Politics Thread


The Reagan presidency definitely gets overly romanticized, but I think he also had personal habits that spoke to a core humanity that Trump lacks. He was a letter-writer. He invited artists of all political stripes to the White House. He was usually kind in person. If there’s no gray area between saint and full-on demonization, then you’re just hurting your chances of swaying moderate-to-near-right people when a real demon – Trump – shows up. Equating our historically worst president with our historically 9th best (according to the most recent survey of historians) is not only a stretch, but it’s counterproductive in trying to alert people of all political persuasions to the real danger this presidency poses.


Political party: none. But I like Trump


Which part, the corruption, the lies, the bullying, the racism, or the hats? Tell me it’s the hats.


I admit I did like The Apprentice Star Wars version.

Of course watching Donald Trump express admiration for Darth Vader seemed a lot funnier before reading that the President of the United States wishes people would “sit up at attention” for Trump the same way North Koreans do for their dictator.


Communism requires a “revolutionary vanguard” which is a dictatorship. Marx predicted that the revolutionary vanguard would relinquish control after the revolution but that Never Happens Ever. It’s not just greed, once a Dictator relinquishes control they and their families are in danger (for lots of reasons). So holding onto power has a lot to do with self preservation.


Then again I think Trump is much more mentally unbalanced than “Ronnie Raygun” ever was.>

I was never a fan of Regan but an interesting thing about him was revealed after he died.

When he took office as President the military wanted to introduce him to the “football” basically a device the president uses to give the order to launch a nuclear weapon. They wanted to give him a short training session on how, in the event of nuclear war, he would give the order to deploy nuclear weapons.

Reagan refused the training on the grounds that he was never going to launch nuclear weapons under any circumstances. It took a year and a half and several interventions by his cabinet before he gave in and took the training.

Quite the contrast from his public persona (which was pure bluff). I still don’t like the man but I don’t know him as well as I thought I did.

Militarily he didn’t actually do much besides bluff. He ordered the invasion of Granada (for totally BS reasons) during which less than ten people died. Lots of very ugly covert stuff in South America. But in terms of actual warfare he was a surprisingly peaceful president in retrospect. All his military talk was largely a bluff.


He also got a couple hundred marines killed in Lebanon.

But Ronnie Reagan’s allowed to make those mistakes.


This was definitely a low point in Reagan’s presidency since it was his decision which put those marines in harm’s way. Nevertheless, this was the first time truck bombs had been used against the US, and it was the spectacular success of this event that popularized the truck bomb as a tool in the arsenal of middle-eastern terrorists. In addition, the inability to bring heavy weapons to bear on the oncoming trucks loaded with explosives quickly enough was due to an idealistic, but misguided attempt to minimize the use of force in order not to alienate the local population during the peacekeeping mission. Reagan and his fellow Republicans certainly learned their lesson from this debacle. In the future Republican Presidents would never again limit the ability of American troops to defend themselves, even when under UN mandate, and always leave more than sufficient force to obliterate any vehicles that dared approach an American base.

Base design also changed after this with concrete blast shields becoming standard fare because it was determined that even if the trucks had failed to enter the base they still would have caused nearly the same loss of life due to the high amount of explosives packed into them.


Vanguardism was actually a later invention that gained traction in the Third International, and was ultimately finalized by Vladimir Lenin. It was the abuses of the Central Committee – which Lenin saw, likely with no small amount of self-interest, as necessarily autocratic – that ended up galvanizing the world against communism.

The closest the real world has come to realizing Marxism is the Syndicalist movement, which included the Wobblies and other industrial unionists in the US and the CGT in France. While the rise of the Syndicalist movement was seen as a threat to governmental control, more effort was made to drive a wedge between the syndicalists and the less politicized trade unionists. The success of the October Revolution was when communism was seen less as a political movement and more as the moral panic it would start.

Saying that Reagan was more charismatic and soulful than Trump is like saying water is wetter than a handful of sand. It’s a given. So is saying he’s more competent. That said, given the terrible things the US government did to other countries and even ourselves under his regime, I struggle to say that he is a “good person” or an “honorable man.”


I was told by several people who did meet W. that this was (and probably still is) true of Bush junior as well. Nevertheless his presidency wasn’t exactly the greatest. Reagan was obviously way before my time still I suppose I could ask some of those people who told me about W. should I ever have the chance to see or speak to them again as some of them are old enough and even prominent enough that they have probably actually met Reagan as well.

Trump though does seem to take the bad policy up to eleven without any of the (personal) humanity or decency to speak of.

Still one of the more frightening things about today’s populists is that they do like throwing personal and political decency overboard and wallow in their own proverbial filth as if that is a good thing and decency some elitist vice or sign of dishonesty and moral corruption.

In other news the knives are out in Australia and it looks like Turnbull himself now stands a good chance to get couped.


Reagan was easily the most charismatic US President in my lifetime. (JFK, his main competitor for the charisma crown, was before my time.) Clinton is the only other President who even approached Reagan in terms of raw charisma, and Reagan still wins that competition easily. In terms of intelligence, Reagan was middle of the road, but was still definitely brighter than either W or Trump. Reagan actually liked to read, and as @kgold has pointed out, he wrote letters. In fact, his letters to Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, combined with his personal charm, would have far-reaching consequences, convincing Gorbachev to relax the Soviet Union’s grip and allow the “Iron Curtain” to fall.

W had a certain unpretentious charm. I’d rank him as the 3rd most charismatic president of my lifetime. Obama, for all of his oratorical brilliance at delivering pre-written speeches, was awkward when speaking off the cuff and often came across as a coldly cerebral vulcan.

Trump doesn’t really have a political philosophy beyond winning and he’s too old to dig deep and form informed opinions, one way or the other. He makes decisions based on powerpoint slides, and the wishlists of his political allies. The story is that he and his previous National Security Advisor didn’t get along because McMaster expected Trump to actually read the daily intelligence report while Trump demanded the report be reduced to a single page of bullet points. Trump apparently complained to some of his friends that he wished McMaster would use pictures the same way then CIA Director Pompeio did. Trump’s refusal to read the preparatory material provided to him was fully in evidence during his disastrous meeting with Putin.


It appears that Australia has fallen into the same mud pit of hyperpartisanship the US has.


I’m not quite sure, maybe one of our actual Aussies wants to weigh in but the Australian “coups” seem to be intra party coups most often aimed at the sitting PM so his challengers can gain the seat by the political version of “Klingon promotion”. To translate it to the US it would be more like if say the Kasich faction of the Republican party “couped” Trump and Pence with a Congressional, sorry often not even congressional but simply a leadership vote among the (parliamentary) party or recall vote or something like that. If that could actually happen in the USA I would imagine many people, including myself, would actually be more relieved than anything else. If it were analogous to Austrialia it would for the most part have to be a primarily Republican Party affair.
I’m also pretty sure Australia’s gay men weren’t sorry to see Turnbull coup Abbot a couple of years ago either.

One thing I do recall having been told or read about sometime is that Reagan and O’Neill (the then Democratic speaker of the House) used to be friends, which isn’t something one would readily expect to see in the modern US.


They were. They’d argue and fight all day during work hours, then after hours they’d drink together like the pair of Irishmen they were. They also didn’t allow partisanship to stop them from working together when they found common ground.

There are times when I feel that he’s dragged the entire nation back to middle school…


That wasn’t uncommon even 30 years ago. Yes, partisan politics were always a thing, but a compromise could usually be found.

Even then, there were always a handful of ‘conservative Democrats’ and ‘liberal Republicans’ which could also make common ground.

I can’t help but feel that first the 24 hour news cycle (CNN) and then the advent of the Internet did a lot to harm discourse. Part of that is ratings, so people who get the story first get the views. I mean, clickbait happened a long time before the Internet…though I guess it would be called yellow journalism or tabloid journalism.

Then some of it is just general tiredness by people. Many people on both sides of the aisle are just tired of the whole mess, and this usually leaves the more motivated, but extreme sides to push on through.


Yes, that’s correct, since in prime ministerial elections we vote for parties and not individual candidates, although a recent ABC article seems to have an understanding of the term “hyper-partisanship” similar to P_Tigras’. (I have a bit of an issue with that article in general: Australian politics has been rather dysfunctional for a while now, and not all of that is necessarily due to intra-party conflict. But it’s not terribly interesting to non-Australians, so I’ll withdraw and let you all return to Trump and Reagan.)


That ABC article was actually what gave me the impression that hyperpartisanship was the cause. So my bad for not reading through more sources before commenting, although I did start off my sentence with an “It appears that” which is evidence that I wasn’t entirely certain.

Actually, I’d love to hear your thoughts as a native Australian on the causes of the political dysfunction in the Land Down Under.


I call BS. I love hearing esoteric political knowledge from other countries. Along with self loathing and caffeine, it makes up the triumvirate of fuel that sustains my warped and twisted biology.


Yes, I noticed that, and I respect in general the self-awareness and rigour you and some other interlocutors here apply to your respective arguments.

As a naturalised citizen who was still playing with toy dinosaurs when the start of the instability I’m about to outline occurred, I’d also strongly encourage other Aussies to jump in here. Information is taken from the electoral commission’s website, the national archives’ website, and from what I was taught in high school, so most of it should be correct.

I’d trace the cause of the current political dysfunction to a combination of the established political system, recent events and global trends, and Australia’s political culture.

Political system

A prime minister is chosen by the party that has the majority in Parliament after an election. Senate terms are six years, but they are staggered so elections generally occur every three years. Compared to the US, smaller political parties (outside Liberal and Labour) have a greater presence in Parliament and their loyalties can change outcomes.

Enrolling and voting are compulsory. I see this as problematic, especially during times of low civic engagement, as it may lead to donkey votes, spoilt votes, or above the line voting–where the voter selects one candidate and that candidate’s party allocates the remaining preferences. Above the line voting can be beneficial to some parties because of coalitions and shared ideologies. For example, Labour’s proposals are generally supported by the Greens, and many Liberal governments, including the current one, are a conservative coalition with the Nationals. (Changes in 2016 have, however, made voting below the line easier.) Between compulsory voting and the option of above the line, I don’t believe the process is entirely representative of the will of the citizens.

If I remember correctly, the selection process of American presidential candidates allows for differences in policy among a party’s potential candidates to be discussed and refined–since the people voting in primaries are also going to be voting in the final presidential election. The indirect election that occurs in Australia seems to me to be less stable (the MPs who select the PM within a party are meant to represent their constituency, but it is still not as direct as the American process), with greater variability in the chosen PM’s popularity with the people.

And that, I believe, is one of the reasons there are leadership challenges like the one that is occurring now. Turnbull has not been particularly popular, the polls are showing drops, and the next election will be held in May next year. (For example, the outing of dual-citizenship MPs in the last several months has led to by-elections, the majority of which Labour won, further destabilising the Coalition’s tentative hold on Parliament.) A leadership change might just be enough to allow the Coalition to regain popular support.

Recent domestic history

No PM has served out a natural term since 2007. Since then, there’s been the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Abbott-Turnbull dance. The carbon tax disintegration helps demonstrate just how much opinions can differ within a party on a major issue.

The events that triggered this current leadership spill involve two major policies that Turnbull championed as a prime ministerial candidate: his energy policy, the general gist of which is described in the article I linked to above, and his plan to cut big business taxes. I’m very hazy on the details, but it seems like these policies emphasised the split within the Liberal Party and has led to (freshly resigned home affairs minister) Dutton and deputy PM Bishop vying for leadership. Allegiances are changing faster than Melbourne weather.

Regarding the proposed tax cuts, the income lost and increased inequity do not sit well with the citizens of a country that has a welfare system that, although quite excellent relatively, is struggling to keep up with demographic and economic changes.

As far as I’m aware, and I recognise that my social background might have a large impact on this, Dutton does not seem particularly popular anyway, especially with his hard line against refugees that comes in the face of human rights abuses that have been revealed to be occurring in Australia’s off-shore detention centres.

Political culture

The minerals and resources industry is a major part of Australian life, culture, and economy. Both Labour’s carbon tax and Turnbull’s green energy proposal will pass on costs to the consumer, and I contend that the conflict between voters’ self-interest as consumers as well as a growing awareness of global warming has played no small part in the past decade’s events.

In addition, the politicians are viewed as a bit of a joke. From schoolyard name-calling in Parliament to Abbott’s failure to understand elementary school-level chemistry concepts to far-right MP Hanson’s cultural insensitivities to the fact that it took some difficulty to even get same-sex marriage to a plebiscite, I don’t think many people–especially the youth–are very impressed.

TL;DR: while the intra-party conflict undoubtedly has contributed to political dysfunction, the deeper roots of the problem lie in a complicated voting system that is predicated on, yet can sometimes discourage, civic engagement; unsteady management and no unified party stance on major policy points; and rising awareness of and interest in social justice.

To those who read my whole spiel: what do you think of Australia’s political system and the causes of the current situation? I’m genuinely interested in the foreign perception of our politics. Do you consider mandatory voting a promoter of or a hindrance to the democratic process? Would you agree with the amount of emphasis I place on political culture?

@lovinglydull: I hope that was sufficiently esoteric for you to go easy on the self-loathing for a while.


I’m so glad to have this President. He is so very knowledgeable on so many things and is the pinnacle of strength and intelligence America has to offer. Just look at this gem. Admire it. Bask in its glory.



Even so I still hope Trump isn’t going to get impeached unless they successfully impeach Pence too, because the man next in line to Trump is likely to be even worse.