Joe and Justin?
There’s a connection. Stay with me, here.
In 2015 and 2016, I proudly volunteered for Hillary Clinton in two states, and at her Brooklyn headquarters. I’m going to be proudly volunteering for Joe Biden in 2019 and (if he’s the nominee) in 2020.
The reasons are threefold, and all of them – coincidentally – are quite relevant to Justin Trudeau’s political predicament in 2019.
One, we know why Joe Biden is running again. With Justin Trudeau, we don’t.
Joe commenced his campaign in a comparatively low-key way: he released a video on YouTube. He said he’s running to beat Donald Trump, because he’s the only candidate who can. Successive polls have shown that Americans know who Joe is, they like who he is, and they like him way more than Trump. He’s competitive with multiple demographics: African-Americans, older Democrats, Independents, the true working class.
Biden has what the advertising guys call a USP – a Unique Selling Proposition. That is, he can say things that his 19 Democratic competitors can’t. Experienced, likeable, scandal-free, Hell Of A Guy.
Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, no longer has a USP. In 2015, he was the self-proclaimed feminist. He isn’t any more. Gropegate – and his expulsion of Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott and Celina Caesar-Chavannes, coupled with his nauseating decision to keep a sexual harasser like Kent Hehr in his caucus – have obliterated his “feminist” credentials.
In 2015, he was the Indigenous reconciliation guy. No longer. He demeaned and defamed Wilson-Raybould, the most prominent Indigenous leader in our collective lifetimes. And, as the former Attorney-General pointed out in a widely-reported speech last week, Trudeau’s government “has fallen back into a pattern of trying to manage the problem.” And the problem is colonialism.
And Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau was the guy who promised to bring back ethics to government. He said he’d be open and transparent and not at all like the secretive and autocratic Stephen Harper. But the seamy, sordid LavScam scandal – which saw Trudeau and his minions pressuring Wilson-Raybould dozens of times to give help a corrupt Quebec company avoid a richly-deserved prosecution – has laid waste to the Liberal leader’s claim to the moral high ground.
What, now, is Justin Trudeau’s USP? Unlike Joe Biden, Trudeau has lost the narrative. He is unlikely to acquire a new one in the dwindling number of weeks that remain between now and the election.
Two: Joe Biden has what it takes to win, because he never forgot his roots. He never stopped boasting about his hardscrabble Scranton, Pa. youth. He grew up in a big Irish Catholic family in Scranton – in a crowded apartment – and the Bidens were forced to move to Delaware when Joe was ten, where his father secured a job as a used car salesman. He got into law school only because he got a scholarship. He participated in anti-segregation sit-ins. He struggled for everything he got.
Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, is the guy who likes to talk a lot about the middle class – but has never, ever experienced the middle class. Trudeau has never had to worry about paying the rent, or the next mortgage statement. He has never wondered where he’ll get the money to pay a hydro bill. He has never wanted for anything. His life has been one of mansions, private jets, and hanging out with celebrities.
Against Andrew Scheer – who, like Biden, grew up in a big immigrant Catholic family, and whose family didn’t have any wealth – Trudeau will likely appear privileged and out-of-touch. Scheer worked as a waiter and a salesman. Trudeau, meanwhile, wears a $15,000 IWC Portuguese Regulateur watch and drives a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. (Which, apparently, can sell for as much as $5 million.)
Third and final reason: traditional assumptions about politics are long gone.
You’re not guaranteed a second term anymore. You’re not going to win simply because your candidate is more charismatic and more photogenic. You don’t win if you have the slickest social media.
If the 2016 presidential race taught me anything else, it’s this: everything in politics is different, now. Hillary had the best-organized, best-funded, best-staffed, best-led campaign I have ever been part of. But it didn’t matter: we still lost.
Politics has been upended, everywhere. So, traditional assumptions about campaigns – whether Joe is too old, too politically-incorrect, too centrist – are kind of irrelevant, now. Trump showed that.
Running the 2016 campaign again will get Democrats another 2016 result, and Biden knows it. He will therefore be at the centre of a decidedly un-Hillary-like campaign.
Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, is still fighting the last war. He’s using against Andrew Scheer the same stuff he used against Stephen Harper: that Scheer is mean and a neo-Nazi and has a hidden agenda. While he’s the middle class, feminist, ethical paragon. Blah blah blah.
As the Canadian and American national races edge ever-closer, we all know who Joe Biden is, and what he wants to do.
With Justin Trudeau, we just don’t.