Canada: Is Trudeau In Crisis?
Questions To Which The Answer Is No
One of the worst calls I have ever made – or, actually, the undeniably worst – has to be before my time as anything of a “public figure” (to whatever laughable extent you want to claim I am one), when I said Donald Trump had no chance to beat Hillary Clinton.
Yes, as a dumbass sophomore at Uni, I refused to believe that he could ever win an election, a claim that is substantially worse than anything about 2020, because in 2016 the data pointed to minor Clinton edges but we all assumed it would be fine, whereas the 2020 data pointed to a blowout and everyone was wrong, but it’s an informative thing to think about because it’s worth figuring out why everyone was so confident Hillary could never lose.
It was a mix of two things – the first is liberal bubbles and everyone that left wing people knew being fellow travelers and therefore they thought that their social circles were representative – but there was another, more fundamental phenomenon at play. Liberal, left wing people didn’t want to believe that people – fellow Americans – could ever vote for someone that they saw as odious and deeply dangerous. Putting aside the validity or not of that belief, that is what they believed, that that “truth” was so self-evident as to be obvious.
You want to know why urban city dwellers think that Trump voters are dumb hicks? This is why, because they think that voting for Trump is so self-evidently idiotic that they believe the act itself is equivalent to thinking the Sun revolves around the earth. Again, I’m not making any moral judgement here – and frankly, I think that conservatives voting for the guy who will appoint conservative SCOTUS justices is a perfectly reasonable justification for their choice – but that is how the left viewed America at the end of the first Trump campaign, and why they got so much about the next four years wrong.
Yes, I got America wrong at the end by understating the clear polling error, but the first column I wrote when the General election was made clear as Trump v Biden in 2020 posited that 5 states would flip – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and North Carolina. I know that the first runs of that site’s model were more aggressive, but that model was a nowcast, and subjectively, I expected it to tighten at some point. The reason I got so absolutist about Texas and Florida and all that was that they never did tighten, but for the first three years of the Trump term I wasn’t high on Biden’s chances.
What would consistently happen is many would wait for the scandal of the day – be it legitimate scandals or the Mueller/Russia bullshit – to dampen his support, it wouldn’t, and then the left would get more and more agitated that he was still popular with his base. Yes, Trump had an approval in the low 40s for most of his term, but the thing is, the left was waiting for Trump’s base to “come to their senses”, and when it didn’t happen, the takes looked very stupid. The number of left wing tweets whose basic premise was “Could this be the thing that ends Trump?” that did not, as it ended up, end Trump is probably in the millions, if not billions now.
Why does any of this matter? Well, the Canadian commentariat have become bad #Resist Twitter members, except they’re losing their minds at Trudeau, not Trump.
It bears repeating quite often that I did not vote Liberal in 2021. It bears repeating I did not do so in 2019. It bears repeating that the reason I did not do so in either year was explicitly ethics – I thought the Liberals trying to help out SNC was shitty, and I thought WE was pretty bad (albeit not as bad). I am what the American left and Canadian right wish existed – a voter who didn’t vote for the party of their ideological persuasion due to moral and ethical reasons. I doubt I’ll vote Liberal next time for the same reasons – I don’t like the coziness with their friends, the arrogance, all of it, and so I don’t vote Liberal.
My take on the Liberal government is mixed – I think Trudeau has been a fine PM, and being fine gets you into the Top 6 of Canadian PMs, because beyond my Top 5 (John A, Laurier, and King in some order, then Pierre and Pearson) the options are a bunch of flawed PMs with very mixed records. The thing is, nobody else on Twitter has such a mixed reaction to him. There are many who think he is a god beyond reproach (he very much is not), and others who think he is an asshole beyond compare who has done lasting damage. I firmly think both are wrong.
The thing is, the Canadian right are suffering from the same problematic sense that the American right did for so long, because Trudeau is nowhere as toxic as so many of his critics think he is.
This model is in some ways irrelevant – the riding boundaries will change before the next election, and the election is likely 3 years away from now. That said, I was desperate to see whether the polls were picking up this general sense of dissatisfaction that so many claim is being felt, and shockingly, it isn’t. The Liberals are down seats since 2021 – mostly because of my trends adjustments boosting the Tories in northern Ontario, Windsor, and Atlantic Canada – but nowhere close to down enough to justify the idea that they’re somehow in danger of losing the next election, let alone that such a lose is imminent. And yet, the takes are taking.
Is ”Justin Trudeau would win an election tomorrow” the same as “Justin Trudeau will win the next election?” No.
Is “Justin Trudeau would win an election tomorrow” the same as “Justin Trudeau will be leading in 3 weeks?” No.
Is this in any way validating of my belief that Pierre Polievre can’t win the next election? No.
My point in writing this and building the model isn’t that this means Trudeau will win. My argument solely is that so many have used inflation and gas prices and Pearson fucking airport as an argument that Trudeau will lose it, and my sole argument in response is that that argument is beneath the intellectual caliber of the people making it.
The story of the Trump era, and David Cameron, and Boris Johnson, and Scott Morrison (mostly the first time) is that people are very reactive these days – they’re “what have you done for me lately” voters. Morrison and Boris won government despite being less than a year into the job and taking over from divided leaders in each case, and Trump and Cameron both saw oppositions with huge leads at midterm lose that lead when it counted. Yes, Trump still lost, but in all four cases, incumbents did much better than they should have. Hell, you could make the same case about Doug Ford last month (although Skippy is a much better candidate against than Poilievre).
Not that there is a good time for a recession – which we aren’t currently in, but seems plausible in the next 18 months – but at the beginning of a Parliament when there’s time to get out on the other side seems good to me politically. No, I don’t think the NDP would pull the plug on the Liberals if the economy goes south and tanks the Liberals’ polling, mostly because the NDP would lose their golden gooses – Pharma and Dental – under a CPC government. And this is where we are now.
Put aside the question of blame for the economic mess – which I think is a hard game to play, but more importantly is an irrelevant one to whether or not people will blame the government for it – and you see an opening for the right, if they’re able to take advantage of it. The problem, of course, is that I don’t think Pierre “Opt Out Of Inflation With Crypto” Poilievre can prosecute an economic argument Trudeau and/or Freeland that well, but that’s a contestable, falsifiable prediction. I could be wrong! There’s still 3 and a half years to the likeliest next election date, maybe I am (once again) being overconfident when I say that Poilievre can’t win. Like, that’s all fucking fine, I don’t really care to litigate it one way or another.
Here's what isn’t really up for debate at this point, at least in my eyes. An election held today would return a Liberal government, and there is no evidence that voters are seeking a political price against their leaders as of now. Could that change in a month or six months or whatever if/when there’s no significant drop in inflation? Maybe. But right now, the argument that these problems are going to cost the Liberals is a theory without evidence. It’s a bad hunch propelled by wishes, but just like the American left found out, wishing doesn’t make it so.