How The Heck Did Rob Ford Get Elected Mayor Of Toronto?
By now, you’ve probably heard of Rob Ford, Toronto’s alcoholic, distracted-driving, “Oriental”-praising, AIDS-victim-bashing, cyclist-hating, conflict-of-interesting mayor. He was allegedly recently captured on camera smoking crack (the video has been viewed by several journalists who take it so seriously, they are trying to raise money to buy it). While that’s all fascinating, the more interesting question is: how the heck has this guy been elected to various positions for over a decade?
Of course, we Americans are no ones to talk. Some of us just put Mark Sanford back in Congress; Marion Barry seems to have a career (and controversies) that just won’t die; the New York Senate is a joke; and… Newt Gingrich. I could go on, but enough said.
But that’s us. As Josh Barro at Bloomberg says, Canada is “supposed to be better than us.” So how did this happen? Once we get down off our incredulous judgement pedestals, we can see that Ford can be a savvy politician with a signature issue that struck a chord- and that his outlandish behavior and statements may have even helped.
1. His main issue is cutting spending.
Barro answers the question of how Ford got elected very well in his article. He quotes “Ontario-based conservative political consultant Jim Ross” in explaining how suburban-versus-urban divides in Toronto allowed Ford to press his central issue:
From 2003 to 2010 Toronto was governed by a green-left former councillor named David Miller, and a lot of his initiatives were perceived by suburban Torontonians as favouring downtown over suburbs, and specifically favouring bikes over cars. There was also a well justified perception of wasteful spending and personal overindulgence by downtown councillors, a very expensive retirement party for one of them was often cited. Rob Ford was elected as a reaction by the suburbs against what was perceived as a city hall hostile to their lifestyles and careless with their tax dollars.
According to Wikipedia, when Ford first became a city councillor, he immediately tried to cut the work budgets for councillors. I can’t help but think that Ford was more able to absorb this cut than the others because: Ford’s family is RICH.
Ford’s father started a multi-million dollar label making company. They have a huge estate. I think we all know that being a drunk big mouth with a record and getting into politics is a bit easier when you have a wealthy family.
But back to the more positive things.
2. He’s great at relating to voters.
Ford is famous for being reachable and relatable to his constituents. Even as mayor, he continues to contact residents directly about their problems- which many critics believe is pandering that gets in the way of actually running the city.
But put another way, he’s the candidate most people would want to have a beer with. And his constant stream of offensive statements could actually help that, creating the image that he is a normal guy standing up to city hall elites.
Boy, have we heard that one before. In a much more critical piece than the Bloomberg article, Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail lambasts those who voted for Ford for these reasons, and even for Ford’s budget proposals (which Gee says never really added up).
Any Canadians out there wish to weigh in?