Trudeau And The Politics Of Division
Why Is Divisiveness Bad?
Justin Trudeau is, by literally any and all metrics, a highly divisive politician.
Be it the protests at Liberal campaign events in 2021 to the Convoy to the events in Hamilton this week, Trudeau elicits a very negative reaction from parts of this country. The Liberals’ electoral record in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the BC Interior since 2015 also shows it, as does the fact that they’ve managed to get essentially bang on 33% two straight elections.
He is a man with his ardent followers and even more ardent haters, and he leads a government that has reasons for both those views. It is easy to see why parents who have had their lives immeasurably improved by the combination of lower child care fees and the Canada Child Benefit may view this government extremely well, but it’s blind denial to suggest there are not reasons to dislike them.
Be it the ethics record or the lack of fiscal discipline as originally promised (even pre-COVID!) or the COVID stuff, the Federal Government has been divisive. They didn’t allow the unvaccinated on planes and trains for nearly a year, and whatever you thought then or think now of those measures, it’s not exactly easily to claim that they did not cause division and disunity.
What I don’t get is why Liberals are so strangely insistent on pretending that the chorus of Conservative attacks on this issue are untrue. Of course they’re true, it’s been an incredibly divisive government.
I just don’t get why that’s supposed to be a bad thing!
This is probably as close as this blog will ever get to me just ranting about something because I make my own content rules, so let’s just lean into this: why is divisiveness bad?
Like, I’m not saying being divisive for the sake of it is good, but why is divisiveness in and of itself bad? I don’t see the case for it that doesn’t just basically amount to a useless tautology, but here’s the thing – of course Trudeau’s been divisive. Every Government is.
Democracy is a series of choices, and there are winners and losers from every policy. The “winners” out of, say, the federal ban on planes or trains by the unvaccinated were those who wanted to travel with reduced fears of infection, and the losers from it were unvaccinated persons who needed to hop a flight to, say, visit family unexpectedly. (Do not argue about epidemiology in my comments, I’ll lose my mind.) That’s a divisive policy, and it’s still divisive even if you’re one of those who believe that the unvaxxed put everyone else at greater risk.
Just because you personally like a policy doesn’t mean it’s not divisive – nobody would claim Harper’s cuts to government staffing levels in the early 2010s wasn’t incredibly divisive when it happened, and Trudeau’s vaccine policy is similarly divisive, despite the fact that Laurentian Elites disliked the first and liked the second. Both had winners, both had losers, and whatever side of that you fall on, it’s still incredibly true it was divisive.
When Leslyn Lewis pretends that Trudeau is somehow uniquely divisive and hateful, it’s obviously bullshit, and calling out a Tory Party that had a majority of their caucus vote to keep conversion therapy legal in 2021 on their hypocrisy is fun for all the family. But it’s also really wild to me that the Conservatives seem to think they have something, because they keep repeating this line that Trudeau’s divisiveness is bad in and of itself. Not attacking the policies themselves, but the divisiveness.
Why? Probably, if I have to guess, because continuing to relitigate the policy choices around vaccination when the vast majority got willingly vaccinated is bad politics, so they attack them for it without saying the quiet part out loud. I get it well enough, but the answer for the Liberals isn’t to just say “we aren’t divisive, we listen to average Canadians” or whatever the cliché of the week is, it’s to lean in.
“We had to make tough choices to do what’s best for Canadians” is a much better answer for the Liberals, and the progressive left in general. Don’t be on the backfoot about these issues, but actually lean in and make clear that you’re willing to do what’s right. By doing that, the Liberals can actually try and refocus onto their agenda, instead of consistently be reacting to a news agenda being set mostly by the Provinces these days.
We know the Liberals can win fights they pick these days – with the increasing signs that a health care accord will be reached next month, the Liberals are on track to firmly win their hold out for federal funds to come with strings attached. Now, the Liberals need to pick this as their next rhetorical fight – because a fight on the actual issues they have been divisive on is much more conducive political terrain than just being attacked for general divisiveness and going “no we’re not”.
Have Chrystia Freeland commission a report into the number of less jobs we’d have if not for the wage subsidy and CERB, have David Lametti do a report on the number of more incarcerated teenagers and young adults we’d have if the Tories had had their way on drugs policy. Lean into the idea that divisiveness is actually just synonymous with government doing their jobs properly and making necessary decisions, and see a theoretical liability turn into a strength.
The Liberals’ biggest advantage against Poilievre in the next just under 3 years is that they are the government, and they can use that to their strengths. They can either hide out in their departments and hope the Tories self-immolate, or they can start picking fights again. Lean in on divisiveness, and make it a strength, in the same way David Cameron took tough austerity cuts and made it an asset by claiming only he could be trusted to take the tough decisions for the nation’s future. (I know, I know, Brexit, but he did win a majority with that message.)
Divisiveness isn’t inherently bad, and many of the most celebrated accomplishments of the last half century were incredibly divisive at the time. It’s an incredibly stupid way to criticize the Trudeau Government, and not even a vote winner for the right.
So please, for the love of God, can everyone shut the fuck up about divisiveness?
Flip it back on them. Say that "divisive" is Tory language for "protecting Canadians" and force them to say out loud that protecting Canadians is bad.
You’re wrong, JT is not divisive himself, nor does he cause divisiveness. It’s the far right that polarizes everything. It is fair for him to refute and push back.