I look forward to the debates during Prince Charles' coronation.
I look forward to the debates during Prince Charles’ coronation.

The media reaction to Marc Garneau’s exit from the Liberal leadership race has not been kind. The party is “not a happy place“, the race is a “fiasco“, this is the “worst-case scenario“, is the Liberal Party serious?”. I haven’t checked out SunNews’ take, but I’d imagine they aren’t overly ebullient either.

None of this should be surprising. The media treats politics like a sporting event, and it’s hard to write a compelling story about the Dream Team rolling over Kazakhstan by 40 points. This has led to the return of the dreaded “c” word – coronation (I’ve even been guilty of using it in a few posts). With a Trudeau victory now innevitable, the term is being flung around derisively, with many drawing parallels to Ignatieff’s ascension in 2009.

However, that’s a completely unfair characterization of the race, and comparisons to the Ignatieff coronation are laughable. Just a month into that contest, the National Executive named Ignatieff leader, denying party members a say in the process and effectively forcing Leblanc and Rae to drop out. There were no debates and the final ballot had just a single name on it.

This time, we’ve been treated to one of the most open leadership races in the history of Canadian politics. There were few restrictions to enter, and 9 candidates declared, giving Liberals uneasy about the frontrunner plenty of choices. Unlike past leaderships which have been decided by a select group of delegates and party elites at convention, this contest has been open to any Canadian who supports the Liberal Party. No backroom deals to deliver delegates, no rules restricting membership forms. Hell, you don’t even have to pay $10 to participate.

Anyone who wanted to run could run, anyone who wanted to vote could vote, and Liberals got a chance to see the candidates in a range of settings. Voters have had 6 months to scrutinize Justin, and they’ve reached their verdict. Even if the convention becomes a mere formality, much like those that follow US primaries, that doesn’t mean other candidates weren’t given a chance.

Now, it’s perfectly fair to say the Liberal Party is making the wrong choice. That they’ve been swept up in nostalgia and blinded by wavy hair. I can understand how many are frustrated at the lack of concrete policies coming from the frontrunner.

But when you run a fair and open leadership race with 9 candidates and one guy wins overwhelmingly, it’s not a coronation. It’s an election where the vast majority of voters came to the same conclusion.

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25 responses to “Coronation”

  1. Hear hear. Thousands of volunteers workingthe phones, networking signing up no less than 294,000 supporters. This has been an extremely hared fought campaign. Just because there is an overwhelmingly successful campaign in the mix….

  2. The use of the word “coronation” in this context is obviously a metaphor. As such, I don’t think there’s a canonical definition for it. It is true that the race was open, and that there is voting, with a number of candidates to choose from. However, the fact is that JT was seen as the only possible winner at the start, and in all the months of campaigning, that has never been in question. For many observers, that counts as a coronation, and I’m sure they’ll to continue to use the word.

    I think the only way to shake this perception will be if somebody else actually wins (which, for all the hype, is certainly a possibility). Failing that, though, I’d expect to see any JT win referred to as a “coronation” for the foreseeable future.

    • “But when you run a fair and open leadership race with 9 candidates and one guy wins overwhelmingly, it’s not a coronation”

      That misses the point. It’s not whether it was open, fair, or well-populated with candidates that doesn’t make it a coronation, it’s whether it was competitive.

      It’s like when big Euro soccer teams go to Asia in the off-season to play a tournament against local sides. No one claims those are competitive. Sure, everyone started out on an even footing in theory, but really, it wasn’t competitive in the least.

      And it wasn’t. So, despite two, five or sixteen candidates, it is effectively a coronation in the sense that the others never had a no hope of winning.

      Whether that’s because Trudeau is the best option out there, or is such a formidable candidate that no-one else could win, or no-one else that’s serious wants the job is not relevant.

      • Sorry that wasn’t really in response to you Vancouerois, although I think we essentially agree.

      • To add, I think the Liberals would do better to embrace the fact that is was essentially a coronation, instead of flailing to deny a perception that a large majority of Canadians would agree with.

        • That’s a very good point.

          I don’t think there’s any harm in repeating that it was indeed an open contest and vote; but I agree that protesting too much against the use of the word “coronation” will simply be seen as… protesting too much.

          Better to accept that’s basically the perception, shrug, and move on. Generate positive press for the Liberal party, and by 2015 the “coronation” will be a non-issue.

          • Exactly. Turn it into a positive. Make it about how awesome he must have been to scare every serious competitor off.

          • Indeed. I think Liberals can basically say “Coronation? Whatever. Trudeau received overwhelming support. Next question.” This way we acknowledge that maybe there wasn’t a competitive race, still get the point in that there was massive support, and dismiss the coronation talk as background noise.

      • I tend to disagree. I think we can rightly consider this use of the word ‘coronation’ as a synonym to ‘appointment’. This isn’t an appointment. It’s an election, the choice of the body of voters. The distinction matters. A foregone conclusion? Apparently (especially these days). An appointment? Not really.

        Still, I don’t doubt Vancouverois is altogether right that we will continue to hear the ‘coronation’ complaint, especially from the Liberals’ competition, for the foreseeable future. I was tired of it weeks ago, so I’m sure I’ll be banging my head against the wall any time now.

      • Marc, I would put this as discreetly as your comments will allow….you are an idiot. An overwhelming win and vote of confidence from greater than 50% of a pool of 100,000 people doesn’t come close to qualifying as a “coronation”, especially not when the supposed “crown” he’ll be wearing at the end of this is leader of the 3rd of 5 parties in the legislature. Every CPC MP in Alberta wins with 60% + of the vote, are those all “coronations”? Stephen Harper won the leadership of the CPC with 63%, was that a “coronation”?

        • Many of elections involving Conservative MPs in Alberta are in effect coronations since they face no viable opposition.

          Stephen Harper won the leadership of the Conservative party on the first ballot with 68 percent of the vote against two candidates that had zero hope of ever winning, so yes, that was also a coronation.

          An overwhelming Trudeau win against a group of competitors of which not a single one ever had a hope of winning (and probably couldn’t be named in their entirety by half the readers of this blog without scrolling up) is, in political terms, a coronation.

          Did Trudeau face any real competition in order to win? No. Was he truly tested in this race? No. Did anyone, anywhere, at anytime doubt he would win? No. It’s a foregone conclusion. Dan’s post, and the other comments here to the same effect, are merely partisan window-dressing to cover something everyone already knows. (I mean that with no disrespect Dan.)

          Whether or not winning the leadership of the Liberal party is equivalent to the Stanley Cup or the Spengler cup is not relevant.

      • Yeah, I guess it all really comes down to language. My main issue is with comparisons to Ignatieff or the implication that the Liberals just went with Trudeau without even having a leadership race.

        Yes, it may have been a foregone conclusion, but sometimes foregone conclusions do lose leadership races (see Jim Dinning). Hell, one prominent columnist wrote about the Brian Topp juggernaut being as strong as Paul Martin’s early in the NDP race.

        • I’d agree with that re: comparisons to Ignatieff. I see Luke’s point and I think it’s all mincing meanings to a degree, but in political terms I’d say there’s a difference between appointment (Iggy), coronation (Martin, and likely Trudeau) and a real leadership race (Dion).

        • For all I know, it may not be a foregone conclusion at all – I don’t really know how the selection is going to work, but I have heard that sheer numbers may not be enough (because it depends on ridings?).

          However, people and the media have been treating it as a foregone conclusion. And if JT wins as expected, that impression will remain.

          • Even though I am leaning towards Trudeau being the best bet for the Liberals at this point, I would be delighted if he didn’t win just so all the pundits would have to eat their words.

          • I’m a little tired of the media as well although they are right. This is a coronation disguised as a race.We found out early what happens when someone challenges a chosen one.They get jeered and some of them even quit and throw support behind the preordained.The only goal here is to win for the sake of winning no one has any idea what to do after much less capable of doing anything.

  3. Let’s not forget that the term coronation means to crown a king. Let’s face reality here, when Trudeau wins he’ll be taking over the leadership of the third place party in the legislature, far from “kingly”.

  4. “Coronation” implies an appointment without popular support (an inside job…like Ignatieff), so why the punditry have applied this to JTs “bulldozing” of his opponents, is beyond me.

    I’m glad that you are pointing this out.

    • As Marc and I each say above, it’s a metaphor that’s open to interpretation. To you it may imply an appointment without an election; to many, many other people, it also refers to a contest where the outcome is never remotely in doubt.

      Perhaps more importantly, it’s a metaphor that I’m pretty sure will continue to be used, whether you believe it’s appropriate or not, so may as well accept that…

  5. Sounds like for some, it is only a “real leadership race” if their candidate wins. No one was appointed, and if the ‘old boys network’ still exists, this race was open to everyone who wanted to be involved. Coronation may be the end result but it was a leadership race from the get-go. You’re immune to mere charisma and need some convincing — which is a good thing. But those who try to make this seem like less than a real act of democracy need to put their conspiracy tinfoil aside and wonder why you are toying with the Harper meme. Get over it.

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