Are Liberal ideologues saving or using Trudeau?

Like all political parties, the Liberal Party is a coalition of ideologues and opportunists: those who enter politics to get something done, and those who are in it for something to do. It has ever been thus.

What has changed is the correspondence between the two. In previous generations, the ideologues made use of the opportunists to achieve their ends. To do things like, say, medicare, you first had to get into government. If that meant consorting with rather less high-minded types – thugs, to be blunt, but thugs skilled at getting elected – so be it. For the ideologues, the ends justified the means.

Today the relationship is the reverse. The game is still about getting into power, and staying there, but now the opportunists have learned how to exploit the ideologues to their advantage. In today’s politics of irreducible personal identity and existential threats to humanity, the ferocious certainties of the ideologues are no longer an impediment to the more pragmatic ambitions of the opportunists, but a weapon, useful for intimidating their opponents and silencing criticism. For the opportunists, the means justify the means.

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