Friday, March 1, 2013
Liberal leadership race
I signed up to be a Liberal supporter so I can vote in the upcoming Liberal leadership race. Following politics has always been a casual hobby for me rather than a passion, but I’ve been waiting for almost ten years for Justin to pick up where his dad left off. The Trudeau legacy! Like all legacies, it has good and bad parts, but I’m psyched about the idea of Justin rebuilding the national Liberals from the shambles they’ve been in ever since Chrétien left.
As a “supporter,” I have now opened myself up to receive email blasts from all the leadership candidates. In other circumstances these messages could only be deemed “spam,” but it feels unfair to mark them as such, considering I volunteered my email to their campaign machines. They all want my money, of course, and my vote (at least a little), but also to convince me that substance is key, that their leadership candidate must have a proven track record, the candidate needs to have a consistent, cohesive leadership platform, and that the candidate can’t be Justin Trudeau. Well, they don’t always SAY that last part, but they imply it. Marc Garneau, former astronaut, is the most vocal about how young Justin doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.
This makes sense, as Garneau is clearly in number 2 spot (behind Trudeau), so why attack anyone else? No point beating on Number 5 in a race when you’re three steps behind the leader. That’s precisely the reason Trudeau evaded Garneau’s challenge to a one-on-one debate (glorious evasion, too, by the way, just a “see you later” mention via Twitter, barely even acknowledging the challenge had been made). What did Trudeau have to gain from such a contest? Unless something changes radically in the next weeks, Trudeau is a likely shoe-in for the top spot in the crippled Liberal party. If Trudeau kicked Garneau’s butt in a debate, he’d still win. But if he got humiliated (Rick Perry-style), then Garneau gets a bump up and Trudeau loses the blue ribbon. When you’re ahead on points, your best bet to keep winning is duck-and-move to avoid the KO and wait for the bell to ring.
It’s this “smile and sidestep” attitude that endears me to Trudeau. Beside the fact that he will be a delightful counterpoint to Robot Harper, he knows that the memory of the Canadian voter is less than two months long, and if some mud happens to eventually stick to his Teflon skin, he just needs to keep on going for a bit until our attention gets drawn to some other ridiculous drama. (Seriously, we’re like a dog chasing squirrels in the backyard. No attention span or memory at all.) Minus the smiling part, Harper uses this technique all the time (as did Chrétien, the beautiful man). Just ignore the problem. It will go away. And you know what? It always has. Does the average Canadian even remember when Harper shut down Parliament three years ago to avoid a vote of non-confidence he was almost certainly going to lose? Of course they don’t, and even if they do, they don’t care. As Sun Tzu wrote, wait by the river long enough, and the bodies of your enemies will float by. Garneau doesn’t seem to understand that raging doesn’t get you much in Canadian politics. Eventually we just get tired of the guy who’s yelling, no matter how much sense he makes.
Then there’s their respective platforms. Garneau has been touting his own well-documented and thorough plan, comparing it to Trudeau’s vague one as though this is a plus, and I don’t agree. A party leader doesn’t act alone. He’s not an island onto himself. He’ll have advisors, lobbyists, special interest groups, and changing situations to deal with. Liberal policy, like that of all parties, is a fluid and changing beast. Party platforms are always malleable when it comes to election time anyway, and then they change again once you become Prime Minister, so why pretend to have some etched-in-stone positions on all the issues? I guarantee if Garneau became PM tomorrow, by Monday his well-defined platform would be nothing but a memory, crossed out as easily as you can cut-and-paste. This isn’t a statement on his integrity, but a statement on the reality of politics. The only person I’ve seen in my lifetime with a consistent platform was (and is) Ron Paul down in the States, and he got trounced for it. There’s something a little close-minded about someone who “knows what they stand for” anyway; what happens when things change? Does our future leader change with them, or does he stay mired in his old attitudes? Yes, integrity is a fine quality, but obstinance isn’t. Garneau needs to become Trudeau’s number 2 guy, his policy expert and trusted advisor, but leave the Smiler out front. It’s the smart play. Plus Trudeau puts on a better show and is a lot more fun to watch. Remember how boring Ignatieff and Dion were?
So I’ll be casting my lot with Trudeau. Not only because I think he can beat Harper, but because win or lose, it’s going to be an entertaining ride.