Musings —07.23.2018 07:45 AM—
Anyone seen the Liberal Party of Canada, lately?
It was here just a minute ago. You know: one of the most successful political parties in Western democracy. Charter of Rights, bilingualism, multiculturalism, keeping the country together: all that stuff, and more. Did well. Won elections, did good deeds.
But, lately, the Liberal Party has ceased to be a “party.” It has now become a “movement.”
It’s true. That’s what senior, senior Grit operatives have been saying for a while. The Liberals are a “movement,” now, and not merely a political party anymore.
These apparatchiks – and, we are reliably told, the Prime Minister of Canada himself – have taken to disparaging the “party” designation. They are a “movement,” now.
The Oxford folks define “movement” as “a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.” But they’re missing something, with that. It’s too vanilla.
When you are part of a “movement,” you have a higher purpose. Your eyes shine with a transcendent zeal, and you believe you answer to a higher authority.
The higher authority, in this case, is Justin Trudeau.
Those around Justin Trudeau – and what an insular, tightly-knit little group they are! – actually refer to themselves, in private conversation, as a “movement,” now. Justin Trudeau’s.
He was the one who vaulted the Liberals from third place to first, his acolytes say. He was the one, alone, who returned them to the glories of majority rule. He was the one who – upon alighting upon the leadership stage – ushered in a bit of Trudeaumania Redux.
And it is true, he did those things. He did.
And, to give Justin Trudeau his due, too, he hasn’t wrecked the country. Notwithstanding the Indian Imbroglio and Grope-Gate – notwithstanding the lack of any significant legislative achievement – he is still standing. He’s alive, still.
Last week, he presided over a not-bad cabinet shuffle: demoting the singularly inept Melanie Joly; promoting capable stars like Pablo Rodriguez and François-Philippe Champagne; and handing the much-liked Dominic LeBlanc the task of calming the provincial waters – and, while no one was looking, taking Northern Affairs away from Carolyn Bennett and putting LeBlanc in charge. It was a good shuffle.
But Trudeau’s essential problem remains. Because his government is a “movement,” now – and not a political party, per se – Justin Trudeau is the one and only face we associate with it. He is his movement’s brand.
So, when he stumbles – as he indisputably has, in recent weeks, with the groping scandal – there is no one to step up and help absorb some of the body blows. There is no one else to help play defence.
Brian Mulroney had Don Mazankowski and Michael Wilson to watch his back. Jean Chretien had Herb Gray and Sheila Copps and others. Stephen Harper had John Baird and Jim Flaherty.
Justin Trudeau has no one.
Gerald Butts’ ridiculous tweets about the “alt-Right” only make things worse. Because, all evidence to the contrary, Justin Trudeau is indeed human. He pulls on his pants one leg at a time. He brushes his own teeth. He ties his own shoe laces. He makes mistakes.
Paradoxically, Trudeau’s strength has become his weakness. With charm, likeability and an impressive jawline, he lifted Liberals out of the ignominy of third place in 2015. But, somewhere along the way, he neglected to remember the one unalterable political truth: sooner or later, the ones who loved you come to hate you. Sooner or later, they get sick of your face – no matter how handsome that face may be.
He may still recover from all this, of course, mainly because he is lucky. On the world stage, he cannot help but look good when his main antagonist is Donald Trump. In the House of Commons, his principal opponents are a dud and a disappointment (and we don’t even need to identify which is which – you already know).
At the provincial level, he is increasingly surrounded by conservative Premiers – which makes his re-election more likely among the many (many) Canadians who hedge their bets at the ballot box, and who desire partisan balance.
In the end, Justin Trudeau has become, in Trumpian terms, big. His is the biggest name in Canadian politics. He is big, big, big.
But you know what they say about how the big ones: they fall hard.
Movement or not.