One year until the US election

“Although we engage in various activities, nothing quite ignites interest like US domestic politics,” according to Jared Mondschein, the Director of Research at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney.

With just one year until the upcoming election, he hosted a talk, “The Insider’s Guide to the 2024 US Presidential Election” tonight at Sydney University, which I attended. The speakers were the seasoned political journalists (and life partners), Ryan Lizza (Politico) and Olivia Nuzzi (New York magazine).

Looking around the room, I noticed a slight, albeit not overwhelming, prevalence of older white men. To attend a university lecture about US politics on a Monday evening at 6 PM, one could safely assume that we were all ardent “political enthusiasts,” which might explain Jared’s likening of the crowd to a “DC audience.” I loved the way Jared looked around the room to make sure a variety of ages and genders had the opportunity to ask questions.

Not surprisingly, Trump dominated both the discourse and the audience’s inquiries. Both journalists had interviewed him both individually and together on a number of occasions.

According to Nuzzi, there are three distinct facets of Trump’s personality during interiews. The first is occasionally subdued, “almost bordering on sedated”. The second is more frequently evident, portraying him as “more often avuncular,” actively engaging and eager to persuade you of his arguments. The third is what she described as more animated and “Classically Trump.” She recounted seeing Trump “go off the record once or twice in the six occasions” she interviewed him. Both journalists concurred that the key to engaging with him was to flatter him, frequently framing his actions in an historical context.

Ryan Lizza (Politico), Olivia Nuzzi (New York magazine) and Jared Mondschein (United States Studies Centre in Sydney)

They also provided insights into what it’s like to attend a Trump rally. Lizza likened the rallies to rock concerts for a band with an unwavering fan base, such as The Grateful Dead, where attendees faithfully show up at every event.

In the early days of the rallies, a wide spectrum of media, both left and right, was present, but at most recent rallies, “almost exclusively right-wing media” attended, with mainstream media playing a minimal role. Nuzzi added that there is a tacit understanding among TV networks to no longer broadcast the rallies live.

While it appears that the 2024 election will feature Biden vs. Trump, there’s always the possibility that one or both might withdraw from the race, whether due to age or legal issues.

A recent game-changer, according to Mondschein, was the public comment by former President Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, suggesting that it’s the last moment for President Biden to assess whether he should drop out of the 2024 presidential race, due to age. Mondshein noted that although some insiders had been suggesting this, no one had done so as publicly as Axelrod.

The 90-minute discussion was terrific and seemed to fly by. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it.

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