Vision Quest V

October 15, 2010

So far on our Vision Quest we’re batting .500, with a couple candidates we profiled dropping out of the mayoral race after our write-up on them. Last week was Rocco Rossi. With the chatter swirling around election circles in the last few hours, let’s see if the trend continues.

Up today: Joe Pantalone!

Frankly, even factoring in the Rob Ford phenomenon, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke find the Deputy Mayor’s campaign to have been both the most confounding and aggravating. Confounding, because as the only highly recognizable progressive voice in the race, he should be enjoying a wide swath of support from what we thought was a deep well of left of centre leaning in this city. Aggravating, because his campaign took so long to start pushing back against the prevailing nonsense of a city on the road to ruin that had taken hold of the campaign imagination.

Some of this, obviously, was beyond Mr. Pantalone’s control. With anti-incumbency in the air even before the race started, he represented the face of an administration the howlers howled about. Worse still, it felt like he wasn’t the best face put forward. A 2nd, 3rd or even 4th choice meekly offered up after the Adam Giambrone flame-out and a couple other ‘names’ declined to toss their hats into the ring. If this was all the last 7 years was going to give us, well, it’s little wonder those on the left developed a bit of a wandering eye. Joe Pantalone felt unsatisfactorily compensatory. A definite sense lingered that if David Miller had one more election in him to defend his legacy, we would’ve rallied mightily to the cause. But since Mayor Miller wasn’t up for the fight, his supporters felt a little gun shy too.

More disheartening still, Mr. Pantalone is not the strongest of campaigners. There’s an uneasiness you detect when he’s doing the dirty work of politicking in big crowds or even up on stage during debates. Pantalone has shown flashes of spirit and intellectual acumen at points in debates but mostly it’s been awkward mouthing and re-mouthing of talking points and moldy gardening analogies that simply haven’t ignited the fire under an unsettled electorate.

The ironic and sad fact of the matter is that the exact same could be said about Councillor Rob Ford. He’s sweatily awkward out there glad-handing in crowds. His participation in debates consists of talking points and talking points only. Yet, he’s managed to flame the zeitgeist of angry sentiment into a poll position in the race until recently. Perhaps it all comes down to what Councillor Adam Vaughan said in pulling the plug on his support of Mr. Pantalone earlier today, “…you have to fight the election you’re dealt, not the one you want.” Arguably, Joe Pantalone got a mitt full of dud cards.

Vaughan’s move to help shore up support for George Smitherman in the race against Ford is the latest defection of left-leaning names that leaves the Deputy Mayor dangling, essentially. There are calls for him to pull out of the race to help ensure a Smitherman victory. (Or more pointedly, ensure a Ford loss.) So inconsequential has Pantalone become in the race that when he released his economic plan earlier this week, it received scant notice. Who cares? It’s not like he’s going to be mayor anyway.

And yet, here we are, demanding fidelity to a two man race between candidates whose plans and platforms have been examined, re-examined, and examined again, only to be found severely wanting in almost every case. Two candidates who have pushed the premise of a city on the brink of ruin while the facts suggest otherwise. Two candidates pledging to bring in tough, neo-conservative policies that are suspect and very likely unnecessary if not harmful to the well being of this city.

Two candidates who, theoretically, should be splitting the right wing vote and allowing a progressive like Joe Pantalone to sail on through up the middle. Somehow that just isn’t happening. The progressive base just has not bought into Councillor Pantalone as its standard bearer. There is, it seems, what they are calling down south in the U.S. of A., an  “Enthusiasm Gap”.

Yes, Joe Pantalone and his team must accept some blame for that. Things just did not click when they needed clicking. But the wind was never, ever, at Pantalone’s back. Enough voters simply did not want to hear what Joe had to say, no matter how much truth there was to it (and there was much more truth emanating from the Pantalone campaign then there was from any of the other front runners), no matter how many outside, unbiased voices assured us that Toronto was faring alright, given what was going on in the wider world around us.

That was a tough, pretty well impossible, sell to the voters of Toronto in 2010. The salesmen of defeat and retreat have been louder, more forceful and ultimately, it seems, more persuasive. If there was a time when more reasonable voices should’ve been heard above the din, clearly this wasn’t it. This wasn’t Joe Pantalone’s time. A sad end to a 30 year municipal career which deserved better.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr