The Significance of Trudeau’s Victory

Something is going on in Canada that should give all of us hope. Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has announced that his new cabinet is delivering on his promise of gender parity. Just two weeks after he has stepped into his new position, he is taking a bold step of probably many – and more information is coming to light that is revealing something big.

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The most remarkable aspect of Mr. Trudeau’s victory is that the Liberals refused to use negative advertising. This is the usually the cornerstone of every contemporary political campaign and I have to say that I am impressed with his refusal.

The Conservative Party did the same that they had done with previous Liberal leaders, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff – launched comprehensive attack ad programs months before the election was called. They accused Trudeau of not being ready to lead, mischaracterized his platform by falsely asserting that he proposed permanent deficits and even ridiculed his long hair.

All politicians know that negative advertising is toxic to democracy – poisoning reasoned political debate and dumbing down the discussion. The goal is not to win over voters, but to suppress voting that could hurt them. They continue to do this just because pollsters tell them that it works.

Mr. Trudeau said from the beginning that he was going to focus on the real issues. He built a campaign that engaged voters online, elsewhere and solicited their views. Amazingly, the electorate, including young people saw through the negative messaging and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign completely backfired.

More people voted too – jumping from 61% to 69%. Voters turned out at advance polls and voting on university and college campuses set records.

Politicians can’t seem to do the right thing because money trumps all. Americans thought their political financing laws limited the swagger of big money and would redirect the focus of the campaign to idea, but the Supreme Court decided otherwise. They lifted the limited on political donations and now billionaires are pledging to support their ideology.

The American political sociologist, Seymour Martin Lipset wrote that legitimacy is “the capacity of a political system to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for the society.”  The ongoing abuse of trust by office holders is not simply a series of isolated incidents, but manifestations of a deep rot.

This is why Mr. Trudeau’s campaign was so significant.  It showed that the cynical behavior of politicians to achieve and hold onto power might actually be counter-productive. Do you think that there will be a change in political campaigns going forward?

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