If you believe all the Trudeaumania hype, Liberal-leader-in-waiting Justin Trudeau is like an irresistible force of nature.
He just can’t be stopped.
Indeed, a narrative is emerging in the media which casts him as an archetypal hero: the handsome, young, charismatic, son of a demi-god who, like some sort of latter day Alexander the Great, will lead his Liberal forces to inevitable electoral conquests.
It all sounds pretty cool, especially if you’re a long-suffering Liberal tired of wandering the political wilderness.
Yet before Liberals get too excited, they would do well to remember that every hero has a weakness.
For Achilles it was his heel; for Superman it’s kryptonite and for Trudeau it’s .... what?
After pondering this key political question for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that Trudeau’s main weakness, the one thing that can stop Trudeaumania dead in its tracks, is a well aimed custard cream pie.
Let me hasten to add, I am speaking metaphorically here. (So please no one throw a pie at Trudeau!)
The point I’m trying to make is that the best and most effective weapon the Conservatives and NDP might deploy against Trudeau is mockery.
Yes that’s right, mockery, humor, derision, all these things can be quite effective tools when it comes to degrading a political opponent.
In fact, one of the most famous political ads of all time was a 1968 TV spot lampooning the Republican vice presidential candidate at the time, Spiro Agnew. The ad was simple; it featured nothing but the sound of uncontrollable laughter as Agnew's name appeared on a TV screen.
Without using any spoken words it delivered a devastating message: You can’t take this guy seriously; he’s a joke.
And nothing hurts a politician more than ridicule. In politics, it’s better to be hated than laughed at.
Just ask Dan Quayle or Joe Clark or Stockwell Day.
And there are a couple of reasons as to why anyone wishing to hack away at Trudeau’s poll numbers should consider giving him the Spiro Agnew treatment.
First of all, Trudeau’s boyish good looks, his youthful idealism, his personal popularity, his lack of policy, all make it difficult to attack him with traditional negative ads.
Simply put, voters would resist the idea that this nice Trudeau could ever be “scary” or that he could possibly harbor a “dangerous” or “radical” agenda. (Besides, Trudeau has no agenda!)
Or to put it another way, launching a nasty negative attack against Trudeau would be like using a sledge hammer to smash a Teddy Bear.
Not only would such a tactic probably be ineffective, it could actually backfire and increase pubic sympathy for Trudeau.
Negative spots that employed mockery, on the other hand, would work much better.
Instead of airing a nasty TV spot which compares Trudeau to the spawn of Satan, run ads that target him with a humorous, light-hearted message that highlights and mocks his foibles.
Such a spot wouldn’t have the same sort of sting to it as a typical attack ad because when you make people giggle, you don’t come across as quite so mean, yet you’re still delivering a real punch.
And here’s the other reason Trudeau is especially well-suited to such a “mocking attack”: his inexperience coupled with his tendency to say politically inadvisable things should provide plenty of ammunition for those who might wish to paint him as something less than serious.
Indeed, I guarantee both the Conservative and NDP war rooms have filing cabinets bulging with newspaper clippings containing every comment or statement Trudeau has made for the past ten years.
From these, negative attack ad specialists could carefully select all of Trudeau’s kookiest utterances and plaster them all over the media. (And yes, he has said plenty of dopey things.)
Already, we saw a primitive and amateur example of this in action when Conservative partisans eagerly lambasted Trudeau on Twitter because he confused the words “decibel” and “decimal.”
Expect to see more of these sorts of attacks on a much larger scale.
And make no mistake, for Trudeau this threat is no laughing matter.
A “cream pie” assault is just the sort of thing that could transform him from an irresistible force into a preposterous farce.
A modified version of this article originally appeared in the Ottawa Hill Times.