When I think of what it takes to really lead the Liberal Party, I think of St. Jean Baptiste day, 1968. Separatists, enraged at seeing Trudeau, launched a barrage of rocks and bottles at the reviewing stand where he was seated. As others fled to safety and his aides urged him to run, Trudeau stood his ground, seemingly enjoying the chance to stare down the mob. He swept the federal election the next day.
Those of us who watched the TV film of that spectacle were rocked right on our heels. There was this guy, our guy, who could easily have been badly injured or worse, just staring down this mob. We were all floored at how casually he refused to run, how dismissive he seemed that they could think they'd scare him. It doesn't get much better than that. It really doesn't.
That's what it takes to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. It's all about vision and the courage to defend that vision. Jean Chretien, Pierre Trudeau - even those who despised them respected them because they commanded respect. Pierre Trudeau eventually lost Canadians' support but he never lost their respect. That's what distinguished Trudeau from Mulroney.
It's curious that we seem to have turned away from that style of leadership. Ignatieff, Rae? Come on. They both have intellect but neither is the sort of brawler needed to put this party back on its feet.
Why do we need a scrapper? It's because we carve out our majorities from the centre. To do that - and this is the key - you have to be willing to go straight for the left and the right, knock them down and kick them right to the curb. That's the way it works. If you don't, they steadily squeeze in from the left and from the right, until you finally run out of breathing room.
It's not as though our leader can't be tough and intellectual. Who better to prove that than Trudeau? But intellectual without a heaping helping of tough isn't going to get us anywhere.
Many thanks for the link to this newsclip:
That's what we came to expect in a leader. Now, in these difficult and dangerous times, isn't that exactly what we need?