There are times when, as a politician, you have hold your nose, to smile politely and get on with it.
Yesterday, in New Zealand’s parliament, was supposed to be one of those times.
My Green party colleagues and I were asked to support a government motion to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the US presidential election. These types of motions are fairly commonplace in our parliament. They are token gestures of support and diplomacy – convenient ways to express our best wishes to political leaders in faraway places. They usually pass with little fanfare
Yesterday was no different in that the motion passed – but this time, there were 14 objections. From us. For me, and many others, this was not a time for business as usual.
Donald Trump will almost certainly never hear about what I said in parliament yesterday or, for that matter, give a flying toss. In that sense, our position may seem futile.
However, it is unconscionable that the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand – which has a proud record of promoting tolerance, inclusiveness and peace – would send our best wishes to a man who has spouted misogynistic, racist, xenophobic and climate change-denying views.
As the Republican candidate in the US presidential election, Trump already had a significant platform; soon, as president, he will have the biggest megaphone in the world. So no, I don’t believe this is a time to be diplomatic or polite. If others wish to defend the actions of a sexual predator, they are welcome to. I won’t, and neither will my colleagues.
To be clear, I am not questioning the legitimacy of this result, or the rights of the American people to democratically elect the president of their choice. It’s also worth pointing out, as many others have, that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump. To any Americans reading this who are frustrated by a political system that does not necessarily reward the candidate with the most votes, I can empathise. New Zealand also had an issue with disproportionate political representation under a first-past-the-post electoral system, before we changed to a proportional system in 1996.
Since telling our parliament yesterday why the Green party would not be giving our best wishes to Trump, I have been criticised by members of my country’s government.
Our prime minister, John Key, has fostered a close and highly publicised relationship with Barack Obama – I would guess he’s holding out hope for a round of golf and a photoshoot with the new president too.
And, I suppose, that by putting my criticism for Trump on the record, I might be pre-emptively ruling myself out of those kinds of publicity opportunities if and when we are a part of government. But, the fact is, if you bend your values in challenging, strained times like these, they’re not worth much at all when the going gets better. Plus, I’m not much of a golfer anyway