I have a confession: I really enjoy being right about things.
When Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government started breaking its platform promises, I plastered social media with passionate (read: borderline ragey) anti-Liberal content. As someone with years of front-line experience with cynical Liberal power plays, I had limited hopes for Team Trudeau. And I wanted people to know that I was skeptical.
It didn’t work too well.
My neighbours, like many of us across Canada, had just overwhelmingly elected a Liberal MP. Regardless of past transgressions, they wanted to give the new guys a chance, and most people don’t follow politics closely enough to watch the scandals pile up. (Nor should they. We all have the right to a life outside of politics.) By failing to see that the change in government had made people feel hopeful, my negative lecturing backfired in the face of a Facebook feed full of friends who had used their ballots to vote for Liberals.
Fortunately for progressive organizers, the Liberal government has racked up a remarkable rap sheet of broken promises in just over a year of power. Aside from recent electoral reform and Syrian immigration backpedaling, the Liberals have failed to fund First Nations education, they haven’t repealed a word of Bill C-51, and they’re following the same emissions targets set by Stephen Harper. Heck, even Katimavik is publicly begging Trudeau to follow through on his promise to re-fund its youth leadership programming.
The cracks in Justin Trudeau’s government are starting to show; as organizers, we can choose one of two rhetorical paths. On the one hand, we can keep trying the “I told you so” approach by pointing out that Liberals never keep their promises and hope we can inspire enough disgust to turn the political tide. This tactic feels good because it involves saying that we were right all along… but it doesn’t do much to bring someone on board since they are being forced to admit they voted for the wrong person before they can be organized.
Incidentally, the Liberals want us to take this approach because it turns our supposed strength into our weakness. By spending our time raging, we are amplifying the image Justin Trudeau wants people to see: a unifying political leader who respects people’s diverse views and never stops smiling.
So how can we both neutralize that manoeuvre and build progressive capacity in communities where many of our potential allies voted for a Liberal?
Here’s my pitch: take it slow, stay positive, and help people figure out for themselves that they voted for the wrong guy. Talk to your neighbours about left politics and find common ground. If you talk about an issue where the Liberals have fallen short, point out that the Liberals have said one thing and done another, then suggest positive ways to solve the political problem at hand.
From there, keep tugging on loose threads. Slowly but surely over the next two years, we’ll build the strong networks and movements that will serve us well when Justin Trudeau has to answer for the broken promises we knew were coming.