Election Finale: Too Much of a Good Thing?

No post-election post from me this morning. I could say I was waiting for the hullabaloo to die down, but in truth I was too wasted after 10 hours on my feet directing traffic at an elementary school polling station, then four hours counting ballots from the Advance Poll where I worked. So perhaps I’m more susceptible than usual to romantic notions.

Can Justin Trudeau create his own version of Trudeaumania and sweep Canada in a nostalgic new direction like he promised? (Nostalgia for a new way. Now there’s electioneering magic.) Call me an old skeptic, but I’m always suspicious when I get what I want. Call me a romantic, but I’m always hoping that this time, just maybe…

The Finale

An interesting contrast in speeches last night. Harper doesn’t yet seem to have noticed that the election is over, and he lost. He’s still running the same of sound bites, giving the impression that all he’s interested in is protecting his legacy. Put the man on Automatic and he’ll spout forever. Somebody ought to make a fortune selling Harping Hallowe’en dolls. Trudeau, on the other hand seemed to be giving the campaign speech he wanted to give in the beginning, but wasn’t allowed to, because it would have been dismissed by his opponents, and perhaps the rest of Canada, as being naïve and unrealistic.

Well, perhaps it’s naïve and unrealistic to think that a tiny population like Canada’s can support one of the world’s leading nations. But it can. It did in the past. And this didn’t come about through sabre rattling, egotism, or sharp self-interest in economic dealing. It came about because people like us. If you had to boil the Canadian image to its most condensed form, that’s what it comes down to. People like us.

The Popularity Contest

And that was the key mistake in this campaign: making it all about the leaders. Both Harper and Mulcair thought they could win a popularity campaign with logic: “I’m the man with the experience to lead you. Look at what I’ve done.” Their only emotional appeal was the “he’s not ready” negative one. And that’s a campaign only a middle aged man would come up with, because the old guys have been saying that about the young up-and-comers since the first youngster saved his father from a woolly mammoth and thus took control of the tribe. It didn’t make them any points with the younger generation.

And nobody really likes Stephen Harper. Respect him, perhaps. (I don’t, but the people he has fooled into thinking he has benefited their business do). But as someone you’d like to share a pint with? I don’t think so. You can’t really like someone who would base his re-election campaign on running his opponent into the ground by using his financial advantage to buy attack ads.

And Tom Mulcair isn’t likeable, either. That smarmy, “I know better than you” smile drives me to distraction. Sure, he’s a great demagogue in the tradition of Dave Barrett and Ed Broadbent. But nowhere near the charisma of Jack Layton. People didn’t like Jack; his supporters loved him, and even his enemies had grudging respect for his honesty. Which is why the NDP is back to the third party status that they have always enjoyed.

Perhaps only a few impressionable females love Justin Trudeau. No Trudeaumania this time around. But a whole lot of people like him a great deal and that was enough to win. It was ABC all the way, and as soon as the West got the word from the Maritimes that the Liberals were the best chance of getting Anyone But the Conservatives, the election was in the bag.

What Now?

Trudeau the Younger could be the leader Canada really wants. As he says, the kind of kind, accepting, likeable Canadian we want the world to see. (Not Stephen Harper, who unapologetically represents the 1% of Canadians who make over $200,000 a year.)

Or he might not do anything. He could signal the return of the same old Liberal team that we threw out 10 years ago because of their egos. Would we have been better off with Trudeau with a learner’s permit, with a minority government to keep him in line?

I hope not. Trudeau spoke a lot about his image of Canada, and his dreams of what it could be. Do I dare to hope that he might actually succeed? Hey, why not. I like happily-ever-after fairy tales, too.



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