It’s a full two-and-a-half years since I last practiced the dangerously dark art of political prognostication.
I was living in Canada at the time and writing the weekly media column, Watching the Watchdog, for Huffington Post.
The dying, third-place Liberal Party had just elected a new leader, one Justin Pierre James Trudeau, only 43, son of Canada’s two-time prime minister, the late brilliant, dashing, raffish Pierre Trudeau.
Media reaction was that Trudeau the Younger had no chance of beating incumbent prime minister, Stephen Harper, who’d already spent nearly ten years as P.M. and was best described as a humourless, mean-spirited accountant with dictatorial tendencies.
Here’s my HuffPost column from October 19, 2013.
Sir Walter Scott wrote these stirring words 200 years ago.
O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword, he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
Aside from a slight geographic confusion, the poem pretty much sums up how nearly 105,000 Liberals felt about Justin Trudeau when he rode into town last Sunday evening.
Their knight in shining armour had arrived. Cue Leonard Cohen to sing Hallelujah.
This young Lochinvar had been a long time coming — it was seven months since the call went out to the four corners of the land for fresh, clean blood to save the dying Liberals.
Wanted — a new leader for new times. A leader to transform the sleazy, corrupt, amoral, scandal-plagued Clan Liberal. Someone faithful and dauntless who could make people forget the party’s often-sordid past and turn Clan Liberal into something you could mention in polite circles.
Thus it came about, last weekend in Ottawa, that after brief skirmishes which left few casualties and little of the usual bitterness along the way, six princelings from different sub-clans and parts and genders had come together with a thousand party members to answer that call for a new leader.
Vote for me, said each high-flown banner. For I am the best you’ve got and I alone will lead us to victory and to glory and save our clan and our nation.
And when the votes were counted, there was no doubt that the Liberals believed young Lochinvar was by far the best they’d got.
So they named him to be their rightful Grand Chief, waiting for the time when they will be called upon to save the nation (and the party) from the barbarians who had untimely seized their rightful crown.
The new Grand Chief of Clan Liberal made a speech which was both eloquent and touched the heart.
I love this country, my friends, and I believe in it deeply.
It deserves better leadership than it has now.
We are united, hopeful and resolute in our purpose.
But know this: we have won nothing more and nothing less than the opportunity to work even harder.
Work even harder to prove ourselves worthy of leading this great country.
We should be deeply, deeply grateful for that opportunity.
As your leader, I fully intend to make sure we make the most of it.
Change can happen.
Canadians want leadership that will work with them to make it happen.
Be hopeful my fellow Liberals.
Stay focused on Canadians.
We can lead the change so many people want.
A better Canada is always possible.
Together, we will build it.
And the next day, for his first time as Grand Chief of Clan Liberal, Trudeau rose to his feet in the House of Commons. And as is the custom in that House, he poured scorn on the chief of the barbarians opposite him, questioning both his honesty and his judgment.
Meanwhile, his new followers cheered and hurled mild insults across the aisle as is the primitive custom in that place.
The Liberal Party of Canada had started its return.
Scott’s poem ends with a question:
So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?
Obviously the Liberals have. And they’ve liked what they’ve seen. A lot.
But when the time comes, will other Canadians vote for Trudeau and his followers?
My own answer — perhaps unfairly influenced by these first, fine, fruitful days of spring — is that if this young gallant can take some of the blood out of the blood sport of politics, clean up the traditionally sordid ways of doing it, tell the truth to Canadians and offer integrity, absolutely anything is possible.
Including winning power in two years.
After all, young Lochinvar won his true love, “so lovely her face,” against all the odds.
Some five weeks ago, Justin Pierre James Trudeau became twenty-third prime minister of Canada.