What if I told you that an American writer and former employee of George W. Bush and Rick Perry published a novel where the protagonist shares the same name as our Prime Minister? Is it a weird coincidence, like how there are different independently-developed Dennis The Menace comic strips in America and the UK, or is it part of the secret American plot to undermine our national unity so they can steal our water and force us to abandon our exorbitant tariffs on milk?
Author Curtis Edmonds contends that he created the character of Justin Trudeau-Fairchild in 2014, before he even knew our Justin Trudeau even existed, as part of a series of humour columns lampooning those ka-razy Social Justice Warriors. “I chose ‘Justin’ because of the link to the Social Justice Warriors, ‘Fairchild’ because it’s a classic WASP name, and ‘Trudeau’ for Pierre and Garry,” he said. As such, and in a baffling oversight by the marketing department, the novel was actually published as The 2016 Campaign Diary of Justin T. Fairchild, which is probably why it has gone unnoticed by most Canadians.
This typical American cluelessness about Canadian culture merely lends credence to Edmonds’ explanation for why his protagonist and our PM share a name, as does his linkage of Papa Doc Trudeau with the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip (they are not related). There are a few unintentional similarities, however. Edmonds’ Trudeau-Fairchild is a silver-spoon progressive with an unhealthy admiration for Hillary Clinton and a paper-thin resume.
Trudeau-Fairchild takes his love for the Democrats one step further than your typical Liberal and actually takes the initiative to join Ms. Clinton’s doomed 2016 campaign as an unpaid intern. He actually completed a degree in social justice, as opposed to PM Trudeau’s one year of a master’s program in environmental geography, and his parents are described as deeply committed professional protestors instead of a swinging philosopher-king and a social advocate for people with bipolar disorder. (Weirdly, we learn that Fairchild’s mother’s maiden name is not even Trudeau, but that she changed it because she had a crush on Pierre Trudeau.)
Mr. Trudeau-Fairchild’s politics do appear to run further to the left of the privileged PM. Early on, he endorses the idea of a wealth tax, which is something the 23rd Prime Minister probably wants but was probably told to stay away from by Gerry Butts. “How can we say income inequality is a serious issue,” Fairchild complains, “and not fight for a policy that we know will do something about it?” Sounds a lot more like the real PM than the author was probably intending!
Young Trudeau-Fairchild’s idealism clashes time and again against the ridiculous realities of the Clinton campaign. As this happened, I began to like him a lot more than the real Trudeau. For one thing, he is a lot more respectful to women than Real Life Trudeau, engaging in a consensual and (mostly) egalitarian relationship with Emma, a passionate elitist and fellow Clinton partisan who he later marries. He refuses to engage in helping politicians dodge scandals — again, something the Prime Minister does on all days ending in “Y”. He is good at making memes, while our Prime Minister is good at appearing in memes. He truly believes in making a difference, while PM Trudeau is interested in maintaining the eternal dominion of the Liberal Party of Canada. He convinces himself that the ends justify the means, which is not great, but at least he is honest enough to say so out loud. He has memorized all the governors of Connecticut, whereas Trudeau can’t even remember all 10 provinces.
All in all, Justin Trudeau-Fairchild appears to be a decent, if rather dim, human being who actually believes his own nonsense enough to sound sincere. He also seems a lot more pleasant and a lot less violent than your run-of-the-mill Social Justice Warrior. He’s selfless and unprepossessing, a far cry from the narcissistic selfie PM. When he does lie, it’s in service of his cause, which he genuinely loves, and hardly ever to promote himself. When Trump does win, he does not subtweet the new President or scream at the sky, but instead rededicates himself quietly and nobly to his cause. In short, the fictional Trudeau is a considerable improvement over the faux-minist bro-cialist currently running our country.
So, how does the novel stack up on artistic merits? Well, it wears its partisanship on its sleeve, and you’ll either like it or you won’t. One thing I did appreciate, however, is how Edmonds lets his nutty leftists bounce off one another without constantly hammering home how wacky they are supposed to be, which puts it head and shoulders above most Canadian government comedy. Other jokes went over my head, such as Justin’s political powerhouse Aunt Joan’s pronouncements on whether things are Ready or not, or references to Tom Cotton, Greg Abbott, Fawn Hall, the peculiarities of Amtrak routes, and the carried-interest loophole.
I also liked how the novel slowly pulls back Justin’s veil of ignorance and shows the corruption endemic to the campaign and the Democratic operatives. Revelations of the links between the Qataris, FIFA and the Clinton Foundation are treated as normal, if slightly distressing. Justin and Emma shred the infamous Clinton emails in a scene that subtly reveals that they know what they’re doing is wrong, although they never say as much. Justin is tapped to run in a New Jersey Congressional District that he’s never set foot in and insults the gas company that practically owns everything in the district in his maiden speech, before learning exactly why he can’t release his tax returns without exposing a network of loopholes that keep him from paying anything and accidentally encountering an email from Debbie Wasserman Schultz calling him an idiot and disinviting him from the Democratic National Convention on the grounds that he might say something stupid. (Clearly, the Democrats have far better quality control than the Liberals.)
Still, the novel does fixate on taking as many shots at Hillary Clinton and the Democrats as possible, which after a time began to rankle my Canadian sense of fairness. Trump doesn’t show up until a third of the way through the book, and the other contenders for the Republican nomination barely rate a mention — one chapter focuses on Justin creating a meme attacking Marco Rubio’s speedboat, which backfires, for example. Wouldn’t the real 2016 Democrats be laser-focused on Trump’s awfulness, and wouldn’t some more of that awfulness make it into the final product? He seems mostly absent from a campaign that was, in many ways, all about him. Which is odd, since he’s the ultimate foil to SJWs.
To that end, the Democrats as they are portrayed here are far too silly to be really evil, and though this might be true-to-life it comes off more like Primary Colours or Thank You For Smoking. The 2016 Campaign was built up as an apocalyptic struggle between bad and worse, and while I like that Edmonds takes some pains to humanize his villains, one or two really darkly funny moments would have stood out if they were drawn to their conclusions. One scene, where we hear an (unnamed) Hillary Clinton having a tantrum through a hotel room door because she can’t watch NCIS Los Angeles, hints at some real ugliness that we unfortunately never see.
Finally, I was expecting all sorts of mockery of the excesses of SJW madness, and while there are thankfully no “I-sexually-identify-as-an-attack-helicopter” jokes, I found these American (alleged) SJW’s to be less threatening than even their Canadian counterparts. These radicals are far too polite, calmly calling out one another’s microaggressions with only one misunderstanding over the proper way to be a trans ally spiraling into something resembling the intersectional dumpster fires of Tumblr’s darkest depths. Where’s the justification of racism against white people on the ground that it’s not racism? Where are the rationalizations of pedophilia? Where are the people who get triggered by someone accidentally covering the letter “g” on a box of grape juice?
These are quibbles, mostly. As satirical own-the-libs narratives go, Snowflake’s Chance delivers. It’s silly, but it injects some much needed levity into the rabid partisan divide that American politics has devolved into. Some parts were tantalizing enough that I wanted to learn more and read more of Edmonds’ columns, such as Justin Trudeau-Fairchild’s newborn son’s affinity for a fluffy elephant doll sent trollishly by his Republican opponent over a less impressive Democrat donkey. If you want to see SJWs being SJWs and want to laugh at those SJWs being SJWs, Snowflake’s Chance is for you.
But there’s one last thing we need to resolve: Does Edmonds do a good job of skewering the Prime Minister? He does appear in the novel during a chapter depicting the Canadian visit to the Obama White House. So, how does Prime Minister Trudeau come off? Did all those PMO charm offensives — that we taxpayers paid for — work?
Well, for one thing the Prime Minister Trudeau of this fictional universe speaks in complete sentences without “um”-ing and “ah”-ing all over the place, and he claims to not want to interfere in American politics, so I must give Edmonds a 0 for 2 on verisimilitude there. But he does make fun of Trudeau’s hair for being “arranged in a sort of an awkward pile that seemed to be slipping to one side”, which made me laugh, and Justin Trudeau-Fairchild does pick up that Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, is a fake progressive, so it balances out.
However, we soon encounter a fictional New York Times article covering Justin Trudeau-Fairchild’s New Jersey campaign, which was the (possibly unintentionally) funniest thing in the novel for me. Firstly, the NYT article is far harsher than any real-world column would be on Justin for campaigning on “Canadian themes” — which in this novel’s world involve shoveling snow and posing in a kayak. This is what Edmonds’ fictional NYT calls “campaigning like he was running for the Canadian Parliament in a suburban Ontario riding”.
All I can say is that if you want to run in a suburban Ontario riding you had better be prepared to demonstrate more savoir-faire when it comes to minority politics than Justin Trudeau-Fairchild seems capable of. Also, while Trudeau has been known to look like a complete goof in a kayak, a canoe would be a better candidate for “a traditional Canadian form of transportation.”
Even so, this fictional NYT article still manages to have fewer errors than your basic American reportage on Canadian affairs, so let’s be charitable and go with the idea that this was Edmonds’ intended target.
I will end with one final observation that sums up, I feel, the lessons of Snowflake’s Chance and the inevitable disappointment that comes with idolizing the real-life Justin Trudeau. There is a recurring thread throughout the novel where Justin Trudeau-Fairchild feels rather insignificant when compared with Justin Trudeau, with his chiselled abs and silly comic-book covers where he is shown in the ring, boxing gloves on and ready to take on some unseen and possibly nonexistent opponent. If Edmonds gives us more of his hapless Democratic-Socialist Don Quixote, let’s hope that he, and the Americans he has primarily written for, and Canadians too, dispense with shiny appearances and give some thought to the gritty realities of politics.