Last week there was a question in Melbourne. And this week, across the Pacific, came an answer from San Francisco.
On August 28, inner-city Melbourne-based ABC presenter Jonathan Green put out the following tweet towards the end of the Republican National Convention: “Watching trump — louche, glib, a shambling slob, slumped at the lectern, mouthing lies and hyperbolic platitude — not even doing his audience the credit of enthusiasm, I’m always struck by the same question: how does this even begin to work?”
Leaving aside the likelihood that Green saw what he wanted to see — since the majority view appears to have been that the RNC was a livelier occasion than the Democratic National Convention and that US President Donald Trump delivered a forceful speech — what is the answer to Green’s question?
It seems that Trump’s message works because he has identified a fact many on the left fail to acknowledge. Namely that many well-off professionals, who think of themselves as progressive, demand certain privileges that they deny to many members of the suburban and rural middle class and working class. Here’s an example.
On Monday afternoon (US time) the Democratic Party’s House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was filmed visiting a San Francisco hair salon, without a mask, for a shampoo and blow-dry. Not a problem in itself, it might be thought, since in most states in Australia some hairdressers have remained open during the pandemic and there has been scant evidence of a COVID-19 spread from this source.
But the problem for the Democrats is that Pelosi supports the lockdowns in Democrat-controlled San Francisco that have hit hard small business hairdressers, among others. Pelosi’s visit to EsalonSF upset owner Erica Kious who rents out chairs to freelancers. Pelosi arranged to have her hair done by an independent stylist on a quiet Monday afternoon.
Kious told Fox News that she was not able to open her salon inside or even outside (since using hair colour chemicals outside is prohibited) and has seen her business destroyed. The single mother with two small children described herself as “being deflated, helpless and honestly beaten down”.
Yet Pelosi, a multi-millionaire who lives in one of the city’s gated communities, managed to have her hair washed and blow-dried (which is prohibited in San Francisco due to concerns about virus spread) while publicly supporting lockdowns and the wearing of masks.
Trump, never one to miss the opportunity of delivering a blunt message, tweeted on Wednesday: “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is being decimated for having a beauty parlour opened, when all others are closed, and for not wearing a Mask — despite constantly lecturing everyone else …”
And that’s the answer to Green’s question. For all his abrasiveness, Trump cuts through because he speaks a truth — many well-off left-progressives such as Pelosi do not live the way they demand that others live. The story is familiar in Australia.
Take Victoria, for example. The state has had Australia’s toughest lockdown laws for a long time — along with the greatest spread of COVID-19. Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews presides over a government that has determined that a woman can legally walk her dog on a deserted street in Blackburn at 7.55pm. But if she does so at 8.05pm it is an illegal activity subject to a $1652 on-the-spot fine, the highest in Australia.
Now to someone receiving the salary of a premier or a chief health officer, a fine of $1652 is manageable. But to someone on a pension or an unemployment benefit or with a large family it can be a huge penalty.
It is now international news that, on Wednesday, police entered a house in Ballarat,
arrested a pregnant woman, dressed in pyjamas, in front of her children, and placed her
in handcuffs and led her away to the local police station.
Zoe Lee Buhler’s alleged crime was to incite others to attend an anti-lockdown rally in Ballarat this weekend.
The police insisted on charging her despite the fact she promised to take down her post about the protest. This is the same Victoria Police that did almost nothing when thousands of protesters took to the streets in a Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne in June.
No wonder that many Americans and Australians alike believe there is one rule for them and another rule for others.
It’s much the same with Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government. There are numerous instances in recent times when Queensland has refused access to NSW residents who live close to the border — or demand that individuals resident in Queensland go into 14 days quarantine if they return following a visit to NSW. The list includes children, pregnant women, farmers and so on.
Yet on Wednesday the Queensland government welcomed a plane-load of Australian Football League officials and friends who brought the news that the AFL grand final this year will be held in Brisbane.
They will go into quarantine of sorts — in a holiday resort. No single-room isolation for the AFL, which in recent years has enjoyed a cosy relationship with the Labor Party.
It’s all part of a bigger problem in this pandemic-driven recession. We’re not all in this together, contrary to the saying, since medium and small businesses — and those who are employed in such industries — have borne the brunt of the economic pain and the resultant mental health impacts.
Meanwhile most of those in the public sector remain virtually untouched.
Victorian public servants, many working from home, have received pay rises. State health bureaucrats, who have the freedom of attending city media conferences, encourage lockdowns and are urged on by many taxpayer-funded ABC journalists from their inner-city studios in Southbank.
Trump may or may not prevail at the US presidential election on November 3. If he does, it will primarily turn on the fact many Americans reject Pelosi’s “progressive” elitism. They can see what Green cannot see.