Well, well, well, it’s been quite a week or two. Rob Ford supposedly smoking crack on video. Doug Ford’s past as a supposed hash dealer exposed – along with the drug related charges and violence connected with his other siblings. This follows and endless string of scandals, foibles and general foolishness on the part of the mayor of Toronto. What fun!
There has been lots of handwringing about Ford embarrassing our great city on the world stage. We need a better mayor, they say. Nonsense, I say. Of course, we could use better political leadership. But that wasn’t what was on offer in the last election. We had the choice between Ford and Smitherman. And Smitherman is a right wing liberal who just happens to be a) gay and b) a very smooth operator. If Smitherman had been elected he would have been just as much of an austerity mongering hatchet man as Rob Ford. The difference would have been that he would have been effective. The incompetence of Rob Ford has ensured that his wacky agenda has been derailed at every turn – even by this largely spineless council (remember the unanimous vote to commend the police for their handling of the G8 fiasco?). Fools give confidence to the weak. Sad but true.
The other element that is heartening is that, ignoring Rosie DiManno’s jibes about Ford’s supporters being mindless dupes, working class people have not been that impressed by the scandal-mongering of the media. Doug Ford, scumbag that he is, is partly right that the media are going after the Ford brothers because they can’t touch their politics. The media by and large don’t disagree with their austerity agenda. They hate them because they have the kinds of personal “flaws” that plague many working class families. We all have relatives who struggle with substance abuse, mental health issues, etc. etc. So, when the media attack Ford for these things people feel like the elite are snobbishly attacking them – and they are. Remember all the brouhaha about Bill Clinton screwing around with Monica Lewinsky? Nobody cared. It had no impact on his popularity. The left shouldn’t fall into the trap of this kind of moralistic snobbery, which does little to build the left or opposition to the right. Stick to principles.
And, most deliciously perhaps, is that Rob Ford’s incompetence has helped deepen that growing crisis of the right. The expenses scandal that is engulfing the Harper Tories and the meltdown of the Ford mayoralty could be the tipping point that devastates the right wing in Canada in the way that the sponsorship scandal unwound the Liberals. The only real obstacle is the tepid opposition of the NDP, which has waged their usual race to the middle in order to appear respectable enough to govern. That worked really well in the BC election where a double-digit lead was thrown away. But the NDP are like the embodiment of that old definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. If the left actually stood up and fought the right they would galvanize people to join them. By refusing to be any different the NDP merely ensures that they will fail endlessly. Let’s hope that someone talented steps into the breach, at least in Toronto, and wipes out Ford Nation. My biggest fear is that the left will all fall in behind Karen Stintz and her centre-right agenda. Stintz might win but we’ll hardly be better off (transit aside) and we’ll have far less entertainment.