Former President Barack Obama has been somewhat stingy where it comes to his political endorsements. He has not even weighed in on the current crop of Democrats who are vying for the honor of toppling his successor, the current President Donald Trump. His absence from the race is especially conspicuous because the vice president who served him, Joe Biden, is one of those candidates and could well use his help.
Indeed, the Washington Examiner once noted that Obama tried to discourage Biden from running. “You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t.”
Obama’s forbearance does not extend to people running for leaders of foreign countries. According to CNN, the former president tweeted his endorsement of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for reelection.
“I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President. He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change. The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.”
Obama’s endorsement shows, if anything else, the former president’s capacity for forgiveness when ideology is on the line. Trudeau kicked up a firestorm when pictures of him, the most recent from 2001 when he was a 29-year-old school teacher, in blackface. During his apology, Trudeau suggested that he did not know how many times he had gone out in public with his face darkened. The resulting firestorm severely damaged Trudeau’s prospects for reelection.
The Obama endorsement may not be enough to save Trudeau, according to a piece in the Toronto Sun. The prime minister finds that his popularity, once in the stratosphere when he was elected the first time, is in free fall. Indeed, Trudeau is less popular in Canada than President Trump is in the United States. The Sun suggests that there are three reasons for this development.
“The first: He over-promised and under-delivered.
“Trudeau did that a lot. On electoral reform, on balanced budgets, on ethical reform, on being the feminist champion and the indigenous reconciler: In every case, he promised the Earth but delivered only dust.”
The article notes an incident when Trudeau tried to rescue a Liberal Party donor from a corruption rap, in the process throwing two women, one an indigenous Canadian, who were witnesses against the defendant under the bus.
“Second reason: He thinks he’s far more charming and entertaining than he actually is.”
Trudeau is, by all accounts, one of those people who will tell an unfunny joke and then becomes baffled when no one laughs. He behaves embarrassingly and people, instead of being entertained, cringe. The blackface incidents are just examples among many that Trudeau thought were hilarious at the time, but in retrospect thinks the better of. The “peoplekind” incident also comes to mind.
“The third and final reason that Trudeau is less popular than Trump is neatly, and expertly, mirrored in the Conservative Party’s shrewd attack ad slogan: Justin Trudeau. Not as advertised.’”
It’s a truism in politics that one can’t beat something with nothing. Canada’s Conservative Party is mounting a pretty effective campaign to topple Trudeau from his premiership and replace him with their leader, Andrew Scheer. Scheer, by the way, holds dual Canadian and American citizenship. According to an article in the Atlantic, Scheer has won support, not just from white Canadians, but ethnic minorities by standing in opposition to Green New Deal politics and in supporting working people and business entrepreneurs. He has painted Trudeau as an international playboy, out of touch with ordinary Canadians.
History suggests that Obama’s endorsement is not going to persuade anyone who is on the fence to vote for Trudeau. Obama’s history of getting people elected who are not named Obama is sketchy at best. The first midterm election of his presidency, that took place in 2010, saw a bloodbath for the Democrats that saw control of the House pass to the Republicans. The second midterm, 2014, featured the fall of the Senate to GOP control.
Obama has, therefore, again, taking the risk of hitching himself and his political mojo to a falling star. It doesn’t matter, though. Barack Obama is out of elected politics and, slowly but surely, in the view of many, is fading into irrelevancy. Justin Trudeau may suffer the same fate sooner than he would like.