Justin Trudeau wants to be prime minister—too bad it’s not the ’70s

On Tuesday a two-term MP announced his bid for leadership of the third-placed party in the House of Commons. News, for sure, but hardly the main headline.

The MP in question, of course, is Justin Trudeau and the party is the Liberal Party of Canada—the same one his legendary father led. So for the mainstream media, this is the political story not only of the day but maybe the year.

He’ll probably win the nomination. The libs losing with him is one thing, but losing without him would make them, the party that turned their back on a Trudeau, and that would be the sole reason given for the loss, no matter what actually happened.

If he becomes the leader, expect stories on the rebirth of the Liberal Party and how they’re galvanizing the youth.

Yes, at 40, Trudeau would be young for a major federal party leader. But he knows how to use the Internet, beat a conservative senator in a boxing match and has a great head of hair.

Take a look beyond him, though, and you get a Liberal Party that is as old-school as they come. The NDP has by far more young MPs and young organizers and volunteers.

These liberals are the same people who pulled for Ignatieff and Dion and some of them even thought Paul Martin represented a new fresh way of doing things. Yeah, Martin had Bono, but he also facilitated a coup in Haiti.

But the media will eat it up, they never got over “Canada’s natural governing party.” They will, though, mention constantly that Justin is not his father and bring up PET every time they do.

It’s true, he’s not his dad. But what’s more significant is that this is also not the ’70s.

Canada is now a polarized nation. On one side we have Harper who is moving us to the right in unprecedented ways and changing how we’re seen around the world, and how we treat people here at home.

The polar opposite of this is not the Liberals clearly but it’s also not the NDP.  It’s social movements like Occupy and Quebec’s own Maple Spring, now spreading its message across the country.

If the Liberals want to be the party of youth and revolution, they’ll have to compete with the existing movements and those on the way. And they will lose.

Sure, Trudeau’s young looking, good looking and has a great head of hair, but he’s no Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

Sure the liberals can inject a bunch of money into making themselves appear hip, stopping short of US Republican antics like putting the constitution up on hydraulics on their website (hopefully), but they will never be able to capture the authenticity of real grassroots activism.

People are more politically savvy now than they were just a couple of years ago. They now have a choice and a voice outside of the political establishment.

I doubt pitching someone who grew up in wealth and a highly political culture as a maverick will work anymore in Canada. Even Obama’s gone from Hope and Change to “I did my best, will keep doing it and, trust me, that Romney’s bad news.”

But the badly broken Liberals will look to the past while claiming they’re thinking of the future. They’ll try and repopularize one of their old hits: Trudeaumania.

Problem is that Justin has the Trudeau, but the mania has to come from the people. This time, they won’t bring it.

The NDP, meanwhile, should focus on crafting policies that appeal to those in the social movements without trying to mimic the style and theatrics of those movements while still thinking of the population as a whole.

They should leave the cult of personality stuff to the Libs and accept that the concept of politician-as-celebrity ended with Jack. They need to focus on the substance of their policy and why it’s better than Harper’s.

They very well might do that. And if they do, we could be looking at Prime Minister Mulcair with the cons a very close second (never count Harper out). If they don’t, well, I think it’s clear at least what I think we’re looking at.

Either way, the liberals will once again be left to pick up the pieces. They’ll have to admit that Trudeaumania died a long time ago and they just let some trust fund kid with limited political chops and a great head of hair lead their once grand party.

*Photo by batmoo via Flickr (under a CC license).

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