Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Justin Trudeau’s age problem

It makes sense for potential liberal leaders to think carefully about whether they’re the right age to apply.

(Age is less important for conservatives. They’re not elected for their energy and are presumed to have precocious ears for the wisdom of their elders.) 

The Liberal Party of Canada, too, must be especially careful. It’s been hurt seriously for relying too much on the past and, recently, for choosing a leader with too little experience.

The two Trudeaus of Canadian politics have quiet, different birthday challenges. Candidate Pierre Trudeau was crowding 50 during the youth cult of the late 60s; his son has just made it past 40, as the Baby Boom retires. The elder’s youthfulness safely survived his first election. His son’s youth—in the age of “dangers lapping at the shores of Canada”—is already being raised as an issue.

Lysiane Gagnon of the Globe and Mail brutally fleshes out a deeper problem:

“But isn’t it strange that a man who will turn 41 in December is considered too young to lead a party? Pierre Elliott Trudeau was only nine years older when he won the Liberal crown in 1968. What this indicates is that, indeed, Justin Trudeau exudes juvenile charm, lightness and immaturity, as if he were not actually approaching middle age, well past the age of Peter Pan.”

We use age to help us decide whether someone—at a distance—is “grown up.” Today, 40 isn’t as conclusive as it once was. 

Justin Trudeau’s credibility, therefore, will largely depend on how his potential candidacy is viewed by colleagues in Ottawa. In desperate times, party strategists who just visit often get it wrong.

To complicate matters, however, we can’t know in advance how any grown up will grow—or not—in power. That mystery, it seems likely, will hang over all the candidates.

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