A message to Justin Trudeau, from a cynic

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Dear Mr. Trudeau:

You are the reason we can’t have nice things. You and all the others.  But, for the past four years, mostly you.

Last week, a reporter asked you about a poll of British Columbia voters that singled deep distrust of federal politicians.  Less than half of the respondent pool believes there is a federal party that speaks for them.  Less than half believes your kind is “trying to do the right thing.”  Less than a quarter believes you “actually care about what happens to people like [them].”

You can’t have been happy to read that.  After all, you have always believed in the federal government as a force for positive change, yours in particular.  Yet even in B.C., perhaps the most hospitable province in the Confederation for an activist-minded government, your sunny ways – to the extent they actually have been sunny – haven’t brightened many spirits heading into Election 2019.  What gives?

Well, I certainly wasn’t happy to read the answer you gave that reporter:

I think we’re seeing a rise in cynicism all around the world right now, with excessive populism and exaggerated nationalism.  The politics of attack and division, the politics of vote suppression — of keeping people to cross their arms and stay home instead of coming forward and build and believe and choose a path forward.

Let us be absolutely clear on this point: I am neither a populist nor a nationalist.  I think the average human being is too ill-informed to vote.  I moved away from Canada because my family’s best interests were more important.  I have referred to myself as a globalist and a technocrat, unironically and often.  I have said things about high-profile populists in Canada and elsewhere that I dare not repeat here.

I am, however, deeply cynical – perhaps the most consistently cynical Canadian writing columns right now.  So please believe me when I advise you to try, just once, to stop deflecting blame for a political status quo that you have done more to maintain than to fix.

First of all, populists are not crossing their arms and staying home.  Far from it.  The last few provincial elections should be enough to tell you that.  They’re the ones voting, because they believe – however mistakenly – that at least one candidate speaks for them, cares about them, and wants to do what’s right.  It is fortunate that the most openly populist party in Ottawa has an abysmal infrastructure and the most embarrassing slate of candidates this side of Phil Davison.  But what they lack in skill and sense, they make up for in dedication and passion.

Most voters will never match them on that score.  Most voters care only about their kitchen table clutter.  If you cannot convince them that you can help them resolve a serious personal problem, or lead the way on solving a larger societal problem that they ought to care about, or minimize the little inconveniences and disappointments in their lives, or at least stop creating new inconveniences and disappointments, they will vote for the person who can.  And if there is no such person running, they may not vote at all.

That’s the kind of cynicism you’re up against.  Those populists and nationalists you’re blaming want a revolution.  Everyone else wants basic competence and respectability.

Which brings us to your role.  Maybe you’ll squeak out a second win if voters decide four more years of you would be better than the lumpen windbag, the indifferent slacker, the hectoring hippie, or the [TEXT OMITTED].  But they’ll know, on some level, that they’ve chosen four more years of you cloaking yourself in righteousness whenever you take an obviously self-interested step.  I don’t think I need to offer up a list of examples of those steps; Hasan Minhaj already covered it.

And here’s the thing, Justin: By taking those steps, you exposed yourself as the biggest cynic of all.  You’ve had many opportunities to break with the backstabbing, cronyism, incrementalism, hypocrisy, and image-obsession that has characterized Canadian politics for years.  You’ve taken the easy path almost every time because, to you, change is just a hashtag.

So don’t act surprised that voters need more than hashtags.  They need a reason not to cross their arms and stay home.  They thought you were inspiring enough once.  If you want to know why they’re not inspired anymore, take a look in the mirror.  Just don’t let your biceps distract you.

I am, dear sir, etc., etc. 

More from Jess Morgan.    Follow Jess Morgan on Twitter at @JessAMorgan89.

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