What can we learn from Trump’s victory?

Firstly, polls can get it wrong, particularly when turnout is low, or people are ashamed to admit who they are voting for. 


In the 80’s America had their own version of Rogernomics; Reaganomics. Much like here a lot of the reform was sorely needed, but it left some socia l wounds that have since festered. Now we are seeing the outcome of that.

The idea of Reaganomics (like Rogernomics and Ruthenasia) was that if you freed up the economy, people would create more wealth, and that extra wealth would eventually benefit everyone (trickle down). The trouble is that trickle down hasn’t worked. In this country most of that wealth has gone into housing speculation, pushing up the cost of living for everyone.

Trickle down hasn’t worked in the United States either, and for way too long the Establishment Parties in America haven’t done anything about it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Backblocks America - including on motorcycle trips - and what has always astounded me is the disconnect between those Backblocks and the seaboard states where the bankers and the tech gurus dwell. It’s like two different worlds.

It is the same here in New Zealand where the Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland elite are quite separated from the provinces; or even from the working class suburbs of their own cities. No matter how ‘cool’ we think Mr Obama is – he has simply pissed too many people off, and at the end of the day there is only one America.

The same backlash could hit here, given our own big, lumbering Establishment parties that really have not served the provinces that well. You cannot have an economy “doing well” when the salaries of the bankers, senior civil servants and the upper tranches of the corporate world are capturing the benefits of that and multiplying it through property speculation. Trickle down is a farce: the ballot box eventually tells the truth.

The difference is that New Zealand has more time; thankfully we are not in the position that the United States is in yet. We need to take action to prevent the same thing happening here, but that means ending the cosy two party system we have. We need to make these Establishment Party-led governments respond to the needs of New Zealanders way sooner than it has taken the US - or the UK - to respond. We do not want an extremist being the eventual response to electorate frustration with ‘the steady as she goes’ policy negligence of John Key-style governments. How many more elections before that’s inevitable? Form your own view.

Trump is an extremist; not a radical, an extremist. We have to hope, hope and hope again that his rhetoric is not translated into action lest that leads to a very ugly clash with America as the footsoldiers of extremism take the law into their own hands under the belief they too now have a mandate to act outside the law. We have to hope that his infatuation with Putin isn’t a love affair but rather only adulation of him for being ‘tough’. A ‘tough’ antidote to Putin would not necessarily be bad. There is so much we have to hope for with President Trump that one has to have doubts that all those hopes will be realised.

Finally, what does this mean for New Zealand? It seems firstly that the TPPA is dead in the water. Ironic isn’t it that New Zealanders were concerned we weren’t getting enough out of it, we were afraid of United States corporates having too much power, and in the end it is the United States that buries it. 

If Mr Trump is true to his word – which only time will tell – then we can safely forget about the United States for a few years while their focus turns inward. New Zealand’s future for trade and diplomacy moves squarely toward Asia. It will be interesting to see what that means for the United States’ position in the world.

The more concerning thing is what this means to the world’s greatest challenge – climate change. After just being ratified, the Paris Agreement is already looking very shaky.

Showing 31 reactions

  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-13 17:08:44 +1300
    Great thoughts here, people. The cat-hating thing is probably a good example. I’m not sure if Gareth ever stated that he hates cats as such – my understanding was that he thought that they don’t have a place in this country, for various reasons. But some people – and probably our media, too – interpreted it in a more extreme way, i.e. he hates cats (makes a much shorter and simpler headline that you can print bigger, doesn’t it?), and boom! There is our conflict, cats are so adorable, can’t take our pets away, it’s against Kiwi living, so Gareth is a bad guy, and we can never vote for him because of that, so we’ll vote for someone else, even if we agreed with Gareth on a lot of other things.
    It takes two to communicate. Don’t we owe it to each other that we try to understand each other’s thoughts and positions, rather than taking a statement and swinging it around or twisting it the way we want it to be, good or bad? Trump successfully capitalised on that, and people fell for it. Let’s not make the same mistake. NZ is already better than most other places in the world in so many ways.
    I keep a repertoire of funny notes and quotes, for various situations, for example to defuse conflict situations or just make people laugh and think, and this is one of my favourite ones:
    I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
  • Frances Palmer
    commented 2016-11-13 16:00:10 +1300
    After this result in the US, NZ voters have got to be recalibrating their ‘integrityometer’ when it comes to politicians’ words? Given that systemic change is dependent on core beliefs and values – I’d like to know more of what our politicians actually stand for. Time to ask better questions of individuals? Like what is their bottom line on living conditions, what is their bottom line on how much money it takes to ‘live’, do they believe in an equitable society, what does that mean to them? Asking values-based questions first and then the policy questions later – reckon this’d be helpful to voters, especially younger voters. A positive response to the US madness would be to lift our expectations of ourselves, our politicians and our standard of living – be a role model of how things ought to be. I think the citizens of the USA are going to need all the compassion and positivity we can send their way in the coming days and months.
  • Mark Thomas
    commented 2016-11-13 15:44:55 +1300
    Glad you guys enjoyed that TED link :)

    It’s funny, I listened to the talk and thought of the way that so many kiwis identify with John Key even though he’s from another bloody planet – making his way in the world currency trading and working for Merrill Lynch. He’s such a clever politician. What if all people knew about Gareth Morgan is that he hates cats? It won’t matter how great his policies are; people will just think of him as some nut bar from another tribe. They won’t identify with him, and they won’t vote for his party.

    What I think is really promising about TOP is that the policies will actually probably cut right to the heart of how kiwis think of themselves – egalitarian, fair, innovative and caring about the environment. But as we know, it’s not enough to just have the right policies, Gareth’s got to find a way to get out there amongst the people and identify with them.

    I’m sure someone who’s studied politics could say this stuff in a much more eloquent manner! Anyway, my point was that if you think Trump was about policy alone, you’re dead wrong.
  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2016-11-13 15:24:00 +1300
    Thank you so much Mark Thomas for that TED talk.
    Meeting people from the other side of the political lines is a great way forward that each one of us can do to help to build a better world.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-13 15:22:53 +1300
    I enjoyed reading the TED talk transcript, too. I would also appreciate a hub or forum or platform where we can get together to discuss in an open-minded and respectful way. I haven’t been very successful finding people who are willing to do that – I wonder if it’s not politically correct to discuss politics (pun intended). Anyhow, count me in. I’m a bit sick and tired of the same old, same old views of the world, particularly the eternal cliché of left wing and right wing. Look at us and our life in the 21st century – we’ve already developed way past that, so I’m hoping that TOP might present a fresh approach.
  • Deirdre Kent
    commented 2016-11-13 13:45:51 +1300
    Thank you so much Mark Thomas. That TED talk was so important! I reckon we need a hub for meeting people from the other side of the political line so two people can be matched up. It is so critical to talk to people on the other side. I am bad at it, avoid it at all costs, and would welcome the chance to learn.
  • Mark Thomas
    commented 2016-11-13 11:15:02 +1300
    I think this is only part of the picture. This TED talk is a great analysis of the social psychology behind Trump’s win. The same thing has happened in many countries around the world lately. It’s possibly even more important than trivial matters like policy ;)
  • fraser smith
    commented 2016-11-12 17:22:50 +1300
    It’s possible Mr Trump is a better actor than we thought, he is a member of actors equity. A trade union. The republican party assumes their policies will be adopted. i don’t see Mr Trump as a forgive and forget type guy. There’s a lot to forgive and forget between them. Republican policy is written on lobbyists $$, Mr Trump claims to owe no. tho close ties to Israel and ex pat Russian Jews in the States can not be denied. Interestingly a number of his senior advisors share those ties. the greatest concerns ive seen so far is a possible choice he is considering for Treasury Secretary JP Morgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon , the same name Hillary was touting . Also Mr Trumps threats to withdraw from The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA the Iran deal , Mr Obama’s greatest achievement and the one gave some stability to the cataclysmic potential dangers that exist not only in that region but the entire world. The New Zealand government must voice its opposition to any US plan to withdraw from this agreement. I hope he does scrap the TPPA, Very few of the many chapters have anything to do with trade. and the costs to new zealand by seeding some of our sovereignty to an international tribunal comprised of members of the same corporations that would force grievances against our government there, removing New zealand courts and in many cases new zealand laws. There are many other negatives contained in the agreement. New Zealand already offers nations mainly free access to our markets. I don’t see why Iran and Russia (2 of our historical largest markets) shouldn’t be courted for our exports.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2016-11-12 12:54:47 +1300
  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2016-11-11 19:35:00 +1300
    “Polls can get it wrong” because they are using outdated methods. In the new era of big data, new methods can track the mood of the population. Here is the link to how two polls predict a Trump win.
  • John Hyndman
    commented 2016-11-11 13:19:32 +1300
    Excellent commentary. Trump is an extremist but his election is a result of the frustration of the silent majority. The establishment and media have colluded in trying to control public opinion and the voters have said “enough”.
    Ironically a Trump presidency may proove very successful. Whilst I abhor his stance on Climate Change and isolationalism, I recognize he offers real leadership and is prepared to thumb his nose at the establishment. His arm will be strengthened by a Republican Congress and Senate. Under Trump the USA will have more press freedom, a stronger military and rebuilding of infrastructure. This will put Americans back to work again and his tax reforms will also result in a stronger economy. Those are the pluses. The minuses we will all have to live with. When I was in the USA recently I was struck by the fear and pessimism of the people. Weak Bush and Obama presidencies have left the world a dangerous place. Maybe Trump will prove to be an excellent international negotiator and the end result will be a safer more cooperative world. What an unexpected turnaround that would be!. I remember 1980 when there was similar doom and gloom when Reagan won the Presidency. He wasnt a half bad president! Who knows? Perhaps Trump will
    also be seen as a successful president in due course.
  • Martyn Harrington
    commented 2016-11-11 12:43:37 +1300
    What americas biggest problem is is the think they’er the ‘greatest’ at everything but the other problem is the "hate’; immigrants( that 90+% are from anyway), gays, colour people, women ( alot of people didn’t vote Hillary because of), foreign cars( some they make in US are backward, power and fuel wise, saftey) and thelist goes on. Well they are not great at these and many others. Manufacturing closed and went off-shore for many reasons; plant needed replacing so moving was the way they got money from banks for this, the goods were not up to the quality of other places, list goes on. Look if you make a car an end result is shoddy etc, you get one from Malyasia it’s near perfct each time what would you do. Trump won’t be able to fix half the things he thinks he can because the bottom line is money and good products sell. Most of US food comes from Mexico, alot of home grown food has illegal labour. Cut those off and food prices will go sky high. Cut the drugs and they go sky high price wise leading to more crime. It’s all well and good ‘trash’ talking but doin it, well good luck. Trump will begin to pull back on issues he ranted on as they realise it’s not going work. I think the USA may become like Russia a very very rich few and everyone else suffering and struggling worst than they are now.
  • Draco T Bastard
    commented 2016-11-11 12:00:43 +1300
    <a href=“”">">Trade, Not Immigrants, May Have Been Key Motivator of Donald Trump’s Voters</a>

    NZers are concerned about trade and how it’s undermining our social well-being.

    As you say, all the benefits of growth have gone to the banksters and CEOs with nothing going to those who actually create the wealth.

    This needs to be addressed but no political party is willing to do so.
  • Justin Murphy
    commented 2016-11-11 11:22:19 +1300
    Good read, and seems to be right on the money for the most part. Can you elaborate a bit more on why a lot of the initial neoliberal reforms were needed? (not that I disagree, it’s just hard to really know why when you were’nt alive at the time).
  • Winifred Kiddle
    commented 2016-11-11 07:06:38 +1300
    Absolutely wrong about Trump’s ‘rhetoric’ towards PUTIN. Firstly Mr Morgan you need to stop reading mainstream news media if you want to be well informed. The newsmedia hasn’t served the populace well and as seen by the absute astonishment regarding to result of this election, it most definitely is STILL not serving us well. You know, how the MSM were all over Hilary, some even predicting a 98% chance of a Clinton win. AND New Zealand news media followed suit. I was with you until I read your ignorant take of the situation with Russia and Putin. Please find out what is really happening with Russia and Putin. If you don’t want to be another ‘blah’ party you need to get out of your mainstream comfort zone and look beyond mainstream rhetoric. That’s one thing you could learn from Trump. It may put you in the extremist class. But better I say than being in the ‘blah’ class.
  • Greg Johnson
    commented 2016-11-11 02:28:22 +1300
    Spot on.
  • Russell Baillie
    commented 2016-11-10 23:31:42 +1300
    Yes, the political classes and main stream commentariat have totally lost touch with the the reality of the factory and middle working classes. The trickle-up started by rorting the factory classes, and for the last 5-10 years it’s been nibbling away at the teacher/nurse/fireman/technician classes. This lot used to be our solid true kiwi egalitarian society who could live comfortable life in their home towns. Now they’re being regular screwed in their pay rounds and forced out of the big cities so as to be able to simply buy a house. This is what lead to the societal frustration and break down that lead to Brexit. It is behind the rise of Corbyn and Saunders. It is what won Trump the election. It IS happening here, with people with jobs living in cars & garages, or sharing 1 house between multiple families. It wasn’t red-neck racists that won Trump the election, it was the great mass of disenfranchised who were sick of being screwed by the trickle-up defending establishment. TOP – you need to be our Saunders and our Corbyn. Are you up to it?
  • Camilla Cox
    commented 2016-11-10 22:35:53 +1300
    Climate change? Let’s just lead the way. Let’s show the world how its done… we did it with free trade (we unilaterally levelled our playing field so everyone else could play on it)… this time lets show them how a responsible nation acts on GHG emissions—and lets reap the rewards associated with sustainable, responsible, ethical production.
  • Tom Fowler
    commented 2016-11-10 22:19:02 +1300
    just shows how fed up people are becoming with two faced lieing politicions
  • james mudge
    commented 2016-11-10 21:50:09 +1300
    John Key and National will do anything to get the TPPA through these trade agreements never benefit those of the middle class and especially not those at the bottom. Should be interesting to see what happens next.
  • Bruce Gourdie
    commented 2016-11-10 21:37:48 +1300
    Even today the National party almost got through the 3rd reading of the TPPA Amendment Bill. Even though a large number of kiwis have made it clear this is in no way a well supported agreement National attempt to bully it into law, hoping I assume that Obama will ratify the agreement during the lame duck period. Today National reiterated how well the economy is doing by reminding us that the average wage has gone up by $12,000 to $58,400. Remember, if you take out the mega salaries of the CEO’s and upper management of the larger companies in NZ then this ‘;average is a great deal lower and remember also, that ’average’ implies somewhere in the middle, then that means around half the NZ voters aren’t feeling much benefit from this great economy we have.
    That’s where Trump got his momentum from, the unrewarded hard working majority of people who had had enough of watching the mega rich take all the profits of their hard work.
    And National aren’t listening.
    So who is?
  • Ben Kepes
    commented 2016-11-10 20:51:24 +1300
    And some thoughts from me… maybe there’s is an opportunity to gather up this unrest, but channel it into a good outcome…
  • Deirdre Kent
    commented 2016-11-10 20:16:29 +1300
    Woops. Obama insisted that the U.S. be allowed to sign the Paris Accord as an “executive agreement” rather than as a treaty (which would have required ratification in the Republican-controlled Senate). This means that the U.S. has signed the agreement, but it is subject to reversal by a new executive. (thanks to a recent WISE Response discussion on climate change)
  • Deirdre Kent
    commented 2016-11-10 20:10:53 +1300
    The Paris Agreement has been passed as International Law on Nov 4.;utm_medium=Social&amp;utm_campaign=ClimateReality. And of course Trump probably has no respect for it.

    Also Nafeed Ahmed in his article on Trump said Trump and Putin both wanted to break up Europe (not that I can understand the rationale).
  • Deirdre Kent
    followed this page 2016-11-10 19:57:02 +1300
  • Catherine Shore
    commented 2016-11-10 19:46:00 +1300
    It’s good to see someone doing their homework – across the board. I am interested Gareth, what are your thoughts on getting industry and jobs back into the provinces? Ease the strain on infrastructure in the major cities – mainly Auckland. How do we spread the wealth around the country and get those $$ trickling down to benefit all? I am from a small town, that was once a bustling and thriving one. Heart of the King Country on the Main trunk line. Then the meatworks closed, railways sold off, forestry was bought by foreign owners and sheep farming downsized. This all but killed the town, so I moved to the big smoke to find a job. I have been in Auckland for 21 years. I miss my home town but there is nothing left there but huge power prices (2nd highest in NZ), rates that exceed anything on Paratai Drive and no jobs. It’s not the only small town in NZ like this. I would move back, if there was something to move back to. I am only surviving in Auckland, my head only just above the waves and to be honest life is a struggle. Slave to the grind. Greatest country in the world to live… yeah, right. It could be.. it was once.. Gareth, how do you fix NZ for all?
  • james mudge
    commented 2016-11-10 17:00:22 +1300
    Hi I am sick of the two old parties they have o new ideals. Labor is rehashing old Task Force Green Schemes for the unemployed while National continues to sell State houses while kids sleep in cars. What the hell has happened to New Zealand it wasn’t like this when i was growing up people looked after each other.
  • Frilly Perduta
    commented 2016-11-10 16:48:46 +1300
    I respect him.
    He respects us.
    He does not mince his words.
  • Daniel Friedman
    commented 2016-11-10 16:26:20 +1300
    Because losing your shit and burning flags when you don’t get your own way isn’t extremism?
  • Kinsey Cao
    commented 2016-11-10 15:06:39 +1300
    Why Trump can’t change U.S.A?
    In order to answer this question, we’d better take a close look at what role does U.S. president play in American politics?
    In fact, U.S president is more a policy implementer than a policy maker, he is just like a CEO in a company. A CEO is an employee of the board of directors, therefore he is subject to the decisions made by the board of directors. And these people are responsible for shareholders.
    Well, in U.S. politics, who are the board of directors? Senate and congress; who are the shareholders? Various interest groups. Therefore, for foreign policies, The Chair of U.S Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has greater and louder say than Trump does, likewise, Senate Armed Services Committee who really makes final decisions on military actions instead of U.S. President.
    Certainly it is clear that bosses behind are representatives of interest groups.
    Why Kennedy was assassinated? Because he didn’t obey their orders and why Regan almost lost his life because he tried to do the same.
    In a word, the U.S. political system is neither democracy nor meritocracy but moneytalkcracy (it means money drives everything )and vetocracy (it means the veto from the other party becomes the main stream).
    New Zealand has witnessed a farce in U.S. presidential election, and meritocracy and moneytalkcracy should be stopped, let the authentic democracy come back.