Fran Chauncy, a Sydneysider who worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has more insight than most into US politics. Here’s what she thinks of Donald Trump’s chances this time around.
Fran Chauncy is a dyed in the wool Aussie and happy resident of Willoughby, a suburb on Sydney’s North Shore. She is also a passionate follower of US politics and keenly devoted to the Democratic Party (although, as an Australian, she can’t actually become a member).
As the US presidential election looms near, Chauncy is haunted by memories of November 8, 2016, when she was in a New York bar watching, incredulous, as the results of that election came through.
“The faces of the people at the bar I’ll take to my grave. They were just looking in disbelief and trying to hang onto anything,” she recalls.
Though not a US citizen, Chauncy was very invested in the 2016 election; through some smart networking and a bit of luck, she managed to become a volunteer on the Hillary Clinton campaign (no easy feat for a non-resident).
In January 2016, as a newly inducted volunteer, Chauncy went to America for the presidential primaries and stuffed envelopes, passed out leaflets and made hundreds of calls.
She had been an admirer of Hillary ever since the Bill Clinton administration.
“I loved her passion, tenacity, grace and grit, and I wanted to see a female [president] – it meant everything to me,” she tells the Sentinel.
Throughout the campaign and even on election day, Chauncy and many other supporters believed it would be a Clinton win. It was not until Hillary herself conceded defeat, that Chauncy was forced to accept the awful truth.
“It was unbelievably depressing … funereal is how one magazine described it.”
She returned to Sydney and effectively hibernated, unable to deal with news or commentary about the election.
While not so hands-on this time, Chauncy is still vehemently engaged with the 2020 campaign. The Trump administration has exceeded her (and many other people’s) worst expectations and the Democrats have a single, overriding agenda.
“They’re desperate to elect anybody to get Trump out,” says Chauncy.
Does she believe Biden has a chance?
“It’s all about the turn out. He does, if they turn out in big numbers.”
Trump has been riding high on a wave of popularity for most of his first term, however his ineptitude around the Covid-19 pandemic, and the consequential negative impact on the economy, has undermined confidence in his presidency.
At the moment, it looks good for the Democrats, but it did in 2016 too.
Chauncy advises caution around any optimistic predictions; Trump is pulling out all stops and is already indicating he’ll dispute any result that doesn’t favour him.
“The thing is, another four years with that man will do irreparable damage,” she warns.
There is a close affinity between Australia and America, and the upcoming US election is being keenly followed by many people here.
The popular ABC-TV show, Planet America, now airs twice weekly, and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney has been holding regular webinars that attract hundreds of participants.
“I think the reason we’re so tied is because we’ve been such a close ally,” explains Chauncy. “Also, we’ve been enculturated all throughout our childhood with American playwrights, Hollywood film, music … we’ve grown up with Americana.”
Americana has certainly left an imprint on Chauncy, who jumps on a plane to New York whenever she gets the chance. New York is Sydney to the power of ten: fast, fantastical, and filled with art and culture.
“You can get exhausted going into New York – and I love it – but after a couple of weeks you’re ready to go,” says Chauncy.
Sydney is growing at an exponential rate and can look at larger cities like New York for clues on what to get right.
“Better public transport,” suggests Chauncy. “You rarely see overweight New Yorkers … because they walk everywhere or get the subway.”
Also, the way they use reclaimed infrastructure and land is impressive, for instance, a disused elevated rail line has been repurposed as a pedestrian walkway.
This kind of thing is happening more and more in Sydney, for example, the Goods Line in Ultimo is a footpath along a former railway line; Cockatoo Island, once a shipyard, is experiencing a second life as an arts and recreational venue.
Chauncy may be enthralled with the Stars and Stripes but her heart remains firmly within the Southern Cross. What does she love about Sydney?
“Oh, the harbour, I adore it! I’m fifteen minutes from Middle Harbour … I’m about seven minutes from the bush and I can not even know I’m in the city – and then I’m ten minutes from the beautiful Harbour Bridge.
“Middle Harbour is magnificent, I just sit on a bench down there and I can look across the seaboard and there’s nobody about. It’s just magnificent.”
She can walk to Balmoral or drive easily to any of the beaches further along the coast.
“The Northern Beaches are the prettiest beaches in the world, in my view.”
For 25 years, Chauncy has swum at North Sydney pool, an olympic pool idyllically located at the base of Sydney Harbour Bridge, next to Luna Park.
“When it’s a sunny day and there’s a deep blue sky and I can see that Harbour Bridge … there’s nothing better.”
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