A few months back, 15 year-old Edward Bourke was at home, watching TV when a news segment started about the US presidential race. "I'd always respected Donald Trump's business achievements," says Ed. "But they were running a clip that made him look like a racist, so I did some research and realised the clip had been misleadingly edited."
Ed explained that Trump had been talking about immigration, but the part that best qualified his opinions had been cut out. It was a light-bulb moment. Watching the TV, Edward realised Australia was getting only half the Donald Trump story, while no one was properly explaining the policies. He believed it was a situation that needed changing, and it was up to him to change it.
This might seem an like an odd leap of imagination for a year 10 student in Australia, but Ed was already heading social campaigns on his other pet passions: climate change awareness, lion preservation, and genealogy. Launching another seemed like the natural thing to do.
Edward began with @TrumpTriumph on Twitter, which now has 529 followers at time of writing. Then he followed up with a website, thetrumpcampaign.com, which presents a simple breakdown of Trump's policies and credentials. Both these outlets try to provide balanced information on Trump's campaign, but Edward believes his most influential tactic involves engaging his classmates in conversation. "Then they go home and tell their parents, who tell their friends, and so on."
Edward lives with his parents on a two and a half-acre hobby farm ("a couple of sheep and some chickens") at the base of Mt Macedon, about an hour northwest of Melbourne. When I sent Ed a text asking where he'd like to meet he replied "the Sofitel," which is where I found him drinking mineral water with his dad at the bar, both men wearing suits. "Dad had to drive," shrugged Ed, without any of the embarrassment you might expect.
I started by asking why. Essentially, Edward believes Trump's economic prowess and management record makes him the best candidate for running America, which would strengthen Australia's economy via proxy. He cites America's national debt ( around $19 trillion) as a threat to global stability and claims the US needs a fiscal conservative in power in order to tackle other issues such as climate change. Yes, Ed is concerned about climate change, which he says Trump has recently come around to. "If you read some of Donald Trump's quotes," says Ed, "you'll see how his opinion on climate science has changed over the past years. He's not actually against it as everyone thinks."
In this way Ed presents an unusual mix of neoconservatism, environmental concern, and a mighty faith in the British monarchy. "My home room teacher once sent me out of the class because I said Australia should never become a republic. I think the queen is the best head of state you could hope for." Ed then pointed to his gold tie clip, cast in the shape of a lion: "the symbol for the British Empire."
I asked Ed about some of the less tolerable parts to Trump's megalomania, such his penchant for racism, jingoism, and general discrimination. Ed agreed that Trump was known for saying dumb stuff, but insisted it was mainly a mix of misquotes and bluster to excite the American right. "They like that sort of talk," he said.
To be clear Ed supports some policies that might be considered progressive, including marriage equality. Despite this, he sides with Trump on immigration. "Look at Germany," he explained. "Angela Merkel has let just anyone in and it's resulted in Germans feeling a lot more negatively about immigration. They've come to associate Islam with refugees, and I don't think that helps either group." Instead, Ed believes that Trump's policy of strong borders will actually encourage Americans to feel better about offering asylum or foreign aid.
Ed says that most people at school respect his ideas, and when they don't he walks away. Either that or he tries to engage them in conversation, "and tell them a bit more about Trump." As for partying or drinking from his parents' liquor cabinet, Ed's says he's just not interested. "A big night for me is spent trading gold stocks on the internet and managing my sites, " he said. "I'd rather set myself up now and enjoy life later." As for dating, Ed said it just isn't a priority.
While Ed talked, his dad, Mick, sat to one side and munched on a serve of spring rolls. He didn't interrupt or try to clarify anything, instead he just listened, somewhere between proud and amused. "Ed's always had his interests and his opinions," said Mick smiling. "Sometimes he can be a real pain in the arse."
We finished by taking some photos and talking about Ed's interests outside of Trump and economic rationalism. As I took photos Ed opened a spreadsheet of his family history that he'd somehow traced back over 1000 years. "I've always been very interested in genealogy," he explained. "And I actually discovered William the Conqueror is my 27th grandfather."
"Believe me," said Mick, deadpan. "If you know Ed, you'd know that's 100 percent correct."
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