Via Chet Scoville at The Vanity Press, a piece by Edward Keenan in The Eye Weekly about what happens when Rob Ford becomes mayor.
Not going to try and replicate the whole thing here. Chet's underlined some of the more important points, notably the flimsy and questionable assumptions upon which the whole "wasteful spending, city falling apart, taxpayer rage, yargle bargle bleghhh ... " narrative rests.
But there's something else about the piece that's even more disturbing, and it dovetails – again – with my continuing obsession with the celebration of stupidity. As Keenan argues, it's a mistake to see Ford as some scheming Machiavellian with a hidden agenda. The simple truth is, and I think Keenan's onto something here, that Ford has no coherent agenda at all. He is not going to find hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by cutting out catered lunches for councillors, replacing streetcars with more buses, or firing the guy who waters the plants at City Hall.
And whether you agreed with David Miller or not, the record shows that he managed to herd the cats – er, work with councillors to get things done. Even (God forgive me) Mayor Mel showed some proficiency that way. If Rob Ford's ever been able to work and play well with the other kids, I haven't seen it.
No, the most unsettling thing about Ford's ascendancy – and Keenan touches upon it – is the continuing buzz about his "authenticity." I've written before about how none of the lies, drunken rants, belligerent public misbehaviour or gaffes seem to stick to him, but instead underline his "regular guy" cred. He really does believe that bicycles shouldn't be on the road. And when he talks about servicing his constituents and cutting waste, he's not posturing or triangulating – he's being genuine. In Keenan's own words:
Except when childishly denying personal-life indiscretions or poorly thought-out comments, he speaks his simple truth as plainly as he can. In short, he is incapable of spin and his branding — such as it is — of himself as a plain-spoken, unapologetic truth teller is an honest representation.And that's the biggest problem. Not that Rossi and Smitherman and Thomson are trying to skim some of his support by trying to reposition themselves as smarter versions of Rob Ford. Not that Ford's vision, warped though it is, seems to have become the defining lens through which this election is viewed. No, if what Keenan's arguing is true, then the key to Ford's appeal is that he's genuinely sincere in what he's saying.
To which, in my snobby condescending downtown elitist way, I say: So what? What's so great about being sincerely stupid?
What's so great about a worldview that has no capacity for reflection? What's so great about reducing the complexities of politics and municipal governance to a series of sound bites and simplistic clichés? What's the benefit of using words to inflame and obscure? What's admirable about trumpeting your shallowness, your ignorance, and your lack of education?
Once again, it comes down to citizenship and its attendant obligations. Thoughtful civic engagement shouldn't be optional, regardless of what level of government you're talking about. I want policy decisions made on the basis of sound analysis and a thorough consideration of goals, resources and targets, not on the basis of some asshole's gut reaction. And Rob Ford's popularity is all about simplistic gut reaction.
His ascendancy represents the triumph of intellectual laziness and disengagement, of gullibility and an obliviousness to being played for suckers, and of a willingness to swallow bullshit whose flimsy transparency ought to be self-evident to anyone with more than a few brain cells. The prospect of his victory holds out little more than four years of stagnation. And that's four years lost that could be spent building a healthier and more functional city.
Sorry, but if you're basing your voting decision on a simple visceral desire to kick ass instead of a thoughtful and reasoned consideration of the issues, then you are a fucking moron. Stupidity is not a civic virtue. There's nothing to be gained by pretending otherwise. If you find that offensive, too bad. (H/t thwap, again.)
This is the damage done by 30 years of right-wing nonsense. And let's not kid ourselves, my friends. This isn't conservatism. This is destructive atavistic bullshit.