Trudeau’s Real Political Skill

Justin Trudeau Victory Speech


I’ve gotten something wrong about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

For the longest time I believed his greatest asset as a politician was his adorable cuteness.

I mean, how could voters possibly resist his matinee idol looks?

But now, after seeing the prime minister in action for a few years, I’ve made a reappraisal of his abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s adorably cute, it’s just that I now realize Trudeau’s greatest positive political quality isn’t the way he looks, it’s the way he deftly combines his wondrously ambitious utopian aspirations with an astonishing degree of ideological flexibility.

And yes, that’s a rare combination.

Most politicians, after all, who promote a utopian vision – Jacobins, Marxists, Greens – tend to be rigid ideologues who will typically hammer home their agendas with a fanatic and uncompromising intensity.

Not so Trudeau.

To show you what I mean by all this, let’s first consider Trudeau’s brand of utopianism, which he espouses and promotes with an unflagging enthusiasm.

His goal, as I see it, is to transform Canada into a trendy, progressive paradise, a place where we all grow rich building windmills and solar panels, a place where the entire population is imbued with a liberal and sophisticated cosmopolitan outlook, a place that stands as a shining beacon of sunny ways niceness.

It all sounds so magical, yet, once he assumed power, Trudeau showed himself to be more than willing to compromise on all these ideals.

For instance, even though he has vowed to fight climate change, he’s also willing to buy an oil pipeline; even though extols the virtues of diversity and multiculturalism, he also refuses to intervene in a court case challenging a Quebec law banning people from receiving or providing public services while wearing face coverings; even though he’s a champion of promoting international human rights, he also sells weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Are all these examples of contradictory behaviour?

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad politics.

As a political consultant friend of mine used to say, “A flip flopping politician is also a politician who is right fifty percent of the time.”

More to the point, Trudeau’s acrobatic flip flopping on controversial issues allows him to avoid taking actions that might be unpopular with the masses and remaining popular with the masses is what successful politicians strive to do.

And this leads to my main thesis: Trudeau’s strategy as prime minister is to take the road of least resistance, even if that means he’s seemingly backtracking or compromising on his utopian vision.

In other words, whenever possible, he will avoid any confrontations which he thinks he can’t win or which he thinks will damage him politically.

This, by the way, explains Trudeau’s fiscal policy of amassing huge budgetary deficits from now until kingdom come; it’s the mark of a leader who wants to avoid a scrap; it’s easier to keep spending than it is to either raise taxes or to cut government programs.

Meanwhile, he will promote his ideology whenever he deems the political cost to be low; we see this especially whenever he makes one of his symbolic gestures: apologising for past historical wrongs, changing the lyrics to the national anthem, removing portraits of the Queen from government buildings.

Mind you, a big challenge in this regard, will be his promotion of a carbon tax, which please note, he’s doing his best to sugar-coat.

Now you might wonder if all this backtracking and compromising will undermine Trudeau’s support with his own base.

The answer is no.

When it comes to politics, most people don’t care about the day-to-day battles or about the details; they care about and focus on the big picture.

And I highly suspect the vast majority of Trudeau’s fans are confident the prime minster will implement his utopian vision — somehow.

At any rate, for a guy who wants to get re-elected, Trudeau’s pliable, compromising approach to ideology can work.

Certainly, Trudeau is better off politically than is France’s President Emmanuel Macron whose bold — some might say “courageous” – tough economic measures and energy agenda has made him the least popular French leader since King Louis XVI.

So yes, Trudeau knows how to play the game of politics.

Plus, he’s still adorably cute.

Photo Credit: CTV News

More from Gerry Nicholls.     @GerryNic

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