The Woke Will Always Break Your Heart
In September, Time obtained photographs of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in brownface at a 2001 party. After the images surfaced, Stephen Marche wrote that Canadian progressives must decide, as they prepare to vote in Monday’s federal election, whether they care more about Trudeau’s policy achievements or the pursuit of social and cultural change through the eradication of racist and sexist imagery.
“If voters who believe in multiculturalism cannot forgive face paint,” he argued, “the multicultural project as policy may not survive.”
Stephen Marche is always a pleasure to read, sharp in his sentences and provocative in his arguments. However, his recent piece for The Atlantic is misleading and erroneous in the choice it presents for progressives. And its discussion of brownface is especially depressing.
Marche makes a bold assertion in the essay: Justin Trudeau, he tells us, is “measurably, demonstrably the most sincere and effective prime minister in living memory.” Sincere is a curious word to use about a man who not four weeks ago was apologizing profusely for having dressed up in racist costumes through his entire 20s. Marche’s evidence for the “effective” part is an academic assessment that shows Trudeau kept 92 percent of his election promises, fully or partially. Marche does not break these numbers down. In fact, Trudeau fully kept 53.5 percent of his promises and partially kept 38.5 percent. For comparison, Stephen Harper, the previous, Conservative prime minister, fully kept 77 percent of his promises and partially kept 7 percent. While the authors suggest that not all promises are created equally (Harper made many “transactional” promises, which target subpopulations, whereas Trudeau made many “transformative” promises), one could read the same assessment and conclude that Harper was “the most sincere and effective” prime minister in recent memory. (I write this as someone who worked as a policy adviser in the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Trudeau government.)