Politics can be an amazingly fickle thing and in our history as a country, we’ve seen moments happen that have changed the course of campaigns in ways that we wouldn’t have foreseen. When I think of this, the best example that comes to mind is Brian Mulroney, Solange Denis and her “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment.
These are moments that stick in the mind of the public, speak to a greater truth and cut through all the noise. In short, they are moments that leave many people saying “yes, that’s right” or “wow, that’s so wrong”. The example of Solange Denis was so powerful at the time because it was caught by television cameras and beamed into the homes of millions of Canadians via cable and satellite. People got to see it, hear it, hear her voice, see her expressions, Mulroney’s reactions, all of it. It wasn’t the same as reading it in the daily news paper and had a deeper effect.
Living in the digital age that we live in now, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how different this age is for that. Today someone can record something on their phone and post it to social media for everyone to see and react to in minutes, giving the same potential for that kind of visceral reaction. So while seeing more of these images and videos, that doesn’t mean that everyone will have the “Goodbye Charlie Brown” effect on the public. But some still do, and they have the potential to drive home a bigger message in the public consciousness. Yesterday I would argue we might have seen such a moment, outside of a Liberal Party fundraiser in Vancouver:
Wow folks, wow. When I first read the story about this incident without seeing the video, I had one impression. But then seeing it, hearing it and taking it all in, that impression changed. For starters, the written story starts by describing this person pushing “a man dressed in a suit”. If you look closer at that video, it appears to me that the person in the suit seems to be a member of the RCMP detail that protects the Prime Minister. I say appears because the pin on the mans jack seems similar to those I’ve seen those members who are a part of the PMs detail wear before. So if that is correct, that’s not just some random citizen pushing back and that’s an important detail.
But beyond that is the response. The woman who pushed didn’t push very hard, but the shove that came in response was quite hard and sent the woman flying to the ground. And this wasn’t a young person either, as the story tells us this woman was 74 years old. A strong, healthy young man pushing a 74-year-old woman hard to the ground. In what circumstances would that series of events be seen as alright? The response from that man was hardly proportionate and the video shows that clearly.
And why was this woman there? She was protesting, exercising her rights in a free and democratic country. You can argue with what she was there protesting for, that’s fair and reasonable. But the response was not reasonable or appropriate here at all.
During the Harper years I saw my fair share of protests on Parliament Hill and marches on various topics. In many of those protests, you saw elders and seniors taking part in them. It wasn’t a surprise to see big police presences at those protests either. That was the time, that was that governments approach and that was the only outlet that many people had to be heard.
Justin Trudeau saw that like we all did, and promised to be different, to be better and to listen. That was what got him elected, that promise of better. As his years in office have gone on, we’ve seen more of that promise get washed away, bit by bit, to the point that lately “Sunny Ways” has turned into more of a punchline than a promise of hope. But that video from yesterday, wow, that is a different level and given the tensions out there in the public, it may not be a good sign of what’s to come in the campaign ahead.
Will this video be Justin Trudeau’s “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment? It’s hard to say. But when you see that video, you see that elderly woman shoved to the pavement in Vancouver with force, left prone on the ground; that sticks in your mind. It hits you in the face and is not something that is easily forgotten. But given where we are today, I think that video has the potential to crystalize the thoughts of many potential Liberal voters going into the Fall, and not in a way that I think the PM would hope.