Here’s what we need in 2010 — the youth to take over. Everybody is sick and tired, or at least they should be, of the eternal grip on power of the post-war baby boomer cohort.
These people are old, intellectually worn out, shorn of idealism and duller than the Manitoba tundra.
Take, for example, our federal party leaders. They are all very smart, erudite men. But if you’re looking for an inspiration deficit, look no further. Stephen Harper is only 50, but he’s about as hip as a Toyota Corolla. Bookworm Michael Ignatieff looks like he hasn’t seen a ray of sunshine since the ’60s. Jack Layton has a demeanour that conjures up Russia in the throes of Bolshevism. And Gilles Duceppe? Well, go back a bit further. The pre-Cambrian era might do.
The youth of the nation look on and, understandably, look away, especially on voting day. But it can’t stay like this. It’s their country. They have to make a move.
Among our elected representatives, in the cobwebbed chamber that is the House of Commons, there is one guy with the potential to light a fuse.
Justin Trudeau, 38, is the politician who can change things. He is young, articulate in both languages, dashing, magnetic. Wherever he goes he draws a crowd. Charisma is a rare political gift. About one in 1,000 have it. He has it.
Trudeau initially had the reputation of being a bit flaky. But he hasn’t come across that way since arriving in Ottawa. He’s shown a sense of discipline and a willingness to be patient and learn. At the same time he has a sense of humour while coming across as an independent thinker.
Others who come to politics at a young age lose their freshness. Given the pressures of the game, they get turned into party hacks. James Moore, the talented young Tory heritage minister, runs that risk. Trudeau, on the other hand, comes across as a breed apart.
The Liberals should do all they can to showcase him. The youth vote is up for grabs in this country and the party that gets it will be the party on the move. It’s how Barack Obama won. As his campaign manager, David Plouffe, relates in his book, The Audacity To Win, what the Obama campaign did was change the electorate. It reached down below the boring baby boomers to the emerging younger cohort and awakened it.
That’s what has to happen here.
Lawrence Martin is a journalist and author of 10 books who writes about national affairs from Ottawa.