In the near decade-long hunt for a winning leader for Canada’s Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau’s name is raised with growing urgency. His assets—youth, handsomeness, and the biggest last name in Canada—are straightforward. They are, however, of incalculable value. Just sitting there on the page, they don’t carry great weight.
To have charisma—to qualify as the “savior” of Canada’s natural governing party—young Trudeau must generate drama.
He cannot shake up or outflank the emerging left-right fight between Stephen Harper and Thomas Muclair by simply being the proud son of a great man.
Globe and Mail pundit Lawrence Martin conveniently assumes that conservative malice will make Justin Trudeau interesting, whether he has anything interesting to say or not. He can fire up Canadian politics, Lawrence opines, because his name will inflame conservatives.
“His entry would rouse the Conservative base like it has rarely been roused before. Right-siders go into spasms at the mention of the Trudeau name.
“Franklin Roosevelt once said of his opponents: 'They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.' Justin Trudeau may have the heady combination of external charisma and internal strength, but we don’t know whether he has the discipline, the knowledge, the moxie to face down the mega-ton of malice that would come his way.”
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How could mainstream Canada resist a man with knuckle-draggers for enemies?
Of course, if the Conservative base was all that obnoxious, Liberals wouldn’t have to be looking for a savior—they’d be in power.
Anthropologists and liberal researchers can unearth crazy statements by radical conservatives about Pierre Trudeau. However, it’s pure fantasy—and futile—to imagine that Canadian conservatives couldn’t in the 70s and can’t today view sanely his contribution to the country.
Where Pierre Trudeau went too far—on national energy policy, for instance—Thomas Muclair is already there too. Where Trudeau made history—on the patriation of the constitution, the Charter of Rights, bilingualism, and Quebec separatism, for instance—he enjoyed considerable support among mainstream conservatives and couldn’t have succeeded without the support of Ontario, with the biggest conservative government in the country.
Pierre Trudeau’s name is associated with controversy as well as exceptional accomplishment. It generates conversation still. However, the idea of Justin Trudeau, for now, only raises a challenge: Show me what you’ve got.