Calgary Herald

Five tools Rob Ford is using to get re-elected


Here’s what we’ve discovered, so far, from Rob Ford’s comeback: We in the media still adore him. That’s not to say we feel affection or regard for the man; the opposite is mainly true. But we love writing and talking about him. It’s a mania we have. Some might call it a disease. After two months of abstinence, cold turkey, no methadone, our fall off the wagon has been brutally swift.

Can anyone, honestly, be truly surprised at anything Toronto’s chief magistrate has said and done since Monday?

Ford won’t apologize personally to longtime nemesis and city councillor Karen Stintz for the foul things he said about her in the past, preferring instead to include her in his omnibus apology. Impossible! He won’t address the racist, homophobic, misogynist remarks attributed to him other than to say that, because he was smashed when he said them, they don’t reflect his actual beliefs. Incredible! Yes he lied about smoking crack. But that’s all part and parcel of “this disease,” which he’s had, not since he began drinking at whatever age, but since birth. Astounding!

Oh, and of course, there’s this: Ford won’t quit. No matter how many pundits sneer at the idiocy of his dwindling but still existent cohort of supporters, notwithsta­nding boos from Canada Day crowds and a stinging rebuke from a shirtless jogger, the big galoot is not for turning. He just keeps on going, crashing his way through wave after wave of dis- may and opprobrium, repeating his talking points. And damned if John Tory, the only other nominally conservati­ve candidate on the mayoral ballot, hasn’t been pushed entirely from the frame — again.

But, of course, none of this is a surprise, or should be. The story in its totality came into perfect focus in May 2013, on the day Ford denied being a crack addict, but did not deny having previously used the drug. Every beat of media shock since has had an element of artifice. What’s odd is that we keep pretending any of it is new. Rob Ford is a confessed serial liar and that is not a disease, but a choice. Therefore, he is unfit for public office. Yet he still may get re-elected, because he uses political techniques that work in 2014. Here are five of them:

All you need is love — or nearest facsimile

Ford’s pitch to voters is emotional. He avoids complex arguments. He does not seek to persuade with appeals to reason or logic. He does not present 10-point plans or even five-point plans. He presents himself as guileless, artless, tactless, without finesse or subterfuge, and backs it up by regularly saying impossibly inappropri­ate, offensive things. Perversely, this has bolstered his claims to populist authentici­ty. We, the people Rob Ford’s common-man shtick, as I have previously explored here, has a foundation in demographi­cs and rising income and education inequality. It’s the primary reason he has survived for so long. Human, all too human Granted, gangster ties and crack use are pushing the bounds of jovial human fallibilit­y. But compared with John Tory, who never appears anything less than urbane, polished, civilized and the clever- est person in the room, Ford still comes off as the more “real.” This is his gift and Tory’s curse. It’s why Olivia Chow, who is a natural retail politician, is the likeliest to defeat the incumbent, if anyone can. They’re all agin’ me Ford has always played the victim card unabashedl­y and skilfully, as has his brother. They’re doing so again, quite predictabl­y, with addiction itself. Alcohol and drug addiction are merely the latest in a long line of enemies arrayed to bring Ford down and prevent his turfing out the elitist “special interests,” and putting the little guy in charge. This is not a new political tactic — it’s textbook. Louisiana Gov. Huey Long perfected it in the 1930s and many others have used it to their advantage.

Read my lips: I’ll say this again

Ford stays on message, stressing that he won’t quit, loves his job, loves the city of Toronto, and wants nothing more than to save the taxpayers money. To that list we may now add that addiction is a disease. Get used to hearing it.

That Ford’s tactics are predictabl­e and transparen­t won’t make his refusal to step aside any less galling, for anyone who believes politics should be moral. But let’s face it: The fulcrum of this story, the moment when it was still fresh and unpredicta­ble, came and went months ago. Drunk, stoned or sober, Ford is Ford, and Ford he will remain. Rather than repeat ineffectua­l demands for him to quit, his opponents would be better served focusing on the task at hand. That is, to persuade what’s left of his base that they, and not he, will best represent their interests.

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