Justin Trudeau vs. the Concern Trolls

UrbanDictionary.com defines a “concern troll” as “someone who is on one side of the discussion, but pretends to be a supporter of the other side with ‘concerns.’  The idea behind this is that your opponents will take your arguments more seriously if they think you’re an ally.”

There is no better description of the dozens of op-ed writers (and thousands of anonymous commenters) cautioning Liberals against rallying behind Justin Trudeau as their next leader.  The opinions are widely disseminated, but all come back to the same litany of talking points:  it’s not his time, he’s too young, his last name is poison in parts of the country, he hasn’t run a successful business, he hasn’t accomplished anything noteworthy.  If any of these tropes sound familiar, it’s because they’re the same weak sauce flung at up-and-coming Senator Barack Obama in 2008, indicating clearly that none of what the concern trolls are falling over themselves in weepy anguish to preach to the poor, poor Liberals will make any damn bit of difference in Trudeau’s ability to lead his party to victory in a national election.  Instead, these pleas sound like attempts to nudge the Grits towards picking an unexciting candidate who will make Stephen Harper look like George Clooney – so Canadian readers can suffer another few years’ worth of pedantic “Is the Liberal Party Dead?” articles.

Canadian politicians have never been particularly renowned for their charisma.  Ours is a history of electing the safe and the bland, of choosing managers over leaders.  Ironically, the turning point in virtually every Canadian election has come when we’ve seen a flash of personality, a quotable moment that provokes headlines and water cooler discussion.  Brian Mulroney telling John Turner “You had an option, sir.”  Jean Chretien’s speech about his facial paralysis following a cruel attack ad from the other side.  Jack Layton shredding Michael Ignatieff’s election hopes with “If Canadians don’t show up for work, they don’t get a promotion.”  Those are the President Bartlet moments we hunger for and latch onto because they are so rare.  We may claim we want only the seasoned, sensible accountant to watch the public purse, but we need that firebrand to stir our emotions, to get us thinking, and to spur a true and fair debate on who we are as Canadians and what kind of country we want to create for ourselves.   To engage us in the fate of our nation once again.  It’s quite possible we’d experience a collective freak-out were someone like that to emerge on the scene again; our stolid nature simply wouldn’t know how to handle it.

But that would be a good thing.

Justin Trudeau’s reluctance to take on the challenge of restoring the bruised and battered Liberal Party suggests that much unlike the copious evidence pouring out of Stephen Harper’s every extremity, he has not spent his entire life dreaming of power.  Trudeau could have parachuted into a safe seat during the Chretien heyday and squatted on the backbenches, quietly building an organization of loyalists and working towards an eventual leadership coup.  Would this have been considered the more appropriate path to the top by the pundits?  Perhaps, but instead, Trudeau chose to run in a Bloc Quebecois riding in an election where the Liberals had already been mired in opposition an uncomfortable two years under Stephane Dion, who despite good intentions could not connect with a lackadaisical public force-fed with the Conservative “not a leader” meme by a compliant media.  Against odds, Trudeau took the fight to the enemy and won it.  He did not coast in on fame and memories of Liberal glories past, nor did he simply promise to cut taxes and be a puppet for his party.  He won Papineau by going door to door advancing the ideals that government can be a place for good work when the best people are in charge of it.  One does not need to be an exceptional person to keep a corporate balance sheet in the black; the ability to inspire people with deeds, images and words, is a much rarer gift.  In Justin Trudeau, one can see these glimmers of the stuff of leadership.  Where the concern trolls get the idea that this translates to a lack of life accomplishment is a bit bewildering.

In his four years as an MP, Trudeau has been an advocate for youth, the environment and a vigorous democracy, and has done so while raising a young family.  He’s shown passion and an unwillingness to moderate his tone when it comes to speaking about what he believes; advancing the notion that principles are more important than electoral totals.  And famously, earlier this year, he stood his ground against a hulk of a Conservative Senator and trounced him in a boxing match the Sun News crowd were salivating over the prospect of watching him lose.  In the ring, Trudeau gives everything he’s got.  The nobility of the fight, what it truly means to the people watching, and not the aggrandizement of the ego of the man, is what matters to him.  Do you want to follow the leader because he’s leading for your benefit, or for his own?  Contrast this against the guy apparently so insecure he has to use your tax dollars to rename the government after himself.

The important thing to keep in mind as well when concern trolls spout off about a dearth of executive experience on Trudeau’s shoulders is that Harper’s attitude to the contrary, the Prime Minister is not the President – and even the President delegates.  Even as a rump of its former self the Liberal bench is deep with former cabinet ministers and seasoned professionals who would be well equipped to counsel a potential future Prime Minister Trudeau on any policies where he felt his own expertise wanting – to say nothing of who else might choose to stand for election with Trudeau leading the party.  And you get the sense that Trudeau would not be afraid to ask, either; that he understands the virtue of surrounding himself with smart people and letting them shine.  Again, one must look at this in comparison to Harper’s approach of farming out cabinet posts to party hacks and running everything out of the PMO.  This strategy leads inevitably to taxpayers footing the bill for $16 orange juice.

We’ve had enough managers, we’ve had enough boring old guys droning on about their eighteen-point-plans to reduce the deficit and ensure economic growth to 2050.  What will get Canadians excited, what the Liberals need, and what terrifies the concern trolls, is someone who can appeal to our better angels on a visceral level.  Someone who can get the cynical back to the polls and who can mobilize the divided yet potent, growing energies on the progressive side into a force that overwhelms the cash-heavy Conservative smear machine.  For all his skill as a parliamentarian, I don’t see that quality in the dour Thomas Mulcair, and Bob Rae obviously wasn’t sure he was that man either.  I’ll admit that we don’t know for certain if Justin Trudeau has that in him.  But the volume of ink being expended against his candidacy in the guise of ensuring the long-term future of the Liberals suggests a lot of people on the other side of the spectrum are panicked that he does and are trying, ever so gently, to urge him to stay out of the race, lest a dragon they cannot slay rear its big red head.

That Trudeau is not responding immediately to the media storm about his candidacy (or lack thereof) is encouraging.  He’s considering his options, consulting his family, and hopefully letting the background noise of the concern trolls wash over him.  If he lets any of their feigned worries become the deciding factor, then he wasn’t the guy to begin with.  But if he decides to step up, I suspect he’ll end up doing to the naysayers – metaphorically, at least – what he did to Senator Patrick Brazeau.

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30 thoughts on “Justin Trudeau vs. the Concern Trolls”

  1. It’s hard to believe that Canadians wouldn’t exchange Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the current inhabitant of the office, who reminds me what would have happened if the Pillsbury Doughboy and Imelda Marcos had ever married and had progeny. Surely we have enough sportin’ blood in us to grab a chance at renewal should it come up. Maybe the prospect of another decade of this right wing puppet regime will concentrate our minds like a hanging.

    If Trudeau does run and win, you should be tapped for speech writing. Thanks for lighting a candle in the darkness.

    1. Offspring of the Doughboy and Imelda Marcos – that is one of the best metaphors for our current PM I’ve heard! You should copyright it.

      Thanks for your comment and your compliments! The nice thing about lighting candles in the darkness is that the light tends to spread quickly.

  2. If that was a nomination speech- it struck all the right notes–then I second the motion .Canadians are holding their noses waiting for someone with passion and vision .Enough of the Reform Party!

  3. While I was so-so on the boxing match, it proved to be a turning point in how many perceived him, and the more Brazeau goes off the rails, the better JT looks. He clearly has the alligator skin to fight the Tories at their guttural worst, has the love for debate, foul mouth and chutzpah made famous by his dad, but my biggest concern is can he win Quebec? The name is as polarizing there as it is in Calgary. None of anyone’s concerns, however, should stop him from leading the party and giving it a badly needed boost. And I can’t question his M.O. or integrity; he doesn’t need this to satisfy a need for notoriety, he would be doing it to get Canada back on the rails. He sure as hell would have my vote.

    1. Maybe Quebec is an uphill battle, maybe it isn’t. A week is a lifetime in politics, and it’s three years to the next election (sigh). Nobody predicted the Orange Crush of 2011 and there’s no reason to believe that any political alignment is permanent. Thanks for reading!

  4. I do believe that Justin would do a very good job,and he would also be a magnet to bring all Canadians together instead of playing east against west like our current leader

    1. Whoever runs on a platform of unity is going to pick up a lot of support, I agree. The current PM’s game of pitting the country against itself is unsustainable. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Finally! Reading the words that I think about the possibility of Justin Trudeau entering the leadership race gives me hope that we can turn around and leave the direction my beloved country is heading in under the current regime of bashing hoodlums masquerading as Canadian leaders.

    1. Stephen Harper had a long term plan about how to gain leadership of his party, then how to get a majority in the House. It was a good plan and it worked. With the kind of opposition he has today, he will be successful next elecdtion as well.

      Justin seems to have learned his leadership lessons well. I don’t know where he is getting guidance now. I suspect he is running on instinct and personal knowledge. He has everything in his favour, much of it of his own doing. He will make Pierre’s Trudeaumania seem like a puppet show if he continues his present course.

      I have never before observed such potential leadership power in a future leader. He will surely become the first great national leader of the 21st century. He refuses to tote around the baggage of past history. Our world desperately needs him.

      No other Canadian comes close to Justin Trudeau. Watch it happen, fellow Canadians. We will see political magic before our eyes. Justin personifies what most Canadians want our country to represent.

    2. So long as there are those of us who believe in a positive, progressive, united Canada, there is always hope. The damage being done by the current wrecking crew can be repaired.

  6. Excellent reading! While I respect that Mr. Trudeau should take the time to make the proper decision for himself and his family he is the kick in the complacency pants his party and country is so in need of. Would be wonderful to have some excitement in politics instead of years of same old, same old.

  7. One salient point missed by many, including the author of this article, comes in the form of those who criticize Mr. Trudeau’s lack of prior life experience before entering politics. Oft complaining that he’s no more than a “pampered rich kid”.

    Mr. Trudeau, before entering politics, did what I consider to be one of the most trying jobs in the world, and one for which a remarkable degree of patience and empathy is required if success is to be found: He was a teacher.

    Mr. Harper, in contrast, worked in the mail room at Imperial Oil, and later, in their tech department. His father was a white collar employee of Imperial Oil. One suspects that if they were to look at Mr. Harper’s sources of funding for his runs at office throughout the years, that we might find Imperial Oil and/or persons employed by Imperial Oil, placed significantly on the list. Mr. Harper’s not exactly lacking in “privilege” himself. The difference is that he’s never stepped outside that singular paradigm, whereas Mr. Trudeau actually earned some life experience in dealing with other people in a position of responsibility.

  8. be aware of those trolls that start with “I’m a Liberal and I’m ashamed of the leaders in my party because…. blah, blah,blah”. They are trying to sound as if they were on your side. If they had identify themselves as Conservatives nobody will read their comments. This kind of troll-comments are so effective that sometimes they are read out loud on TV. Also, many times they are the first comment under the article. They can’t wait to write something negative and influence the next readers.
    I hope Justin Trudeau join forces with the other parties, learn how to share power with them, and change the PM in the next elections.

    1. I suspect, and so do a lot of people, that many of these trolls are being paid by the Conservative war room. It’s a shame that journalists will treat anonymous rabble-rousers with the same reverence they do experts, all in the name of wanting to appear “unbiased.” Thanks for reading!

  9. I would very much like to see Justin Trudeau seek the Liberal leadership and I believe he will make his own decision based on what’s right for him and his family at this juncture. Having Deborah Coyne jump into the leadership race might be of concern to him though. I would hate to see another Liberal debacle result from both of them running. At 40, Justin still has time to run if indeed he wishes to do so. Coyne certainly has something to offer. We need someone to change the way Harper is taking our country. Of that there is absolutely no doubt.

    1. An exciting leadership race that fires Canadians’ interest and imagination, that doesn’t devolve into candidates beating each other up (like in presidential primaries) can only be a good thing, regardless of who comes out on top. I get the sense that this will be the case this time. Thanks for your comment!

    1. I think he’d be the first person to say that even if he does end up taking it on, he can’t do it alone. We all need to rally and fight for the country we want.

  10. I would disagree with you on why Trudeau is reluctant to run. Personally I believe he’s simply biding his time and doesn’t believe the next election will be the one to bring the Liberal Party back (a fair assumption.) But I definitely agree that Trudeau is exactly what the party needs. He’s the antithesis of everything people seem to believe the Liberals are about, and after the Ignatieff and Dion, who can both be summed up with the word uninspiring, Trudeau can give the party the boost they need to make a comeback.

    That being said, does anyone really want them to make a comeback? Or is it time to just let the NDP takeover?

    1. Well, the only one who knows for sure how he’s thinking about it is Mr. Trudeau himself. As to the “biding his time” idea, what if, hypothetically, he sits it out, someone else wins and succeeds in bring the Liberals back from the brink and winds up leading them for fifteen years? Or worse, runs and gets decimated and the party goes the way of the Progressive Conservatives? Lots of potential scenarios, anyway, and ultimately a very difficult decision to make.

  11. I said it then,I will say it again Justin will make a wonderful P.M . Graham You really did write an amazing piece here. Its so nice to read an article that brings one hope… Its hard to believe that I say this about Canada~ but lets face it many hearts have been broken over the damage Harper has been doing to this wonderful Country of ours~and now more then ever we need to have hope and faith~ I know Justin will do much and if he agrees to run~ he will have helped Canadians to have less worry about where Canada is heading!

    1. Thanks very much! Maybe our problem as Canadians is that we got complacent with how good things were and it took a Harper to make us realize how the fight to be the great country that we love requires us to be ever-vigilant.

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