Political Entry Points

Social media is agog with photos of the newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister, the 43-year-old Justin Trudeau.  He looks like a movie star. 

His opponents tried to turn his looks against him during the campaign. “Nice hair,” one advertisement said, as reported by the Financial Times. “Just not ready.”

Trudeau does not just have his good looks to bank on. He also had the pedigree. His father, Pierre, held the same position in the 1970s. 

The new prime minister has an interesting resume: two bachelor degrees (literature and education), courses in engineering and environmental geography, and teaching stints for elementary math and high school French and drama. Before entering parliament in 2008, he played the role of a Canadian war hero on television. He sports a tattoo on his left shoulder. 

Were all these credentials enough to land him Canada’s top job? Probably not. Those who did not vote for Trudeau say he just got lucky because of the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth even if he did not have to work a day in his life. It was just because he was born to the right parents, sporting the right family name. The good looks did not hurt, either.

Here at home, these “qualifications” seem to ring a bell. While there has been a dearth of eye candies among our leaders, there is no shortage of politicians running on the merits of their more accomplished, and prominent, family members. 

No less than the President is a shining example. Before his mother’s death in 2009, Benigno Aquino III seemed content to be a lawmaker­—and rather lackluster. Her death, however, led to a clamor that perhaps, at a time when people were exasperated at their government, the son of a sainted family would make a good alternative. And how Mr. Aquino campaigned using this yarn—moral correctness was coming, to bring light to a nation rendered dark and hopeless by a corrupt administration. 

It worked until we remembered, too late, that this Aquino had never had to work a day in his life as well. A presidency is hardly a presidential campaign. 

And now that elections are around the corner, we see this advantage being played to the hilt all over again. We have candidates presenting themselves as the next best choice just because they are related to this and that, living or dead. Little emphasis is placed on what they have actually done by themselves, or where they would have been if there were no prominent connection in the first place.

Mr. Trudeau has the luxury of a full term to prove he is not just a pretty face or a familiar name. Mr. Aquino has had the past five years to show us that he could do so much  more than ride on his late parents’ popularity—and he has, for the most part, failed. Other candidates are asking for the opportunity to prove their own worth, too. We say be extra discerning—have we not learned our lesson numerous times over? 

Topics: political entry points

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