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ANDERSON: Justin Trudeau and the glitter of fool's gold

Image Credit: Contributed by author
July 28, 2015 - 8:40 AM

"Justin Trudeau could be prime minister if election held today" enthused an Ottawa Citizen headline on April 4, 2013, not long before the princeling sailed to overwhelming victory in the Liberal leadership election. It was one of very many such headlines over the following months.

As late as early this year Justin still dominated the polls and the friendly press, although by that time he was dragging an increasingly waterlogged sea anchor of dictatorial tendencies and amateurish faux pas behind him. The budget would balance itself if he were at the helm, he claimed. Helping all Canadians wasn't what's fair, he shouted across the Commons. His glib sexual connotation involving CF-18s spoke of a lack of gravitas.

Some of these could be dismissed as the misspeakings of a young and dynamic leader finding his sea legs, but others...well, some of them seemed perilously similar to those of the Chinese "basic dictatorship" he claimed to admire. He couldn't abide the beliefs of pro-life candidates and so he grudgingly grandfathered in a few weathered pro-life veterans and cut the rest adrift. Severing ties with the entire caucus of Liberal Senators to avoid a looming scandal smacked of crass cynicism to even his most star struck supporters, to say nothing of the Liberal Senators themselves. Dismissing two of his MPs on a nebulous and anonymous sex charge smacked of arbitrary diktat. By around the middle of March of this year Justin's royal barge was listing perilously.

Supporting Bill C-51 is commonly seen by commentators as the final torpedo in the public's patience with Justin, but I doubt it was. I don't think the average Canadian is as alarmed about C-51 as some leftward leaning pundits would have us believe. I suspect it's something more visceral and personal. 

The term "tabula rasa" is a Latin phrase that translates directly to "scraped (blank) tablet" in English, and it describes an Aristotelian concept that travelled up through philosophical history until it was seized by behavioural psychologists in the mid-twentieth century to denote the mind-as-blank-slate. According to this view the mind is born a perfectly blank slate upon which the subsequent experiences of life inscribe character and personality. But while it carries that meaning in philo-psychology, it's also a useful concept to describe the phenomenon of some charismatic young politicians. Not so much in the sense of a blank mind, although some would argue otherwise in the case of Justin, but rather as a blank slate, or screen, upon which people can project anything they want.

During Trudeau's ascendancy he was the perfect blank projection screen... young, hip, dynamic and possessed of one of the most evocative names in modern Canadian history. Equally importantly he had no political history to speak of so he could be all things to all people. Those who missed the golden age of Pierre Elliot and all that went with it could relive it through the proxy of his son. Those who liked the sparkle of the Kennedyesque Obamiad to the south looked to Justin as the Canadian edition of the same thing. Those who wanted youth, those who wanted change, those who wanted unicorns to gallop across the face of the moon had in Justin someone who could do it all. By standing for nothing he stood for everything.

"All that glitters is not gold" - Shakespeare

Unfortunately for Justin, unicorns don't exist and his father he is not. He inevitably began to write on his own slate and slowly but surely people watched their projections overwritten by the reality of the man himself. What they found in the end was mediocrity with a pretty face, a famous name, and an autocratic mind.

Today Trudeau limps along in third place, tied with the Green Party in some ridings, and just to make matters more interesting it looks like a mutiny is brewing below decks. His latest indignity came as something of an anticlimax when his ill-considered endorsement of Tory defector Eve Adams sank ignominiously in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. "Justin Trudeau can actually remember strategy, he can actually remember points," opined Adams following her defeat. Alas, it takes more than the ability to remember talking points to win an election, never mind steer the ship of state.

— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves and a bunch of other stuff.  His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

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