Why did Christie Blatchford vote for Rob Ford? In an article today, she tries to explain. And those of us interested in democratic processes would do well to heed her words.
Ford is a stunningly stupid man. The photo above no doubt captures what Blatchford would agree is the “authentic” Rob Ford: laughing with his eyes closed. Doesn’t that sum up his appalling reign?
But Blatchford knows all that. She says so. His gaffe-prone stumble through office had left her forgetting why she voted for him. Then she went to court to watch his libel trial, and she remembered.
It was never that I loved Mr. Ford, either the detail of his politics or who he is particularly.
Rather, I liked who he wasn’t. [emphasis added]
What follows is instructive. Blatchford nurses a considerable grievance against an alleged Toronto “soft-left ruling class,” (SLRC) a phrase that needs some parsing. Recall that the people she goes on to name—“David Miller, [Ford’s] pretty-boy predecessor,” Jack Layton, Sandra Bussin, Olivia Chow—were elected, and worked hard to be. But Miller was tossed, and so was Bussin. As we know, Layton and Chow moved on, riding a comet of votes. But Blatchford claims that the same crowd is still running City Hall.
An elected ruling class? I can hear gasps on Bay Street.
But I get her point. Wherever there are decision-making people in a group, a culture will form. There will be shorthand, and knowing looks, and mutual reinforcement, and social gatherings. Some will inevitably feel excluded:
I remember that so vividly, the smugness, the preening disdain for outsiders, even if, sometimes especially if, they were actual citizens.
On the surface, this appears to suggest that the SLRC reserved their finest bottles of vintage contempt for non-citizens. This runs so counter to observation that I wish Blatchford had expanded upon it. Yet once again I think I get what she means. A citizen in particular (Blatchford’s giveaway here suggests that she might have been projecting a tad) has a right to be taken seriously, dammit, to be heard and respected, no matter if he or she has cranky, unfashionable, SUN-constructed views. She may even have experienced the sting of exclusion first-hand.
Ford was the outsider, a latter-day Willie Stark, everything the establishment wasn’t. No metrosexual he, certainly no intellectual, but a straight-shooter, a WYSIWYG guy incapable of guile or sophistry, the anti-politician politician—a fairly hoary topos by now.
Mr. Ford is surely deeply flawed. Well, so are most of us, me anyway. But, to use a modern term, he is also authentic.
This is key. A lot of voters have no problem with flawed politicians—the ones who excite perennial suspicion are the flawless ones, which explains the notion of “scandal,” with its twin resonances of surprise and inevitability. You might not like everything Ford says and does, but you know he ain’t shittin’ you.
Of course he does, and he is, and he will, but his solid core of voters sees only the favoured stereotype. Ford Nation wants to believe. A little cognitive dissonance amongst the electorate is hardly unusual. Ford may well get back in, if he can curb his many enthusiasms.
This, too, is telling, and a perfect summing-up:
…Watching him being cross-examined by Messrs. Shiller and Caplan - who once used the word “lacuna” in his closing submission, then, for the rest of us not so smart as he is, added helpfully, “that gap” — was a brilliant reminder of why once upon a time, I marked an X by Rob Ford’s name.
Big city lawyers with their fancy words. They think we’re stupid. Yeah? By God, we’ll give them stupid.
[H/t Jim McGrath]