Busting the Seven Trudeau Myths

  • National Newswatch

By Gerry Nicholls | March 16, 2013 I have come to a frightening conclusion about Liberal-leader-in-waiting Justin Trudeau.He must emit some sort of mind-control vibe that causes otherwise serious and level-headed individuals to go completely and uncontrollably gaga over him.How else to explain the fact that every day it seems some media-type heapsgushing and fawning praise on this untried politician?The latest example of this gaga phenomenon is Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story, a 64 page ebook written by the Huffington Post's Althia Raj.It's called a Trudeau biography, but it actually reads more like a political Harlequin romance.OK, that's just a joke; Raj's ebook is really a serious biography as evidenced by its comic-book-style cartoons that make Trudeau look like a super hero.At any rate, I think it's time to inject a little clear-headed, Trudeau- vibe-free, reality into the picture.So with that in mind, allow me to bust what I consider to be the top seven media-generated Trudeau myths:Myth 1. Since Trudeau whipped Senator Patrick Brazeau in a boxing match, he will just as easily knock out his opponents in the political ringThis may shock some media-types, but being skilled at martial arts doesn't necessarily prepare you for political combat. Elections are not settled in steel cages or in Lumberjack matches. If they were, UFC champion Georges St-Pierre would be prime minister. (Which you have to admit would be pretty cool.) My point is, Trudeau the boxer may find it quite unsettling to find that in politics hitting below the belt is a common and accepted tactic.Myth 2. Trudeau's lack of a detailed policy platform is a detriment to his political ambitions.This is a myth propagated mainly by Trudeau's critics on the right. The fact is, however, not having a detailed policy platform is actually a plus for a politician. The vaguer the platform, the better. Indeed, Trudeau's lack of policy ideas likely explains his good polling numbers; by saying little and smiling a lot, he can be all things to all people. Or to put it another way, he may be an empty vessel, but in politics empty vessels can float a long way.Myth 3. Trudeau's good looks, his famous last name and his charisma will energize thousands of once apathetic Canadians, transforming them into fanatically loyal Liberal voters.What lots of people don't get about politics is that popularity alone won't win elections. To win elections you have to turn supporters and admirers into donors and into volunteers and most importantly into your voters. That aint easy. It takes money, it takes efficient political machinery, it takes grassroots organization - all things the Liberal Party currently lacks. This perhaps explains why Trudeau is having such a hard time getting his supporters off the couch so they can register as voters in the Liberal leadership race. In short, Trudeau's pretty face alone, won't mobilize voters.Myth 4. Since Trudeau is so lovable, likable and popular, negative ads will have no impact on him.Sorry, but even likable, popular and lovable people have weaknesses. And weaknesses were made to be exploited. So let's just say that by the time Conservative and NDP attack ad specialists get through with him, Trudeau may not be so popular anymore.Myth 5. Trudeau is an idealist, a new kind of politician who will forgo cynical politics and unite rather than divide Canadians.News flash: there's no such thing as an idealistic politician. They all use cynical tactics. And Trudeau is no exception. Remember how he derided Albertans on a Quebec news program, basically implying Westerners were backward barbarians who should go back to herding cattle and leave the governing of Canada to the Quebecois? Well that was good old fashioned tribal, "us vs. them" politics. Also recall he once voiced a robocall attacksuggesting an NDP win in an Ontario provincial by-election would be bad for unity. And when he told Northern Ontarians he wouldn't bring back the gun registry, he did so likely because he simply figured that's what this particular audience wanted to hear. That's called pandering. So much for idealism.Myth. 6. Trudeau's intelligence will make him a formidable leader.I keep hearing about Trudeau's intelligence. And maybe he is smart. But for a politician being brainy isn't enough. Just ask Harvard graduate and former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. As it turned out, all of Ignatieff's academic degrees and all of his Ivory Tower brilliance, didn't help him figure out a way to deal with the Tory media meat grinder. My point is, in politics pure intelligence is much less important than "street savvy", knowing how to survive by your wits in a brutal, unforgiving, dog-eat-dog, no-quarter-given world. Is Trudeau, with his Richie Rich, "let's all sing Kumbaya around the campfire" persona, prepared to enter the leadership jungle, where two tough, battle-hardened warriors named Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair await? It seems unlikely.Myth 7. Trudeau likes to lower expectations and over deliver.Maybe Trudeau was underestimated in the past. But now, he's being vastly over-rated. For him that's a problem. In fact, unless he arrives in Ottawa on a horse drawn chariot and quickly smites Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a lightning bolt, he will disappoint his disciples. Nothing is harder to meet, than high expectation Now please understand that in busting all these myths I am not suggesting Trudeau won't be a decent Liberal leader.I am just saying, let's be realistic about the guy; after all, he's just a man.Although, I must say he certainly has beautiful, god-like hair.Wait .what I am saying?Oh no, I must be coming under the influence of Trudeau vibes!This column is over.About GerryGerry Nicholls is a communications consultant and writer who has been called a “political warrior” a “brilliant strategist” and one of the “canniest political observers in Canada.”He has worked as a consultant in both the United States and Canada and was formerly a senior officer in the National Citizens Coalition, Canada's largest organization for the defence of economic and political freedoms.A regular columnist with the Ottawa Hill Times, his work has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post , National NewsWatch and in the Sun Media chain; and he has appeared on countless TV and radio public affairs programs.