August 19, 2010
If Rob Ford were anyone but Rob Ford, his dreams of becoming mayor of Toronto would be dead in the water.
But Rob Ford being what he is, his chances are better than ever.
This is the candidate whose every misstep brings him closer to his constituency. He can avoid the truth, break the rules, say stupid things, get arrested, charged, fined, and it really doesn’t matter to Ford’s supporters.
His opponents and the media can attack him all they like, but Ford’s people couldn’t care less.
Should they? Yes, of course. This is a man who would divide council, polarize the city and embarrass Toronto to no end.
But Ford supporters don’t give a damn. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.
Why should it bother them that in the course of 24 hours he would not tell the truth publicly about facing charges in Florida then state that trust is the only issue in the campaign?
That would have stopped a conventional candidate dead in his tracks. Look at what happened to Adam Giambrone.
Should it bother them that Ford, self-described family-man in a city that he says needs a family-man for mayor, was charged with assaulting his wife, though those charges were later dropped?
Earlier this week, Ford stood in front of the whole city — a city of immigrants — and announced that immigrants are no longer welcome here. Not only that — he got away with it.
Spoken by any other politician, such sentiments would have been the kiss of death. For believers, however, it wasn’t racist cant, but Rob telling it like it is.
Ford’s untruths might be harder to justify, but as he likes to say, “I never said I was perfect.”
No need to remind us of that; no politician has ever worn his limitations on his sleeve more than Ford. The man has made no bones about being a fool, an inarticulate dissembler with a weak grasp on reality, but this is a fool with momentum, a man-child on a mission.
To anyone who inhabits one of Toronto’s parallel non-Fordian universes, the prospect of his mayoralty is downright scary. It would set Toronto back years and make us a laughing stock, even to ourselves.
But again, those who would vote for Ford would not do so despite all this, rather because of it.
The rage against politicians, élites, experts, panels and the entire power structure has reached the point where many Torontonians do in fact trust Ford because they recognize themselves in him. He is angry; so are they. He’s confused; they are too. He feels as threatened by change as they do. He, too, is suspicious of things he doesn’t understand. He also rejects complexity and ambiguity. He is a black-and-white, no-nonsense kind of guy, full of bull and bluster in the tradition of Don Cherry, Harold Ballard, Mel Lastman….
And in a culture of civic impoverishment, Ford’s simple message that he alone is looking after taxpayers’ hard-earned money has great resonance. We’re constantly told we’re poor, and that the reason is our profligate councillors. Because of them, Toronto is broke.
This may be simplistic horse puckey, but so far it has worked. Ford has been the campaign’s major attraction and sideshow all in one.
His opponents will have to hope Ford’s candidacy unravels as revelations come out. But regardless how odious his behaviour has been, nothing has hurt him yet.
In the end, though, the thing about a Ford is that he brings out the worst in everyone, not just rivals. With friends like him, who needs enemies?
Christopher Hume can be reached at email@example.com.