MP Justin Pierre James Trudeau walks to work on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
Credits: TONY CALDWELL/QMI AGENCY
Asked on CTV whether he feels he has ever lived a middle class life, Trudeau said, "I was a high school teacher for five, six years in Vancouver. I drove a beat up old car. It was a twenty year old Mercedes that had pieces falling off of it. I lived in an apartment with a roommate." He went on to say: "I don't pretend to have ever had a worry about where my next rent cheque was coming from and I am very lucky that way." Justin's father was born into a rich family, and Justin has inherited political and social connections unavailable to almost anyone. He is a Trudeau, after all.
But does that mean he can't relate? Does he have to in order to help people less fortunate than him?
There is an old saying about fortunate people being born on third base and thinking they hit a triple. But some people are born on third base and they know they didn't earn it, just as they know that many people struggle to get an at bat.
Liberals in the U.S. vilified Romney for being a millionaire and demonized him for running a successful company. They ignored politics and his problem solving ability to paint him as a caricature, like Thurston Howl III of the old Gilligan's Island TV show.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was born into a family with success in business and politics. But even his detractors admit he does good work for underprivileged kids. Through his actions on behalf of citizens, he shows that he cares about poor people and they seem to like him. He relates.
Trudeau talks a lot about the middle class, but so do all politicians. The middle class is the bulk of the public and offer a huge voting bloc. But merely saying the middle class needs help accomplishes nothing. Actions, not words, solve problems, and actions follow policies.
So long as a politician can empathize with the fact that some people struggle, the challenge is for them to see what political road blocks slow people's journey and to work to smooth them over.
I am willing to wait to learn whether Trudeau's policies demonstrate an understanding of the middle class and the poor.
My challenge to those who rail against the "rich" (the business owners, bankers and the generally successful) is to remember that in order to be honest and consistent, you would have to automatically dismiss this young man, Justin Trudeau, born to terrific privilege.
But to do so would be to admit that in the past you would have automatically dismissed Franklin Delano Roosevelt, all of the Kennedys and Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
You would have dismissed Winston Churchill, son of a Lord and grandson of a Duke.
If you believe that a politician automatically cares about the poor and middle class by virtue of being a Liberal, then you would endorse any miscreant who comes along to carry that political flag. (Although to be fair, the party faithful in Ontario seem to be remarkably tolerant lately.) It's about ideas, Justin. Got any?
- Agar is the 9 a.m. to noon host on Newstalk 1010