My recent focus on health issues has kind of taken over this blog, but I’ve been following the whole Rob Ford “crackgate” scandal closely. I suppose it doesn’t need to be said, but let me make it clear: I am not a fan of Rob Ford or his brother, Doug. I genuinely believe that their neocon political agenda is harmful to Toronto, the GTA and by extension, the province of Ontario. And you know what? That would be fine if that’s as far as it went; I’m not fond of the plans of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party either, but other political opinions are valid, I’m not always right, and at least the PCs act with a bit of decorum. The brothers Ford, on top of their bass-ackwards political agenda, are the worst kind of self-entitled bullies and that I cannot forgive.
Do I believe Rob Ford smoked crack? I don’t know. The least credible thing about the story, for me, is the implication is that Rob Ford — a man with all the grace, humanity and moral development of badger on meth but with undeniably effective feral political instincts — would be so monumentally stupid as to smoke crack where he could be filmed. Although he is arrogant enough to believe that no consequences might ever attach to his actions, so… maybe?
A politician with a substance abuse problem? That’s hardly new. Certainly Ford’s a drinker, and I’ve seen how that can effect people firsthand, so I don’t particularly hold that against him (although I do think he ought to get his shit together on that front before he tries to run one of the bigger cities on the continent) but I do have a serious problem with the way he’s handling it. He and his brother lash out, insult people, blame everyone but themselves. Bombast and vitriol are the order of the day — deny, insult and denigrate the characters of the people bringing forth the accusations. That’s the embarrassment, for me, not the fact that a politician might be turning to substance abuse to cope with the pressures of public life.
Of course, that kind of bullying tactic seems to be a hallmark of the neocon right. Not necessarily the entire right, per se — I know lots of conservatives, both big-C and small-C, who are as appalled at the antics coming out of Toronto City Hall as I am — and for the record I lean so far to the left that cutlery sometimes slides off the table. I’ve had personal experience opposing the neocon mindset at every level of politics, from campus politics to my federal MP, and they’re all pretty much the same: You get a single strong “leader” type (almost exclusively a white man) who gathers a group of cronies about himself and then proceeded to attack — by any means necessary, fair means or foul — the characters and performance of his perceived enemies, typically the more moderate elements who currently hold power. Elaborate promises are made with little to no basis in reality, and when the “leader” is swept into power by a wave of “popular acclaim” by the mass of voters who believe his pie-in-the-sky rhetoric (or in Ford’s case, the infamous “no more gravy train” sloganeering) it turns out the promises are not kept — in fact, cannot be kept.
What’s the point of all this? Power. Invariably, these neocon types are simply in love with their own power. They love the idea of power, of being in charge, and especially of the perks that come with… whether or not those perks are entirely moral or, in the case of the current Senate spending scandal, entirely legal. And when people try and enforce a more ethical agenda (usually holdovers from the old more moderate regime) in the interests of their constituents, the neocon lashes out and blames “liberal elements” or “the unions” or (my favourite) the “liberal media” for being obstructionist… regardless of the fact that it’s the neoconservative refusal to compromise even when compromise is clearly necessary that gums up the works. Scapegoats are needed, careers are destroyed and, in the end, the whole steaming pile of neocon bullshit is revealed to be the self-serving bundle of corruption and cynicism it really is.
The big difference between the Fords and, say, the current tribulations facing the federal Conservative Party on Parliament Hill is that the federal Conservatives are at least capable of acting like adults in the face of cracks in their façade of respectability; I don’t think that façade is at the breaking point yet. If the Senate spending scandal continues, it may get there, but Harper and his supporters are infinitely better at damage control than the brothers Ford. They’re smoother, they’re calmer and they pay very bright people as image consultants and are clever enough to listen. Rob and Doug Ford are interesting largely because they’re a much more amateurish, stripped-down version of the neocon political machine… almost a caricature of neocons, in fact.
Rob Ford’s political career is over: He done fucked up too many times. He’ll stubbornly plod through the rest of his elected term and even campaign in the next election, but he’s finished. He’ll still enjoy the near-fanatical devotion of the die-hard “Ford Nation” types, but he’s managed to alienate literally everyone else in Toronto. Given a halfway-moderate opposing candidate (Olivia Chow is the current front-runner, even though nobody’s actually running yet) Rob will lose the next mayoral election by a landslide. His brother Doug seems to be trying to balance standing by his brother and distancing himself from him, which will be an interesting political feat if he can pull it off. Unless he has a very public meltdown in the next year or two, Doug will almost certainly be elected an MPP for one of the provincial ridings in the ‘burbs, probably in Etobicoke… and he will then go no further up the rungs of power, and that fact will curdle and go sour as the realization sinks in.
On the Provincial level, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have almost no chance of winning a majority in the next provincial election. Ontario Liberal leader Katherine Wynne has done an effective job of distancing her “new” government from Dalton McGuinty’s regime, and Tim Hudak, besides having the personal charisma of a particularly creepy iguana, has allied himself far too closely to the right-wing religious fringe to get any real traction in the day and age. After the next election they may end up the opposition to a Liberal minority government, but only if Wynne makes a couple of high-profile mistakes between now and then. Otherwise, Queens Park will see a weak Liberal minority bolstered by the NDP as the third party.
And lastly, the Federal Conservatives are going to be hard-pressed during the next election, but I don’t think they’ve had enough damage done to lose the reins. They may end up a minority government, again, but unless something drastic happens Trudeau and Mulcair will split enough of the moderate and left-leaning vote to stymie any hope of getting Harper out of 24 Sussex.