The Liberal Party is the party of the young. Trudeau won their support. Mulcair and Harper didn't. That's why Trudeau is prime minister and Mulcair settled for picking up Trudeau's old lease at the Motel 6 out on the Gloucester Highway.
Trudeau won their support. Now he's got to earn it. Until he consolidates it with meaningful action, he could lose it again. During the decades of neoliberalism the young stayed away from the polls. The parties didn't resonate with them. Politics didn't speak to their worries, their issues. That has to change.
And so I've penned this open letter to our fledgling prime minister.
Dear Mr. Trudeau:
I was around when your father captured our imagination with his "Just Society" idea. It was riveting. Rights were to be enshrined, readily enforceable. Government powers were to be restrained, limited, put into a democratic balance with the rights of the people and of individuals.
Not only did he dream it. He proposed it. He sold it to us. We bought it. Then, best of all, he fulfilled his promise and delivered us our own Magna Carta, our very own great Charter.
How brilliantly this, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has served us during the intervening decades and it is as fresh and meaningful today as it was the day it was enacted. How wonderfully it served us during the last regime when it regularly thwarted Harper's impulsive instincts.
I'm going to suggest that you take a page out of your father's book and bring us "Just Society 2."
The Charter was all about entrenching constitutional, liberal democracy. In the intervening years, however, a new threat has arisen - neoliberalism. Just as the Charter vested in Canadians real democratic power, neoliberalism has undermined our democracy, eroded our state sovereignty. It has ushered in the rise of corporatism. Today the imbalance isn't between the state and the citizenry. Your father resolved that. It's now between the corporate sector and the citizenry.
The imbalance lurks behind a variety of social ills, societal malignancies, including the wage gap: the rise of inequality of wealth, income and opportunities; the severance of the bond between government and citizen; the subordination of the responsibilities of government to the populace in favour of the influences of commerce. All of this, and more, leaves us with a society that is no longer as "just" as your father left us. It is tarnished, enfeebled, and, at its rotten heart, transactional. These are the benchmarks of a society in serious decline that, if not arrested and reversed, ensure eventual democratic collapse.
Your come from behind triumph in the last election wasn't due to the Old Fart vote. It was the legions of young Canadians who turned out to vote Liberal that put you over the top. A smart politician would understand that, once you've got a demographic advantage, you nurture it lest it move on to someone else.
And you should remember, you weren't entirely responsible for your youth vote. So was Harper. Who can forget this charming little ditty?
You might have noticed the line about how, if the next guy (that would be you) is no better than Harper they'll send him packing too.
Back to neoliberalism/free market fundamentalism/globalization. That was sold to us as something as powerful and unquestionable as some law of physics. It was an irresistible truth and only penury and ruin awaited us if we resisted. However, if we embraced it, it would be a future of sweetness and light.
Here's the thing. Imagine if on a particular Sunday in Christian churches around the world, the priest/minister/pastor informed the congregation that the "afterlife" thing, well that was all sort of made up. Not real. Surely you all knew that, didn't ya? Yeah, well, it was a great way to get people coming back for 2,000 years and it was too good to let go. No harm, no foul, eh?
How full would those pews be the next Sunday? Not very, I'm guessing. The afterlife thing has worked so well precisely because the guys preaching it can never get called on it. It's your reward - after - life. You gotta be dead to claim it.
Neoliberalism, like Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islamism, every-other-ism, is an ideology. It's made up. It's not based on any real science. It's faith based and it rests on a lot of dodgy assumptions. Now here's the problem. You're not supposed to have to wait until you're dead to reap your neoliberal reward. No, you're supposed to get that here on Earth and it's supposed to come in the form of more jobs and better wages. Think of it as "prosperity" in lieu of "afterlife."
Only it hasn't lived up to all the promises, except for a very small segment of the population, the most advantaged of us all. They're making out like, well, bandits and the rest of us are getting screwed which also closely resembles banditry. People are tired of getting screwed.
Neoliberalism has run out of time. It's losing its following, rapidly. That's what has sent Americans in droves to back a pathological liar and blowhard. Even the IMF, the very temple of neoliberalism is now calling "bullshit" on that failed religion, blaming it for driving inequality and economic chaos.
That's the problem with ideologies, religious or economic. They're belief based. Once the belief evaporates there's nothing left, nothing to salvage, nothing to rebuild.
The problem with neoliberalism is that it's a bad tooth, it has to be pulled before the toothache is going away. Until it's pulled the pain is going to get steadily worse. Other complications may set in.
That means sweeping away the failed ideology, separating fact from fiction. It means reconsidering our economic policy, rebuilding opportunities for a vibrant manufacturing sector free of the restraints that we accepted under these trade deals. It means giving our young people at least some taste of the opportunities that we enjoyed at their age.
Jefferson knew and he warned his countrymen that democracy is always in peril and, every now and then, it needed a real shakeup to reset it. That time is here now in Canada.
Take the opportunity that's staring you in the face. Oh yeah, if you do I promise I'll stop calling you "Slick."