Friday, June 14, 2013

The Fall Of The House Of Ford

Taking a moment to pray for peace
You gotta admit that it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Rob Ford is a bully and a hypocrite - quick to condemn the perceived weakness of others, to pounce on the supposed privileges of unionized workers or the effete absurdity of riding a bicycle instead of driving an SUV in our congested city. And yet he is clearly a man with many personal flaws whose (unearned) privilege as the son of a successful businessman has not only shielded him but has allowed to rise above his ability to function. Were he not the same guy who wanted to cut daycare subsidies for single mothers and wanted to close libraries, I might have had some sympathy for him. But I don't.

Nonetheless, I have to say that I honestly don't care if Ford smokes crack or performs Satanic rituals in his basement. The more I hear people - especially media commentators - talk about his personal failings the more uneasy it makes me. Most of it, frankly, just smells like nothing so much as simply snobbery and elitism. Ditto the comments about the fact that Ford's support base hasn't wavered in the face of the scandal. The Fordites are stupid and dogmatic, a cult, etc etc etc. Funny thing, I had a conversation last week with a Ford voter in a local haunt. He also smelled the snobbery of the whole thing: "the media hate him because he's a regular guy and not a slick politician." I mean, that piece in the Globe & Mail about Doug Ford selling hash in high school? Really? It might dismay the city's elite, who will drink martinis and snort cocaine but who would never stoop to something so pedestrian as hash or, god forbid selling it (it's one thing to buy the stuff, but dealers are so... so... gauche). But for most of us we probably knew people in high school who sold grass or hash or LSD, etc. It was like a higher paying, higher risk part-time job, more fun than working for McDonald's but with higher potential consequences. Very few high school dealers went on to become Scarface. If you don't like teenagers furtively selling dime bags and doobies in the school smoking area, it's pretty simple really - decriminalize it. They some big corporation can sell it and hire the former teenagers for half the pay and put them in stupid uniforms.

But I digress.
Personal attacks & mockery make Ford's base support him more

Normally, I'd say that the decimation of a (minor) right wing dynasty would be something to relish, particularly if the possibility existed to discredit the right wing more broadly. But this stuff is so apolitical that it will do nothing to advance an anti-austerity agenda, or more progressive politics in the areas of equal rights for LGBT, women, minorities, etc. The clamouring for Ford's noggin is not about creating a greener, more equal Toronto. It is a clamouring for a more effective, slicker, right wing dirtbag. As Rosie DiManno put it recently in The Star, "this is not about left or right." And that's exactly the problem. I say that if we have to have a right wing, pro-austerity, anti-equality mayor, I want an incompetent one.

The one bright light in this whole fiasco - I mean besides the sort of sports fan, voyeuristic pleasure one gets from watching a mock-Shakespearean tragicomedy unfold - is the way that it has expanded with the police drug raids to implicate Ford in a broader criminal conspiracy. Again, Rosie DiManno put it succinctly when she wrote:

"Yet this is no longer about the contents of a video that’s been seen only by three journalists. Toronto’s mayor, however peripherally, remains a character in a criminal tableau that now encompasses a sophisticated network of alleged drug trafficking, gun-running, robberies, a Dixon-turf street gang and attempted murders, and the mysterious plunge from a Fort McMurray apartment where police made an arrest three weeks ago linked to the alleged Ford crack video."

I have no doubt that the elite are only too happy to use drugs - likely something "higher class" than crack - while condemning dealers and low end users. If this at least exposes some of that hypocrisy - and the rumour is that the late Anthony Smith, of the infamous photograph, was a "dealer to the stars", then it will have been worth something. However, one of the many unfortunate sides of all this - the moral panic from the chattering classes about drug use, the snobbery, etc - is that Ford's political demise should have and could have been precipitated on a political, left wing basis if any of the leaderships of the official left or the trade union movement had ever really stood up to Ford and mobilized in a serious way to defeat him. Ford was always a shell and it was only the left's fear of his supposed invincibility that made him so. Instead of celebrating the defeat of an austerity warrior all we get is a soap opera spectacle.

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