Doorstep Postings: A different kind of Canadian federal election view from Josh Lieblein

Josh Lieblein surveying the action at the 2018 CJPAC Toronto Action Party, alone

Welcome to Doorstep Postings, a collection of election-adjacent observations, brought to you by The Canadian Jewish News.

I’m Josh Lieblein, and for 15 years I’ve knocked doors, driven signs, made calls, waved things at passing cars on the side of the road, attended a couple of International Plowing Matches, asked planted questions, ridden on campaign buses, accumulated a collection of candidate-branded T-shirts I won’t wear anywhere except to sleep, embedded myself in deepest rural Ontario and in city-based locales where no English is spoken—also in Ontario—at all three levels of governance. 

Think of me as a sort of shaliach tzibur, an almost-nameless community representative, poor in worthy deeds, yet for some inexplicable reason given the chance to speak at length and at large.

No political operation can exist without invisible armies of people like me, and as much as some like to believe that well-run governments are the sole products of heroic leaders exerting their rare talents, those leaders should be the first to correct you (though they are no doubt happy to be mistaken for superheroes, or else they wouldn’t be in politics).

I decided to call this series “Doorstep Postings” because: 

  • this election will be decided on the doorsteps (though never directly—a good door-knocker focuses on mass engagement, not individual persuasion)
  • on every Jewish doorstep a mezuzah is posted, at a slightly off-kilter angle (like mine)
  • this is the 44th federal election, and the number four corresponds to the letter dalet, which is very similar to the Hebrew word delet, or door

and, most importantly…

  • because this election, perhaps more so than any other preceding it, will be decided behind closed doors—and deliberately so

Everything you see when you watch this election will be, for good or for ill, the product of unknowns like myself talking with one another out of sight and struggling furiously to direct things while simultaneously scrambling to remain invisible.

The first thing you must accept is that a successful election is like a successful stage play, an artfully arranged Purimshpiel. Errors are to be minimized to an almost unnoticeable degree—to the point that you need to be an experienced election expert in order to even perceive them. 

If you disagree with me—if you want to cling to your lofty conception of elections as the cream of society rising to the top to debate ideas for the benefit of all Canadians—just remember who we’ve elected PM for two elections going on three:

By this point, pointing out Justin Trudeau’s superficiality has become a cliche. It could be argued that the reason his opponents continue to lose is that they refuse to accept that Canadians know Trudeau is all about style over substance and conducts himself more like a celebrity than a politician—and they don’t care. 

Is the magician really pulling the rabbit out of a hat? No, but nobody respects the person who explains how the trick is done. 

This isn’t just a Liberal party parlour game. All politicians and parties do this, to varying degrees of success.

Admit it: the first time you saw Stephen Harper play the piano, it was surprising and even a little bit endearing:

This is also what the NDP is going for with Jagmeet Singh’s antics on TikTok:

The NDP thinks this makes him more authentic than the other options. We shall see!

So, one bit of advice to The CJN readers as we get underway: Turn off the Talmudic, analyzing, thinking parts of your brains and turn up your Jewish sense of showbiz.   

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.