Post-Partisan Politics

A typical usage of the oxymoronic phrase “post-partisan” politics popped up in the coverage of Justin Trudeau’s ascension to the leadership of the Canadian Liberal Party in April 2013. “The party remains light on policies,” conceded one news report, “leaving Mr. Trudeau with the challenge of translating his personal appeal into a cohesive electoral platform… by the next federal election, scheduled for 2015.” (Daniel LeBlanc, “Newly crowned Trudeau sets out to rebuild the Liberal Party, Globe and Mail, Apr. 14, 2013.)

The campaign team of Justin Trudeau, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, according to the report’s analyst:

Justin and Pierre Trudeau, in the pre-post-partisan era, c. late 1980s.

Justin and Pierre Trudeau, in the pre-post-partisan era, c. late 1980s.

“has long admired the ability of the likes of Tony Blair and Barack Obama to put their personal touches on a modern way of doing politics, and wanted to create a Canadian version of a broad-based, centrist approach to a grassroots politics. The goal is to transform the Liberal Party… into a movement for the post-partisan age.” Ten Bonus Points to anyone able to make sense of the previous two sentences of political bafflegab.

Post-partisan politics refers to a so-far non-existent utopian era of political stasis in which no one has any new ideas, policies, or intelligence. Values are faded to bland, language is bleached of meaning, and the post-partisan parties remain gridlocked, unable to agree on what to do. Politics is reduced to an adjunct of celebrity culture. At the liberal end of the spectrum, this is called “muddling through”; at the authoritarian end of the spectrum it’s called “North Korea.”

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