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Australia’s Prime Minister, And The Politics Of Doing Stuff You Do Not Want To Do

Sometimes, you have to eat a sausage on white bread, because you have to

Woe for Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister who just didn't want to eat a sausage.

Politics, like life itself, is largely made up of people doing things they simply do not want to do. I don't mean the “we have to vote on bombing this country” politics; no, that politics is difficult because it raises moral questions and life-or-death decision-making that will inspire very serious movies. I am instead referring to what one might call the “politics of visibility”: of going to a place where you do not wish to go and having your photo taken doing a thing you do not wish to do, because, quite simply, you have to.

This unfortunate fact brings us to Malcolm Turnbull, prime minister of Australia. Australia is a country roughly the size of Europe (that's all of Europe) but with a population smaller than the state of Texas. It is a complicated, complex country. But though it is deeply divided on issues of race, religion, and culture, it is united by the fact that everyone hates Malcolm Turnbull. He has an approval rating of zero. His government is woefully unpopular. He has spent a great deal of his time in office yelling about his predecessor, Tony Abbott, and complaining about the mainstream media. It's really too bad he and Donald Trump hate each other (Trump yelled at him on a phone call about refugee resettlement) because otherwise they'd get along splendidly.

But when the city of Lismore in Eastern Australia suffered a devastating flood after being hit by Cyclone Debbie on April 1, Turnbull did what he was supposed to do: He went to Lismore. He assisted with cleanup, offered moral support, and listened quietly while business owners told him they needed more help from the government. In short, he checked all of the disaster-relief boxes required of a political figure. And then he was offered a sausage roll by an elderly volunteer.

A word about Australia: Australians love sausage rolls (or a “sauso sanga”) — a pork or beef sausage served on a piece of white bread. Australians call sausages “snags,” and a “snag sizzle,” or a sausage barbecue, is a common event in Australia. Bunnings Warehouse, Australia's largest hardware store chain, even sells them. But Malcolm Turnbull did not want a sausage roll. And he said so.

Should Malcolm Turnbull have to eat a sausage roll when offered one? No. Malcolm Turnbull is a person, and sometimes a person doesn't want to consume a large sausage on a piece of plain white bread while wandering around a flooded city. But Malcolm Turnbull is not just a person, he is a politician. And that means that when Malcolm Turnbull was offered a sausage roll by an elderly volunteer, he was supposed to eat the goddang sausage roll. He didn't, and now people are very, very upset.

Do you think that Barack Obama enjoyed pardoning a turkey every year? Do you think Ted Cruz enjoyed going to the Bronx and getting mercilessly heckled during his run for president? I tell you now, they did not, because Barack Obama and Ted Cruz were many things, but they were first and foremost human beings. Human beings who probably wanted to do something — anything — other than hang out with a large, angry bird once a year or visit a Chinese-Dominican restaurant full of people who hate them. But they did it, not because it was of vital importance to the nation or would finally hash out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so poor Jared Kushner wouldn't have to do it, but because once upon a time, years ago, it was decided that pardoning turkeys on Thanksgiving and sending Republican presidential candidates to the most racially diverse borough of the most liberal city in the freaking country would be a great way to win over ordinary Americans (most of whom do not care about either turkeys or, let's face it, the Bronx).

In the realm of Australian political food mishaps (of which there are many!), Malcolm Turnbull turning down a sausage roll isn't quite as odd as the time Tony Abbott ate a raw, unpeeled onion. But it is reflective of a widely known fact: Politicians are supposed to do things they do not want to do purely because it will look good. It doesn't matter that Malcolm Turnbull didn't eat a sausage roll. He didn't lose a war or start one. But he did refuse a sausage roll, and in doing so, he stared the correct political decision in the face, and said, “I'd rather not.”

In the next election, a voter will say, “Remember that time he didn't eat that sauso sanga?” And every Australian will nod knowingly. They know what that means. It means that Malcolm Turnbull isn't “one of us.” He doesn't respect the common man. He doesn't know what the sausage roll says about the native spirit of Australia's finest. And Malcolm Turnbull will lose an election for his party because, while visiting a flooded city, he refused to eat a sausage roll.

Politics is so stupid.