The Globe published a rather odd little article today: "Former MP Mulroney: Underestimate Justin Trudeau at Your Peril". Some of the online commenters interpreted Mulroney's statements as support for Trudeau.
As I was reading the article, I took exception to this sentence: "The 40-year-old politician is already a polarizing figure for the party, simultaneously inspiring a rockstar-like idolization and criticism that he lacks the political acumen required to take the party forward." My thought was: What bunk. I know a lot of people who admire Justin Trudeau, but I don't know anyone who idolizes him, and he's not that inexperienced...
Then it hit me.
Mulroney is bang on the money in doing the one thing to thwart Justin.
If people see Justin Trudeau as a pretty boy / charmer / son of a famous man / dilettante, then expectations for his performance will be lowered, which is exactly what he needs to get a good footing as party leader.
With Dion and Ignatieff, our expectations were so high that nobody could meet them. We wanted Instant Success - we wanted them to win in their first election - we suffered agonies when they made missteps. If the Liberal party is going to climb back up, we have to break that habit; give our leader time to grow.
During the 2000 US presidential election campaign, George Bush performed very badly, but he got away with it because he exceeded the very low expectations people had of him. During his debates with Al Gore, the commentators would say that while Gore did much better than Bush, Bush did better than expected - and they'd call the outcome a tie.
Low expectations are a powerful tool. Let's not be quick to dismiss them.