Justin Trudeau needs an enemy.
In politics, you always do. Someone you can demonize. Someone you can warn voters about. Someone who suggests to voters that, while you may be imperfect, your enemy is far, far worse.
In politics, having the right enemy is more important than having the right friends. For voters, the devil one knows is always preferable to the devil one doesn’t.
For months, then, Justin Trudeau has been casting about for an enemy. He knows he is deeply unpopular – a Forum Research poll released this week found that 56 disapprove of his performance, with only 34 per cent approving – so he needs to act quickly. The election is just over 100 days away, give or take.
The Liberal leader’s task: find someone who is less popular than him. But who?
For a while, Trudeau attempted to convince Canadians that Andrew Scheer was a cross-burning, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, red-necked lunatic. He’ll ban abortion, gay marriage and hold midnight rallies at 24 Sussex with Faith Goldy, Trudeau insinuated.
Except: Scheer said he won’t do any of those things, and polls indicate Canadians tend to believe him. Hell, Trudeau’s own Liberal caucus doesn’t even believe it – selfsame Liberal caucus having voted to instal Scheer in the Speaker’s chair, a few years back.
In his commercials, Scheer celebrates his blandness, his ordinariness. As he lopes around the hockey rinks of the nation, Timmie’s in hand, Scheer repeats his mantra: “I’m Blandy Andy, and I’m boring. You can count on me to do nothing radical. Go back to sleep.”
As Bill Davis memorably observed, eons ago: bland works. It’s working for Andrew Scheer.
So, who now to demonize, Prime Minister Chewbacca Socks? NDP leader Jagmeet Singh? That’s a waste of firepower. Singh, likeable as he is, is going nowhere fast.
Same with the People Party’s Gauleiter, Maxime Bernier. Trudeau doesn’t want to demonize Bernier – he wants him to do better, and chip away at Scheer’s lead in the polls. But Bernier has gone full alt-Right, and thereby consigned himself to the margins of Canadian politics, and the dustbin of history.
The Green Party’s Elizabeth May, meanwhile, is a worthier target: the aforementioned Forum Research poll has determined that May is the most popular leader in Canadian politics, with voters approving of her by a factor of two to one.
Her party, meanwhile, has reached a truly historic benchmark: Forum found that the Green Party of Canada is now actually tied with the New Democrats, at 13 per cent apiece. Many expect the nascent Greens to eclipse the Dippers in coming weeks.
Trudeau hasn’t attacked May – yet. But he has been, ahem, liberally swiping her policies to halt her momentum. His single-use plastic announcement, which made the wetsuit-and-jetski-era Stockwell Day sound perfectly Churchillian, was a disaster. It became the stuff of memes – and future attack ads – instantly.
All of it was motivated solely by Trudeau’s desperation to staunch the loss of Liberal support to the Greens. It is unlikely to work, because May is simply seen as more credible on the environment than Trudeau.
So, who to attack? The answer is obvious: the Mango Mussolini. Donald Trump is deeply disliked by Canadians from East to West, old to young, Left to Right. There is nothing that unifies Canadians more than anti-Trump sentiment.
But Trudeau has spent three years cravenly sucking up to the Unpresident, with nothing to show for it. It’s too late to do a volte-face now.
So who is left to demonize? Who, truly, is Justin Trudeau’s worst enemy? Who should he blame before he blames anyone else?
It’s the guy you spot in the bathroom mirror every morning, Justin.