blogger Ben Rau of The Tally Room has updated and published his seat by seat analysis.
If you are interested in the next Queensland election, it is well worth subscribing to his blog, and you can do that via an email subscription box just to the right of his post.
You can access his excellent analysis here www.tallyroom.com.au/32057, and can look at the seats listed alphabetically, via a pendulum, or via a clickable map.
Ben intends to publish a post summarising the impact of the redistribution of seat boundaries, and a deeper analysis of key seats, in the immediate future.
Australia is supposed to have seventy-six Senators: right now we have no more than seventy-four, possibly only seventy-two, and possibly far fewer, because of application of s44 of the Australian Constitution. And when Parliament resumes on 8 August, expect political and legal fireworks.
This reduced number of Senators is important, because it might make it easier for the Government to get their legislation passed.
Here’s why: while Australia’s Liberal National Party Coalition government has the support of a majority in the House of Representatives, no legislation can pass without the support of a majority in the Senate, where the Government is in a minority. This means all legislation which passes through the Senate, and subsequently becomes law, must garner support from non-government parties, and with fewer Senators the total number of Senators required to support legislation reduces.
If we indeed have 74 Senators,
- 29 are from the Coalition,
- 26 are from Labor,
- 7 from the Greens,
- 4 are from One Nation,
- 3 from the Xenophon Team, and
- one each are from the Liberal Democrats (Leynholm), Justice Party (Hinch), Australian Conservatives (Bernardi), Jacqui Lambie Network, and independent Gichuhi (who is ex-Family First).
With only seventy-four Senate votes in play, to secure Senate passage of government legislation, the Liberal National Party Government needs nine votes from amongst the 19 cross-benchers; Labor needs 12 to block the passage of any legislation, or pass their own resolutions.
The Government now needs the support of one less non-Government Senator than before, to see legislation passed, and this situation will continue for months as the process of replacing ineligible Senators isn’t quick – see https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/ludlam-senate/. This presents the Government with opportunities to advance unpopular legislation through the Senate – the two ineligible “Senators” are seen as more likely to have opposed components of the Government’s legislative program.
We are down to no more than seventy-four Senators because two Greens Party Senators have acknowledged they are ineligible – see www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-greens-senator-larissa-waters-resigns-over-dual-citizenship/news-story/ecb99e946835145fd8f6dacdbf55e131. We may have only seventy-two Senators because detailed questions have been raised about the eligibility of two others – see www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-roberts-expert-anne-twomey-believes-one-nation-senator-may-have-breached-constitution-20170727-gxkeol.html and www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-dissenting-argument-from-a-former-governorgeneral-that-could-save-matt-canavans-skin-20170727-gxjxkr.html.
Both Senators Roberts (One Nation Party) and Canavan (Liberal National Party) say they are eligible. There’s no doubt this will be tested in the Court of Disputed Returns – probably at the same time as determinations are made about Larissa Waters’ and Scott Ludlum’s replacements.
The Australian Senate resumes on 8 August 2017, and we can be very sure if either Senator Roberts or Senator Canavan seek to exercise a vote, or perhaps even take their seat, someone is going to go to Court, claim those Senators are ineligible, and seek via legal action to stop them acting as a Senator.
And to add to the potential for chaos, while it is a typically over-blown and under-researched article, the Australian newspaper has questioned the eligibility of 21 Members of Parliament further, from all of the Liberal Party, the National Party, and Australian Labor Party: www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/mp-dual-nationality-fiasco-extends-to-bloodlines/news-story/5ad03ba3d47cf4eae0a5b1066ea5c59b?login=1 (paywalled).
In the House of Representatives, the Government has only a one-seat majority – should any one Government member* in the House acknowledge ineligibility, or be found ineligible, they will lose their working majority in the House, the capacity of the Government to govern at all becomes questionable, and we may be headed to a very early election.
By 8 August, all of our Parliamentary parties need to have their plans in place for how to react: because the success of the Government’s legislative program, or the very existence of the Turnbull Government, might hinge on the outcome, there’s little hope of bipartisanship.
Here’s a link to information on the Australian Electoral Commission website explaining eligibility laws: www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/backgrounders/constitutional-disqual-intending-candidates.htm
* Or one more Government member than non-Government members.
Was Australia’s, and the world’s, first Labor Prime Minister invalidly elected?
Scott Ludlam’s and Larissa Waters’ announcements they are not eligible to be Senators www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/greens-mp-scott-ludlam-forced-to-quit-senate/news-story/c92e91f84c9db4abc3d11e92eb96abf5 and www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-greens-senator-larissa-waters-resigns-over-dual-citizenship/news-story/ecb99e946835145fd8f6dacdbf55e131 throws plenty of juicy but well-answered questions into the public arena, but because they are so badly trained and do so little research, most journalists and commentators will get their facts wrong – see yesterday’s article here.
But there’s an even more interesting issue of which we are reminded: was Australia’s and the world’s first Labor Prime Minister invalidly so?
Chris Watson’s birthplace and birthdate were once the subject of some confusion, but it’s now clear he was born in Chile: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/watson-john-christian-chris-9003.
Did Chilean law at that time mandate that someone taking citizenship of another country automatically lost Chilean citizenship? If not, did he ever renounce his Chilean citizenship? Almost certainly not.
Was he ever an Australian citizen? The Grassby/Ordoñez biography* (pages 31-32) suggests he claimed to be British-born, and never bothered with the formality of becoming an Aussie.
So, how could he be elected to the Australian Parliament in 1901 and later become Australia’s** first Labor Prime Minister in 1904? Quite possibly not lawfully!
* Grassby, A. and Ordoñez, S. (1999) . John Watson. Melbourne: Black Inc.
** … and the world’s! Did we mention that already?
Scott Ludlam’s announcement he’s not eligible to be a Senator www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/greens-mp-scott-ludlam-forced-to-quit-senate/news-story/c92e91f84c9db4abc3d11e92eb96abf5 throws plenty of juicy but well-answered questions into the public arena, but because Australian journalists and commentators are too often badly trained and do little research, most will get their facts wrong.
Here’s some fast facts:
- Scott can’t resign from the office of Senator, because he’s not a Senator: his ineligibility means his election was invalid and he’s never lawfully been a Senator. You can’t resign from being something that you’ve never been.
- Declaration of the poll, on each of those occasions he’s been elected and reelected, by the Australian Electoral Commission doesn’t make him a Senator if he never was eligible; the AEC doesn’t have the power to inquire into eligibility – they simply require candidates to declare they are eligible.
- Because he can’t resign, someone – probably the AEC – will need to start a Court of Disputed Returns action in order to have Scott’s election declared invalid and a recount ordered.
- Or, he could try to take his seat in the Senate* at the next sittings, or re-occupy his Senate office, or take his next Senate pay cheque, in which case someone – probably the Liberal Party or National Party – would seek an injunction to prevent it, which would eventually have the same outcome as a Court of Disputed Returns action.
- Because Scott isn’t resigning, the casual vacancy mechanism relating to mid-term replacement of Senators isn’t activated and The Greens don’t get to nominate a replacement.
- The recount mentioned above will probably see the third candidate on The Greens’ Senate ticket at the last election – Jordon Steele-John – declared elected.
- In theory, Scott has a debt to the Commonwealth of all of the salary he has been paid, and all of the expenses of his office. Normal practice is that the debt is calculated, demanded, and then waived. However, others have different ideas: www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/16/george-brandis-attacks-scott-ludlam-and-says-he-could-be-forced-to-repay-debt.
- This is a guy who has been doing what has generally been acknowledged to be a good job**, is hard-working, and is open about having suffered depression, and these revelations will have come as a huge shock; all of his staff, too, are now without jobs or income: so even those who dislike The Greens intensely might wind back the gloating a little.
The ABC’s Antony Green makes additional interesting points here http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2017/07/scott-ludlam-resigns-what-happens-to-his-senate-seat.html.
The Senate may initially be harder to predict until a new Senator is appointed – probably months away – but things will be easier for the Government in the interim:
Of the 75 Senators post-Ludlam, 29 are Coalition, 26 Labor, 8 Greens, 4 One Nation, 3 Xenophon Team, and one each to Liberal Democrats (Leynholm), Justice Party (Hinch), Australian Conservatives (Bernardi), Jacqui Lambie Network, and independent Gichuhi (who is ex-Family First); usually, to secure Senate passage, the Government will need nine votes from amongst the 20 cross-benchers, and Labor needs 12. Prior to the Ludlam revelation, the Government needed ten and Labor needed thirteen.
Prior to the Ludlam revelation, the Government needed ten and Labor needed thirteen. The smaller number will make it easier than before, for the Government to stitch together nine further votes and hence a Senate majority, because they will have to wrangle fewer of the cross-bench votes, and complicated ideologies and personalities, so to do.
* Of course he won’t: he’s not that dishonest or stupid. Many friends say he is quite nice.
** Political disagreements aside, of course.
Last week in Queensland: unemployment rising, activists continue trying to block Adani mine, LNP’s regional tour & stronger media coverage rolls on, while the One Nation Party also garners ongoing media coverage*.
- Conservation activists confront Premier in India over Adani mine www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/activists-confront-premier-in-india-over-adani-megamine-in-central-queensland/news-story/21bbeb56d826dd6ba2d9078066daf5e1
- … as the Premier urges Adani to broaden their investments in Queensland www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/premier-to-urge-indian-billionaire-gautam-adani-to-make-agricultural-investments-in-queensland/news-story/6999f4baa1587d82abb7a1950c7fa812
- Queensland Rail’s overtime bill keeps rail services in the news www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-rail-still-paying-1m-a-fortnight-in-overtime-for-drivers-and-guards/news-story/d4f979671bbe6d7db42ed96413a2aeba
- Queensland not signing up for national unexplained wealth laws www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-urged-to-sign-up-to-uniform-national-unexplained-wealth-laws/news-story/0a64144719ece9edfbed7b84b435900f&
- Government may expand gas reservation exploration program www.afr.com/news/politics/queensland-flags-more-gas-exploration-leases-for-domestic-use-only-20170313-guxfcc
- “Indigenous” Cabinet meeting in Cairns www.cairnspost.com.au/news/cairns/states-first-indigenous-cabinet-meeting-brings-leaders-to-cairns/news-story/28efea12d192a9613bec7d306e1e4eeb
- Anti-violence food trial in emergency departments www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/whileyouwait-dining-for-qld-ed-patients/news-story/236ac1f7a14d76e463943218f7db52c8
- No culling in crocodile management plan www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/crocodiles-spared-cull-in-queenslands-sixzone-solution/news-story/747372fe1912af48b02685dec77fc697
Opposition and Crossbench
- Tim Nicholls’ regional tour continues www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/tim-nicholls-regional-tour-the-question-that-captured-concerns/news-story/fc521d791be71a3fd27e4e1dd15441a7
- … including a taxi driver confrontation www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-17/uber-tim-nicholls-confronted-taxi-driver-lnp-queensland-tour/8362798
- Opposition attacks tourism performance www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/qlds-tourism-numbers-not-good-enough-lnp/news-story/f43cf3ea14a31b05801251272f1e7258
- … but see two articles below under “Economy and Infrastructure”
- Liberal-National Party attacks speed of Government Spit planning www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/lnp-attacks-qld-govt-on-slow-spit-plan/news-story/498d47aba43c7b935dc714f9b4b5b316
- Liberal-National Party promises to bring back “royalties for regions” www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/news/deputy-opposition-leader-deb-frecklington-announces-pledge-to-bring-back-royalties-for-regions/news-story/7f089c4d0d5036b24f298d50d6b1cd76
- Katter’s Australian Party thinks they can win six seats in Queensland State Election www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/news/bob-katter-confident-of-katters-australia-party-surge-in-queensland-election/news-story/d9ab043732a47d63af8dce09400493c6
- Liberal-National Party refuses to rule out One Nation Party preference deal www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/wa-election-one-nation-preference-deal-still-on-table-for-queensland-lnp/news-story/0b58a9d71da89b8816c200f34d5d0c8a
- CFMEU Secretary not to be prosecuted in spite of Murdoch media campaign** www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/dpp-rejects-suggestion-of-political-meddling-in-michael-ravbar-case/news-story/af6578bb8d7b1f987e3cd4dc20b7b10d
- Courier Mail again pressing fruitlessly for an early election www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-time-is-right-for-queensland-premier-annastacia-palaszczuk-to-call-election/news-story/3383cd3277fe875ca9b9c5605013eb73
- Election campaigning already www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-13/political-leaders-in-the-spotlight-ahead-of-state-poll/8350066
- One Nation Party role at the next Queensland election www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/the-role-one-nation-will-play-in-the-queensland-as-deal-with-wa-libs-fizzles-20170313-guwrq8.html
- Nicholls says Turnbull needs to “get Queensland” www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/western-australia-election-tim-nicholls-has-warning-for-malcolm-turnbull/news-story/d6a25557920ebaa99574a2978cf81599
- More Western Australia election fallout:
- … The impact in Queensland of One Nation Party www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-13/what-does-one-nation-wa-election-flop-mean-for-qld-parties/8348846
- … delayed election to allow One Nation Party to implode? www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/wa-aftermath-labor-to-delay-queensland-state-election-in-hope-one-nation-implodes-20170313-guwwki.html
- … Pauline Hanson reviewing strategy www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/pauline-hanson-thrilled-with-result-but-reviewing-one-nation-strategy/news-story/640e086bc3a729380cfab3394b00bf21
- Community support for apartment smoking ban www.mygc.com.au/queenslanders-support-calls-ban-smoking-apartments-balconies/
- Black lung and silicosis – successive State Governments may have mismanaged www.msn.com/en-au/lifestyle/smart-living/queensland-government-accused-over-black-lung-scandal/vp-AAondcF
Economy and Infrastructure
- 90% of Queensland in drought www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/latest-declarations-reveal-almost-90-per-cent-of-queensland-now-in-drought/news-story/302b8b0a5f9d618302e62c05286e7050
- Adani mine approval remains a live issue www.indialivetoday.com/adani-group-get-queensland-governments-committment-16-5-billion-carmichael-mine-project-galilee-basin/137416.html
- Queensland unemployment rises www.9news.com.au/national/2017/03/17/03/33/qld-jobs-figures-to-turn-around-treasurer
- … having plateaued after falling from early 2016 http://queenslandeconomywatch.com/2017/03/17/qld-economy-not-generating-enough-jobs-for-uni-vet-school-leavers/
- White spot disease spreads, seafood export bans in place www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=90599
- Record visitor numbers, says Government www.mygc.com.au/record-number-international-visitors-queensland/
- … but see above under “Opposition and Crossbench”
- More action on Townsville’s water security www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/news/frustrating-inaction-over-townsvilles-water-security/news-story/5b9a5cf8d1f6e4af08fde10079d83044
- Queensland’s Parliament sits this week, from Tuesday 21 March to Thursday 23 March
- The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/whats-new
- Both chambers of the Federal Parliament also sit this week, from Monday 20 March to Thursday 23 March
- Prisons massively over-crowded www.frasercoastchronicle.com.au/news/queensland-prisons-overcrowded/3153671/
* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual. Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.
** Anyone who thinks Michael Ravbar is a friend of the Premier is wrong; anyone who claims that, without believing it, is a liar.
Almost every election victory involves stitching together a coalition, and Donald Trump did so successfully.
Asking why Donald Trump won is quite a different question from “why did Hillary Clinton lose?”, and that latter question will be addressed in another article soon.
The difference between Donald Trump’s victory and a defeat was very small: small margins in a small number of states.**
Because the margin was so narrow in those three or four states which Donald Trump won by small margins, many things, some big and some small, made the difference between a win and a loss.
Because so many events, activities, mistakes, and so on could each have driven the comparatively small margins by which Donald Trump secured victory, it means every commentator’s preferred reason(s) for victory can be claimed as THE reason for the result – everyone is right, and everyone wins a prize.
However there are bigger reasons why Donald Trump was able to secure victory, whilst so obviously unfit for the job. He should have been, by most criteria***, 30% behind and not just 2.2%.
For 23 years, Republican Party Members of Congress, bloggers, activists, and more, attacked Hillary Clinton. Regardless of the validity of those attacks, they constructed a consistent narrative about the character of Hillary Clinton, and built substantial distrust and dislike of her. That branding of Hillary Clinton was in place before she nominated, was present for the whole of the campaign, and was referenced often by many amongst Donald Trump’s supporters. According to this narrative, she is an out-of-touch, remote elitist, focussed on her own advancement, and untrustworthy.
With many voters there was also a significant element of misogyny, synergising with the Republicans’ long-term branding of Hillary Clinton, which undoubtedly influenced their choice of candidates.
The Republican Party’s management of Hillary Clinton’s image, and the Trump campaign’s exploitation of that image, drove some voters towards Donald Trump, but also drove some voters, normally voting Democrat, to choose to abstain (see here about US voluntary voting).
The active things the Trump campaign deployed included the exploitation and maximisation of discontent: he branded himself as the voice of frustration, the voice of change, anti-elite, and anti-the system, which contrasted with Hillary Clinton’s image as part of “the system”.
His pivot to Republican orthodoxy, evident during the third presidential debate, was the point at which he began to win back the support of the Republican base, and their activists.
News articles are only now emerging which describe his under-the-radar campaign organisation, which to most commentators during the campaign did not appear to exist. Recent articles propose the data capabilities of the Trump campaign are competitive with the previously superior Democratic party machine, and the Obama campaign: while this may be the case, there is currently insufficient information in the public domain to allow a judgement.
The Trump campaign’s messaging was also effective: it was consistent, relentless, careful, and emotion-focused.
So Donald Trump was able to overcome what should have been unelectability, because
- the Republican Party had invested cleverly in constructing his opponent’s image over the long-term, and the Trump campaign exploited that investment
- his own campaign probably functioned more effectively than most people gave it credit for
- his messaging was effective and delivered the voters he needed, and
- he built a winning coalition of voters: most of the Republican base, and voters discontented with many elements of the American system of government.
* Just in time for inauguration day, this evaluation is based on observations from within the campaign and reading about it
** Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote by around 2.2%.
*** We’re going to talk about those differing criteria in the coming article about the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s loss.