10 April 2020

The Guardian: “Justin Trudeau: the rise and fall of a political brand”

Within seconds of the opening bell, Brazeau pinned Trudeau against the ropes with an onslaught of heavy jabs. But the Conservative senator soon exhausted himself. Early in the second round, Trudeau seized on the opening, raining down blows on Brazeau. Less than a minute into the third round, as the Liberal MP continued to pummel his opponent, the referee halted the fight and declared Trudeau the winner.

That victory was one of the first major triumphs in a branding campaign that helped to transform Trudeau from a politician widely derided as a lightweight into a global political superstar. “It wasn’t random”, Trudeau told Rolling Stone in 2017, referring to the boxing match. “I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy, tough-guy senator from an Indigenous community… I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.”

The sort of potent spectacle that characterised his fight with Brazeau was, until recently, a hallmark of Trudeau’s tenure as prime minister. Like Barack Obama, Trudeau seemed to understand better than other politicians how to adapt the old ideas of political marketeering to the new realities of social media. He was a master of the viral video clip or poignant photo that seemed to express the worthiness of his government and the virtue of his politics. He became, as a flurry of academic research has put it, the first prime minister of the Instagram age. “I think he’s probably the best national leader since Ronald Reagan at projecting a certain image”, says Warren Kinsella, a former Liberal strategist.

Ashifa Kassam

I haven’t watched Canadian politics closely (and with so much happening in the world, it’s rather complicated to do), but the stories from this article about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau don’t paint him in the best light. With Donald Trump as President in the US, the last thing we need are more politicians that focus on their image and personal brand more than their policies and the necessities of the countries they’re leading. In Trudeau’s case though, he seems to be managing the current crisis much better, even from isolation, so maybe there’s some substance behind the carefully constructed brand.

Trudeau with his wife and children in Amritsar, India in 2018
Trudeau with his wife and children in Amritsar, India in 2018. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty

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