Sadly, of course, both political parties and the political press insist on characterizing modern elections in just this way. Leaders, not parties or platforms, are placed front and centre in all messaging, while elections are described as tournaments among single champions.
Yet neither Prime Minister Trudeau nor President Donald Trump always gets his way. Both can be, and have been, called to account at least at times, and both clearly want to do things they haven’t yet done, or even attempted to do, because they cannot do just anything they like. They depend for the power on their parties and other networks of support.
It’s not wrong for us, however, to examine closely the quality of leadership available for our choice. American presidents remain what Americans like to say they are: the most powerful men in the world, despite the vaunted checks and balances of the U. S. Constitution. Canadian premiers and prime ministers at the heads of majority-holding parties are virtual dictators, restrained only by the courts, public opinion (heavily modulated by the media), and major donors.
It matters, therefore, that the best our Canadian parties will give us are the likes of Trudeau, Scheer, Singh, May, and Bernier. South of our border, we see that the Grand Old Party continues to be dominated (“led” is perhaps not the right word) by Donald Trump, while the excruciating winnowing process continues among Democratic presidential candidates.
We are right, therefore, to focus on leaders. But how we focus on them is key.
Since we can’t avoid talking about him a little more, let’s talk about him a little more. Sensible defenders of Donald Trump—and I’ve read a few, and met a few more—consistently make a sharp division in their appraisal of his presidency.
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