The Rob Ford debacle may be humiliating for most Canadians and Torontonians, but it also shows clearly how the Right manages to triumph frequently in the face of reason. Meanwhile, the Left is showing off its talent in grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.
It’s incredible to most that a mayor who has done and said things that would make Homer Simpson blush has managed to maintain such amazing loyalty. Polling tells us his approval rating in “Ford Nation” is almost as strong as ever. It’s not just the sympathy vote.
Instead, this unswerving loyalty stems from his disciplined and religious adherence to the basics of framing and persuasion. Ford has never deviated from message, even when defending himself against the kind of charges that would destroy most politicians. He has never stopped talking about saving taxpayers’ money and cutting wasteful spending. According to him, he’s being accused of drug use, drunk driving and consorting with criminals in order to defeat his crusade on behalf of taxpayers.
It doesn’t matter that many of his claims are false. With massive privatization and sell-offs, the city is actually wasting money or losing money it was saving under Ford’s predecessor David Miller. Miller built up a big reserve fund, for instance. Ford has squandered it. But these things don’t matter. What matters is that Ford has stuck consistently to his lie and line.
He has continually painted the charges against him as politically motivated. Even this week, he was bellowing “socialist” at his tormentors in Council chamber.
So while you’d think the situation would be a golden opportunity for Toronto left-wingers to win back the public, this isn’t necessarily happening. Left-wing opponents of Ford’s have not used the situation to drive home a unified message — that Ford is a liar with criminal friends who can’t be trusted to deliver good and effective government.
Instead, their focus has been to harry Ford and drive him from office, a tactic that only plays into the left-wing conspiracy viewpoint and sympathy vote.
Toronto’s — and Canada’s — Left needs a unified and emotionally charged message that will cause people to doubt, of their own good sense, the claims of the right-wingers. Something like: “Stop selling off public property and services at fire-sale prices to rich cronies. You wouldn’t buy a car from greedy liars like Ford, Harper and Duffy, and you shouldn’t let them run your city or country either.”
The Ford debacle should not be allowed to be a crusade to drive one icky man from office. It should be a holy war to discredit every lie this creep stands for.
Ish Theilheimer has been a journalist and political communicator, and founded Straight Goods News, the progressive online news service that joined forced with rabble.ca in October, 2013. His column “Seen from the hinterlands” appears occasionally on rabble.
Photo: Eric Parker/flickr