10.07.2012 08:51 AM

In today’s Sun: the values proposition

Values, in politics, aren’t something. They’re everything.

So, too, is speaking with clarity and confidence.

Last week, both notions — having a set of values and communicating them to voters with conviction — were readily on display, in Canada and the U.S.

In Montreal, Justin Trudeau stepped up to a podium to talk, over and over, about “middle-class values.” And then, the next night in Denver, Mitt Romney stepped up to a podium to talk, almost as much, about “middle-class values.”

It was quaint, of course, to listen to two men born into privilege and power speak so earnestly about the mythic middle class. Neither has ever been part of it, not on a single day of their lives. Both weren’t just born with a silver spoon in their mouths — Romney and Trudeau came into this world equipped with silver shovels.

But there they were, talking like regular guys about everyday values stuff. Identity. Authenticity. Hope. Empathy.

And, in so doing — in a direct and forceful way — Trudeau and Romney pulverized their opponents.

10 Comments

  1. Cory MacDonald says:

    Yes and no. I’d argue it’s an oversimplification of what went on, in both cases. Why this human need to dispense with nuance?

    Justin hasn’t pulverised anyone but a conservative senator yet. He doesn’t so much appeal to voters with a message targetting middle class values as he does well by having strong charisma, a fabled pedigree from his iconic father, and an appeal to simple altruistic values and soft left warm heartedness. He avoids crunchy positions and controversial specifics – so far.

    Romney appeared decisive, sharp, smart, articulate and moderate against a president who, essentially, meandered through his answers and had trouble making his points with effective rhetoric.

    In both cases we’re dealing with style points more than substantive messaging.

  2. JStanton says:

    … not exactly a valid parallel, although I understand it’s attractiveness.

    Discussion of “values” implies that one shares them. We know that Mr. Romney doesn’t share “middle-class values”, and we don’t actually know what values he has, or what he stands for. He is therefore proven to be insincere and to have no authenticity in this regard.

    Mr. Trudeau, on the other hand, through his public life has never wavered from the positions he expounded upon this week. Certainly, the silver-spoon criticism is valid, but the credentials of the spoon-giver surely add to his authenticity, rather than dilute it. Moreover, his career thus far is more consistent with his message than is Mr. Romney’s with his.

    I don’t actually see the silver-spoon criticism as necessarily pejorative. You will recall that Plato had nothing but encouragement for the leadership of his “men of gold”, his “philosopher kings”, because they were intellectually – and in terms of “values” – elevated above others in their sincerity. Not for them the desperate and deceitful path of the money-grubber, but instead theirs’ is the path to a righteous, just and noble society.

    I would sooner take a risk on a leader whose values were sincere and authentic, than one who has proven to be a greedy, delusional liar, regardless of the quality of the latter’s propaganda.

    .

  3. Guy Skipworth says:

    Valid points. The question is: can you genuinly identify with the concerns of the common man and fight for their interests if you were raised in a comfortable setting?

    Ted Kennedy would answer “yes.” Part of a powerful and wealthy family, Kennedy spent decades advocating for those who did not live a live of privilege and he did so with credibility and with results.
    You could also make a strong case for R.B. Bennett based on some of his government’s social programs.

    If you win the ovary lottery, you aren’t automatically disqualified from being seen as credible when you fight for others who started out in life on a different path – it’s just more challenging.

    • Warren says:

      Very perceptive comment. Thank you.

    • Michael says:

      I this week’s Maclean’s there is mention of how PET kept JPST on a short financial leash. With JPST having to borrow money from friends to finance his high school dates.

      So though he may have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and not had want of anything, he does not come across as spoiled by the experience.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I think his silver spoon has been tarnished; he’s had some tragedies in his life, at an early age, that money doesn’t help, no matter what.
        It’s put me in mind of Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero’s Journey. If he resonates with the public that way – he’ll be a winner.

  4. Bill Templeman says:

    The part of Trudeau’s message that made me switch from casual background awareness to active listening had nothing to do with all his warm fuzzies about middle class values. When he spoke about the need to get back to EVIDENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING in government, he suddenly won my complete attention. For the first time in years, a Liberal leadership candidate said something far above spin.

    • pomojen says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for pointing this out. The values-talk I hear lately leaves me cold. Everyone can wax spin-tastic over middle class values. The person who respects, acknowledges, seeks out and accepts the value of evidence – rather than professes to know everything already via the strength of their ideological fervor – someone who seeks out multiple perspectives and pays attention to those who make it their life’s work to figure complex things out… That’s the person I want to vote for.

      I suppose that’s a value too – a belief that facts, evidence, careful study and objectivity are critical to good public policy. Talk up that value some more, politicos, and you will have my ear.

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