Should Justin Trudeau Run?
So this one Quebec MP, who is a capable politician in his own right, who has spoken at hundreds of Liberal fundraisers over the years, has national branding from his father, and has, over the last while, began to finally eke out his own brand, has said no to running for the Liberal leadership. Not once, not twice, but many, many times, and to many, many people. So why should the question still be brought up?
It is because he's a capable politician in his own right, that has a national brand that is his own, and carries with him a depth of connection to many different aspects of the Liberal Party of Canada. Additionally, he directly appeals to many Canadians, both inside the party and outside the party.
What could be holding him back, though?
Is the name "Trudeau" poisonous in Alberta and other parts of the country? No. While campaigning during the provincial election a few months ago roughly 1/100 of people I knocked on the door of had an anti-Liberal perspective, and it was directly linked to the NEP and Trudeau. Outside of this fringe minority most didn't care -- or, like myself, were born more than a decade after the NEP -- and many are simply indifferent to the Liberal brand in Alberta. Growth areas, like Calgary North East (which went up roughly 10 points to 28% in 2011 when everywhere else the Liberal vote collapsed), showcase that there is growth in this province for the Liberals. It may be long term but the possibilities are there.
Is he afraid of the long hand of his father's name cursing him to be a caricature and forever in his shadow? That's a threat. But, luckily enough, Justin Trudeau already knows of this issue and is deflecting it with good humour. He knows it's an issue and he takes it in stride. As he's both charming and talented at communicating to an audience, this issue will resolve itself with further communication with the public. And the only way to combat that is to understand it and then confront it.
Is he prepared, is another question. Having run and won twice his home riding of Papineau, been to countless of fundraisers, and taken thousands of pictures with fans (such as myself as you see at the top of this blog post), he has gotten used to the life of constant campaigning. It would be as if, by chance, he has been trained to be the perfect leader over a decade and a half of constant struggle and lessons. His IOUs carton is full from many fundraisers across the country, he has instant name recognition, and he has been paying attention to both the party and the country for decades, first as a keen watcher and now as a participant.
He also gets it, to borrow an oft overused phrase.
He came to Calgary in May for a fundraiser and spoke about the need to go beyond simple centrism and to build up the party, alongside with its roots in the community. He knows this is a weakness for the Liberals, and is something he has mastered doing.
He also has the unique understanding that has left a lot of Liberals by the wayside, isolated, and frustrated. There are generational and mentorship issues in our party. In the years during the Martin-Chretien fiasco there were times where you couldn't trust a new person you had just mentored. And it was repeated, again and again, to the abject horror of many. In Ontario now there are associations coming to grips with the reality of being unable to handle the fundamentals of mentorship and a culture of transition planning. It's why they started a course and a set of sessions to help transition-addled organizations. The goal is to be inclusive, have clear goals when communicating with people who need the experience to lead, and the respect and support of those who have lead or are leading. It's a culture shift that JT has seen many a time, from different perspectives and has some how avoided getting trapped by.
There is also a fundamental perception problem for Mr. Trudeau. Over the last ten or so years he has been suggested, nigh continuously, as either the eventual leaders of the party or someone who should seriously consider throwing their hat in to the leadership ring. Either by those long-time Liberals who long for the time of Trudeau Senior, by people who are wowed by the poll of the day, or those who like the idea of a young, passionate leader who seems disconnected to the other leaders of the party while still holding a firm foot in the party. But in each single case of this they're running away from some fundamental truths: you can't imprint the past onto the future, you can't bank on short term successes turning into long term successes, and you cannot turn away from the threads that wove this party together in days gone by.
People cannot run away from the truth-the harsh one that many rarely want to talk about-and want to turn towards something that makes them feel safe. Trudeau feels immediately like that safe choice. And that will simply set up Trudeau for failure, along with the party. There needs to be a full definition of what Justin Trudeau is, as his own individual. As noted earlier with theMontreal Gazzette piece: he knows he is being caricatured, and knows that the phenomena reaches very far and very wide. And he knows this issue and is positioning himself to overcome it. A lot of people will look back, if Trudeau is successful, and see the past years as a period where Justin Trudeau began to truly begin to separate himself from his father's shadow through his own challenges and activities.
This race would be a perfect opportunity to share Justin Trudeau with the public, and would highlight the truly unique figure that he is today. The above noted things are difficult hurdles to overcome, but Trudeau seems to be managing to grow above and beyond them. In fact, in some instances he's making some of these things his strengths and the story that may come out in the coming year may just be that the party and himself have brought themselves to a mature stage in their political existence. So these problems might be fairly large from the get go but Justin Trudeau seems to be already doing all the right things to overcome his and this party's many issues.