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)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Justin Trudeau’s charismatic shelf life?

Through no fault of his own, Justin Trudeau is being called charismatic.

So, could this be the best chance the Liberal Party has to return to center stage? A poll already confirms that his name is an advantage, giving him a two-to-one favorability rating over the closest competition.

This argument isn’t unfair; it’s just not trustworthy.

“Charisma” isn’t as fickle as lightning. However, it isn’t passed on in a name, in genes, or even in something that can be coaxed out of an appealing celebrity. Charisma isn’t a quality cynics can evoke to hide weaknesses and manage strategically. It’s not a skill that can be purchased from a rhetorician. It’s a wild card—it’s not bankable.

His father’s charisma is highly instructive.

His was persuasive; it re-introduced the Liberal Party to millions of voters, but it didn’t last for long. “Trudeaumania” was a devastating six-month affair. From January to the end of June 1968, he went from Justice Minister to Leader of the Liberal Party to a majority Prime Minister, elected with just over 45% of the popular vote.

Throughout his rise and the ups and downs of his political career, his appeal went along with his political authority. He was the leader of a fearsome national party; he was the majority prime minister who invoked the War Measures Act—and he threatened to crush Quebec separatists, to (if necessary) secure a Canadian constitution, and to humiliate the provinces.

Personal qualities, of course, mattered as well. However, unlike his son, Pierre Trudeau was never what’s called “an inspirational speaker.” He had, instead, a unique talent for being taken most seriously when he was most vehement. Not a skill displayed by his son or noted yet in other Liberals on the opposition benches.

It’s said that Justin’s other asset is that he’s consistently “underestimated.” But, is there any such thing as an “underestimated charismatic” leader?

To match his father’s early national success, his appeal must last for ten months amongst Liberals and for three years with other Canadians. He’d be well advised to concentrate on his inner inventory of strengths and skills and leave charisma to his father’s legacy. 

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