August’s Rolling Stone cover asks a variant of a cocktail party question I often get asked when I tell people in New York that I’m a Ted Cruz American, i.e. an American born in Canada, “Why can’t Justin Trudeau be our President?”
Amongst a certain set of Americana, i.e. Manhattanites who can simultaneously define and gripe about the Acela corridor, Trudeau, Canada’s 29th Prime Minister, has become a summer-time fan-favorite.
A few months ago, Public Policy Polling found that Trudeau was the second most popular foreign leader in America; a decent 10 percentage points behind the front-runner, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Trudeau has made up for lost time with a summertime media presence that has felt, at times, overwhelming.
Besides the aforementioned Rolling Stone cover, Trudeau appeared, infamously, on the cover of July’s Delta sky magazine, where his pose, legs splayed across a chair, sent gay Twitter into a tailspin. The rest of the summer has featured breathless media headlines in the American media about Trudeau’s on-fleek socks, kayaking, and wedding crashing.
While stateside coverage of Trudeau has been relatively constant since his 2015 election, Vogue Magazine featured Mr. and Mrs. Trudeau in their December 2015 issue, interest in Trudeau has accelerated in the Trump era, where even the most basic politician would look statesmanlike when compared to The Donald, but Trudeau, who physically looks like he came out of central casting for the role of “politician” and runs the gamut from taking photos with baby pandas, marching in Pride parades, to supporting the resettlement of 40,000 Syrian refugees, is impossible to dislike.
In America, Justin Trudeau is so popular he hasn’t even had to make fake magazine covers of himself!
As Stefan would implore, Canada’s hottest Prime Minister has everything, “Dimples, a full head of hair and children who are too young to collude with Russians.”
When I admit that I worked with Trudeau during a political campaign (many moons ago), people get even more excited, “Is he that sexy in person?”
I’ve had to answer this question enough times, at enough dinner parties, that I can honestly say: America, Justin Trudeau is not your bae.
After 8 years of an Obama presidency, months of Hillary Clinton as a major party presidential candidate, is the best profile that Americans can conjure up, a straight white man?
I mean this as no disrespect to Trudeau. As a Canadian, I’m incredibly proud to have a sitting Prime Minister take his family to Gay Pride, passionately care about refugees and walk the talk when it comes to gender equality. But have American’s set the bar so low, or fear of failure so high, that they’ve convinced themselves that straight and white politicians are the only vessel that can connect a laid off steelworker in Ohio?
I suspect even Trudeau would tell you: the future is female.
Given that only half of American’s know who Trudeau is, it is possible that the current Trudeau-meme-ia is nothing more than a panacea for New York media companies looking to offer their audience a symbol of left wing salvation while driving clicks.
Unbridled lust for Trudeau amongst Americans exposes a more systemic issue in political discourse. Americans can seemingly only digest politicians as part of a single narrative: Donald Trump, evil. John McCain, Maverick. Justin Trudeau, perfect. Too often that same media narrative portrays politicians as either bad or good, which inherently impacts how we, as an audience, consume politics. While Trump is, in my opinion, an abysmal politician, we’re unable to view him outside of a non-alarmist way. So much so that everything he does (OMG he’s not holding Melania’s hand, retweet!) is proof of his incompetency while everything Trudeau does (OMG he’s wearing socks!) is swoon worthy.
Politics, even in a two-party system like the United States, is not really binary. Human beings are not so uniform in our thinking that we agree 100% of the time with the party we vote for or support. Nor should we. And on the flip side, political parties themselves are beholden to the rather impure reality of having to get re-elected which make their own decisions far less rationale that one would hope.
By fetishizing the Trudeau’s (or the Macron’s) of the world and turning them into some sort of Presidential Ken Doll we’re simply stagnating our ability to have a rational discourse about our own political futures and failures.
The Justin Trudeau that Americans are presented with has no real connection to his domestic policy successes and failures. For example, there are some in Canada who have begun to criticize Trudeau with concerns around his laissez faire environmental policies. Those on the right criticize him for being all talk and no action. The American media, however, is not interested in reporting on his policy chops. They’re too interested in Brand Trudeau.
And so, Americans who are told to hope for their own Trudeau like figure, are caught waiting for nothing more than celebrity salvation. Last time I checked the brandification of politicians is what got America into its current mess. I’m not sure why we’re hoping it will save us next time around?