Justin Trudeau is being marketed to Canada as the politician of youth. He has 150,000+ Twitter followers. He wears his hair long and flowy. He displays a penchant for swearing in the Commons and beating the crap out of opponents in the boxing ring. These attributes, the theory goes, resonate with young Canadians in a way no other politician in this country does right now (this despite the fact he's third-generation Polish, from a very wealthy family and is married to a model -- not exactly your Everyman pedigree).
The fact is he is indeed unlike any other candidate, or at least any high-profile candidate, in Canada at this very moment. And that is a very good position to be in for him. At this very moment.
There is the possibility that Trudeau will galvanize young voters, force the other political parties to develop new stars who are also young and also give the appearance of being in tune with these times. It is possible, as well, that he will reverse the fortunes of the Liberal party and even rouse the entire nation in a way we haven't seen since, yes, his late father.
But I have my doubts, and it has nothing to do with his political acumen (which is mostly still unknown, beyond the fact he clearly understands the value of his family name) or even his ability to one day to be prime minister. It has to do with the very young people he is aiming to woo. They will destroy Justin Trudeau and there likely isn't a thing he can do about it.
BLOG CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW
Today's youth are not programmed to believe in politicians, much less honour them -- political movements, yes, but not the men and women who sit in government, who travel across the land shaking hands and kissing babies, who get paid very good money (more money than most young people today can realistically hope to make) to wear custom suits and lob carefully rehearsed ideological grenades at each other across the floor of an old building day after day after day. To say politicians don't resonate with young people is an epic understatement; the practice of being a politician seems completely nuts to them. It makes no sense at all.
What role do politicians serve when every one of us can debate the relative merits of this or that national policy direction ourselves online? What purpose does Question Period serve when it's always question period in the Twitterverse? What do these people add when access to information, and every possible viewpoint, is just a click away? There is, in short, no point to having politicians around, much less paying them for their efforts, even mucher less showing respect for their authority.
Ideology is as important as ever, perhaps more so, but the men and women who fling it at each other for a living have been rendered extraneous because that's what everyone does, all the time. The entire exercise is ridiculous, all the more so since -- and here's another result of social media and always-on news -- politicians manage to get caught screwing up with such regularity.
To a certain extent, pushing politicians off their pedestals has always been part of the game, but to young people it is the game. These are not leaders, they're jesters, and even if someone has to sit in the Commons 100-and-some-odd-days a year because that's how things have always been done -- tradition and so forth -- well, that only adds to the black comedy of the whole exercise.
This is what awaits Justin Trudeau. The young people to whom he is playing will dump him sooner rather than later because that is what they do. Youthful positivity is ultimately no match for youthful cynicism, and there's far more of the latter than there is of the former these days.
Which is not to say this is a bad thing -- quite the opposite, actually: never before have politicians been held to account to the extent they are now, and this makes the process of governing much, much more open (though it is certainly still muddied). If Trudeau Jr. is to become another casualty of young voters' insatiable appetite for political skepticism, chalk it up to a youthful, smarter electorate hell bent on making sure politicians work for them, not the other way around.