Another brick in the wall

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

Politicians aren’t heroes
Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already been facing a series of public relations disasters over the last year when photos were released of Trudeau wearing brownface at an “Arabian Nights” themed party in 2001. Most notably, in April the Canada Ethics Commissioner found that Trudeau had violated ethics rules by pressuring his former justice minister to drop criminal charges against a high-profile Canadian company accused of bribery and corruption.

But Americans, based on Trudeau’s international reputation as an innovative progressive leader, were likely unaware of the ethics scandal. Internationally Trudeau was mostly known for his commitment to fight climate change, his welcoming stance on accepting refugees, his commitment to gender equity in his own cabinet, and, perhaps most infamously, for being conventionally handsome.

Liberal Americans who see Trudeau as a progressive icon were likely shocked to see him participating in the blatantly racist tradition of black/brownface makeup.

Progressive Canadians have probably become more suspicious of Trudeau over the last year, given his policies haven’t reflected his curated public image. As comedian Hasan Minhaj (of all people) recently pointed out on his Netflix show Patriot Act, Trudeau has a history of hypocracy, including participating in the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline after making a public commitment to fight climate change.

I also have experience working for political candidates who don’t uphold the values they claim to represent. I briefly worked for a woman campaigning for Congress who privately demeaned other female candidates, despite her public statements about the importance of electing more women to office, and I overheard her using a racial slur once. It made me sad when I heard a young campaign volunteer talk about how inspirational and a great role model our candidate was.

This isn’t to say that all politicians are inherently deceptive and misrepresent themselves to the public, but I believe voters need to be more vigilant, especially with a presidential election coming up. Don’t just listen to candidates’ speeches–look at their public service record.

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