Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Regime Change

Oct 20, 2015

"It was not the destruction that excited me but the sense of something utterly new coming into being, some fresh, immense possibility of political life, a new community of hope, and above all the strangely inspired note -- like a new language -- that sounded in the voices of those who were witnessing it. It was a glimpse of 'the dream come true', the golden age, the promised land."

While waiting for the polls to close yesterday I was reading Richard Holmes, the British biographer, and that passage from one of his essays in Footsteps struck a chord. He is writing about Paris in 1968, "the new French Revolution", and I recognize there is not a lot of comparison to the election result but still... there is a bit of "a new community of hope" in the country today, isn't there, with the odious old regime deposed?

There were many comparisons being drawn on the telly last night to our own '68 -- that is, the election of Trudeau père -- but as some pundits pointed out the son's accomplishment was far more stunning than the father's. Pierre generated enormous enthusiasm (Trudeaumania) for his style and charisma but in hard electoral terms his victory in the 1968 election was not that dramatic. He had taken over leadership of a party which was already in a minority position and he only added 26 seats. His son, on the other hand, went from third place to first and added an astonishing 148 seats.

By no means a revolution, but certainly a sea change. Holmes also reminds us that "the sense of disillusion set in quickly after May '68." We'll see. Meanwhile, as a paid up member of the "anybody but Harper" party, I intend to hope for the best.