My family left the United States partly to escape its politics, so it was jolting to watch Trump banners that I was more used to seeing in Mississippi and rural Michigan being brandished on the streets of Melbourne. But the Trump paraphernalia, and crowds of Australian protesters that resemble mosh pits of MAGA diehards, have been only a mild form of the sickness. There have been more malign manifestations. Some lawmakers in the state of Victoria who backed tough lockdown measures received death and rape threats. Demonstrations at its assembly building in Melbourne frequently turned ugly. Protesters urinated on the city’s most sacred site, its temple-like Shrine of Remembrance. A gallows was even paraded through the streets, upon which was hung an effigy of Victoria’s state premier, Daniel Andrews, who has become a demonized figure similar to Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. In November, counterterrorism police arrested and charged a man alleged to have encouraged fellow protesters to come with firearms so they could execute “Dictator Dan.”
Given its prosperity, multiculturalism, and strong civic tradition, Australia should be a model democracy and global exemplar. Its “Washminster” form of government, with its blend of parliamentary, executive, state, and judicial power, sought to co-opt the best of the British and American systems. Its parliamentarians sit on green-and-red-leather benches, a nod toward the Palace of Westminster, in legislative chambers that adopted the U.S. nomenclature, the House of Representatives and the Senate. It should embody all that is good about democracy; instead, it is displaying ugly American traits.