By the time you see this, the “Trudeau in brownface/blackface” story will have played for a few days.
Wednesday night, in the immediate aftermath, Paul Wells of Macleans offered an insightful and scathing piece (see excerpt below) that goes well beyond these incidents to look at the core of the Liberal campaign: at its “relentless” use of opposition research.
No matter your political stripe, I’d say that his whole piece is worth reading. In the spirit of John Robson’s plain-language questions:
- Is this how we want Canadian politics to be?
- If not, what can we do about it?
Paul Wells isn’t alone in his observations about the nature of the campaign. John Ivison, pretty non-partisan from my point of view, tweeted this above Trudeau’s statement that he was sorry but that it wasn’t reasonable to expect candidates to have been perfect every moment of their lives (see quote highlighted below):
The hypocrisy of this statement is Olympian – condemning the use of past mistakes to undermine candidates for office. Liberal black ops have ended the political careers of at least four Conservatives in the past week.
I’m not suggesting that the Conservatives haven’t been doing (or trying to do) the same thing. I’m asking where we draw the line between legitimate enquiry into a candidate’s record versus character assassination as an election strategy. Here’s Matt Gurney on that very topic — no answers yet, but clear unease.
And then there is the third angle, the issue of forgiveness and redemption. Our society is in desperate need of some sense of when an offence unforgivable by contemporary standards can be written off as either a youthful error or a product of an earlier, less enlightened era. As it stands now, all we have is a sliding scale: maximum forgiveness for those who agree with us and none at all for those who do not. That’s not going to be sustainable in the long run.
The front for the Liberal campaign has been Trudeau making a frankly listless and uninteresting argument about good governance and affordability. The bulk of it has been a country-wide values argument from which the leader was carefully insulated, but executed on his behalf, and its message has been: These are bad people we are running against. They don’t deserve your vote.
Where does that campaign stand now? “If everyone who is going to be standing for office needs to demonstrate that they’ve been perfect every step of their lives, there’s going to be a shortage of people running for office,” Trudeau said tonight. Yet another idea that doesn’t seem to have occurred to him until just after somebody at Time hit PUBLISH.
I’m not sure this should work the way Cold War prisoner exchanges worked—send one Trudeau across the bridge in return for a dozen or two Conservative candidates, call it a wash. That’s too easy for all concerned. I think it’s fairer to say, most of the things you ever did that sound appalling now were appalling then, and you deserve to have a terrible time living with them. But also that people change. People grow. Justin Trudeau’s career has been based on claiming that simple fact for himself and denying it to his opponents. Will that stop now? Of course not. It’s how he’s wired.