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)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Justin Trudeau: a chip off the old block


He’s halfway to the leadership convention and has established himself as the strong front-runner. He’s comfortable in front, just like his father. 

Unblinkingly, his success invites Liberals to believe that a new Trudeau Liberal Party can excite Canadians again, that they needn’t relax their disdain for their enemies, and needn’t re-imagine or even repackage who they are.

This is beginning to infuriate those who’d like to change our politics on a fundamental level. Andrew Coyne is their clearest voice. Here’s his lead in the National Post: “Liberals settle for the cult of Justin; Soul-searching takes a back seat”:

“Perhaps it was an impossible thing to expect. Perhaps it was even unfair. To demand that the Liberal Party of Canada, after a century and more as the party of power, should reinvent itself as a party of ideas; that it should, after a string of ever-worse election results culminating in the worst thumping in its history, ask itself some searching questions, including whether Canada still needed a Liberal Party, and if so on what basis — perhaps it was all too much to ask.

‘Because, on the evidence, the party isn’t capable of it. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t want to. Either it does not believe such a process is necessary. Or it does, but can’t bear it. Whatever may be the case, nearly two years after that catastrophic election, the party shows no interest in reinventing itself, still less in any healthy existential introspection.”

Nowhere in his cri de coeur does Coyne say that not doing the unbearable won’t work.

Justin can pull off what his father pulled off in the winter of 1968.

Sadly, taking charge of the Liberal PartyCanada’s most Canadian institutionis not appropriate work for existentialists or disruptive intellectuals. British imperialists first managed existential questions for Canadians and, now, a Supreme Court, informed by an American-style Charter of Rights, usually shoulders that responsibility.

“Re-invent Canada” politics are practices seriously only in Quebec and Alberta; and their most deadly national opponent has always been the Liberal Party of Canada.

It’s not a handicap to be a smart Conservative. And you don’t have to be the brainiest or the best read to win the leadership of the Liberal Party, and then win the country. 

In any event, Justin Trudeau can’t demonstrate that he’s as smart as his father because his father has become a grandiose myth. Anyway, Pierre Trudeau’s competitive advantage wasn’t his superior intellect. (Indeed, if he’d not returned to power in 1980, his record would stand out for its vehemence, not for intellectual rigor or accomplishment. He was, after all, able to be a Keynesian, a Milton Freidman monetarist and tax indexer, and a Kenneth Galbraith price-fixer all within one business cycle.)

Justin Trudeau, however, may have his father’s flair for impressing audiences and the media, without being tedious. His father often delivered ridiculously short, incomplete speeches, but they usually involved an alarming alternative. In this respect, Justin’s latest statements on Quebec secession would make his father smile.

He’s brief, well prepared, and vicious; he’s spoiling for a fight.

The Trudeau Family Cult isn’t driven by a soft, inclusive temperament. It’s a very hard-edged politics that divides Quebec and, in the past, rallied other Canadians—especially in Ontario. It worked when Conservatives were weak nationally and the NDP was of no consequence in Quebec. And those wicked separatists in Quebec were taken very seriously everywhere.

Justin Trudeau will not have to satisfy Liberals that they’re better than their opponents. That’s easy. The challenge he seems to have assumed is to convince his Party that it would be rewarding to replay the battles of his father’s generation. 

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