Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

The man who mistakenly thought he ran the USA

8 Nov 2020 — a 2 minute read on opinion

Goodbye to Donald Trump, the man who mistakenly thought he ran the USA.

Amid the sea of lies we heard from Trump it was perhaps too easy to ignore the lie we too often tell ourselves: that a prime minister or president runs their country. They do not. They steer the ship, they guide its course; but they are a small part of the much bigger machine that is the government, the state, society.

A leader is a reflection of their people, not the boss. Trump could never have been US President if people didn't want that. He didn't create Trumpism, he just inflamed it and stuck his brand on it. So getting rid of Trump doesn't fix the underlying problems, it's the other way around: America has to fix its problems to avert another Trump.

I reckon it is a dangerous fiction to let voters think a political leader has total control. The leaders start to believe it themselves. It gives political sides a mistaken belief that they will make everything better when it's their turn to eat. But that fails because the result is half the people telling the other half what to do, and if that other half doesn't want to do it then it's not going to happen.

This is not to say the leader does not matter. It was surely necessary to get rid of selfish Trump before America could tackle its problems, but it is no end in itself. What makes me sad for the USA was not Trump but the culture that put him there, a culture which is as strong today as ever.

Many of my Aussie friends are obsessed by US politics, for you fans I do hope that you're enjoying the Biden victory. It is a moment to savour that there is hope and progress in the world. I don't want to take away from that, but I can't help thinking that we shouldn't care so much about the USA. It's not our country, not our problems. USA has some wonderful institutions and great people who dedicate their lives to fixing their problems; they've got this. But who is looking out for us? Only we can deal with Australia's problems. My hope for today is that we can all forget about the USA for while and work on ourselves instead. We should start on the first nations voice in the Australian constitution. That will come about when we the people demand it. Our leaders, as always, will follow us.