Deconstruct The Construct

September 30, 2013

I sometimes picture the mayor sitting at his office desk (as infrequently as that might be) with a 2010 electoral map open in front of him, 2010electoralmapnodding in satisfaction at the image of downtown pink(o), pinned up inescapably against the unforgiving waves of Lake Ontario, encircled on all three other sides by Ford Nation blue.

These are my people, he figures. My electoral bread and butter. Keep them happy or, at least, angry at the right people, and keep my job.

Fortress Ford Nation. A single bloc of like-minded folks dedicated to one thing and one politician. Their voice being heard at City Hall.

That’s what Mayor Ford has to believe. It isn’t like he’s made any alternative plans to stay in office past next year. A more consensus-seeking politician might look for ways to grow the base, extend a reach into new territory. Not Mayor Ford. fordnationEverything’s about maintaining the base in lock step.

He sees a single monolith of suburban voters because he has to. Given his limited political gifts, it’s the only way the mayor can press forward in the hopes of securing a second term. As wholly manufactured as the downtown-suburban dynamic is, you have to tip your hat to the Ford camp for knowing how to create it in their image and exploit it to their advantage. It may not be in any way good city building. No matter. It makes for one hell of a potent political force.

Embracing that scenario while standing in opposition to the mayor makes far less sense. There’s absolutely no reason anyone else has to follow that particular playbook. trapplayDoing so only helps make the notion of Ford Nation more of a reality than just simply the calculated wishful thinking of one political team.

From a crass logistical angle, the numbers simply don’t add up. There are more potential voters in Scarborough, York, North York and Etobicoke than there are in the two less Ford friendly former municipalities of East York and the old city of Toronto. That’s just the demographics. Conceding that chunk of voters makes the idea of defeating Mayor Ford in 2014 an uphill battle from the outset.

Worse than that is the sheer condescending attitude behind accepting such a definition of Ford Nation. Oh, anyone who voted the guy is nothing but a knucklehead. Those still supporting him 3 years later after everything they’ve witnessed? Contemptible and not worth engaging. De-amalgamate now!

It’s easy to wrap yourself in that kind of security blanket of petulance. fordnation1Spend any time in the comments section of a newspaper or on social media, you will encounter the most extremes of the Ford-loving stereotypes. Pugnacious. Full of resentment. Ill-informed. Rubes bought off with free hamburgers and beer singing about their cost cutting cowboy.

Yes, Mayor Ford will have a surprising amount of support right until the bitter end. He speaks to a certain percentage of the population. It is hardly a nation, though.

If not exactly an anomaly, the 2010 election caught a particular wave that we should see as very possibly a one-off. Piss poor quality of candidates at the mayoral level. Voters edgy and angry with an economic still in turmoil, the lingering stench of a garbage strike in the air. Kick da bums out!

But there’s no reason to assume that’s now par for the course.

Never mind that 4 years earlier, David Miller had won every ward in the city save a couple in North York. He was a popular incumbent (much more popular than the current mayor is at a similar point in his first term). The opposition was weak. The voters in the city content.

In 2003, a then obscure Councillor Miller won the mayor’s office with the help of wards in Scarborough, York and Etobicoke. This while facing a vote split on the left with Barbara Hall and a high profile right of centre candidate. changetherulesThere was no Miller Nation you could point to. It was a city wide victory.

Putting together such a winning coalition is possible again. The quickest way to make sure it isn’t is to accept Team Ford’s conceit that it, and only it, represents the best interests of the city’s suburban voters, and that suburban voters en masse agree with that assessment. It’s disrespectful, disdainful, short-sighted, small-minded and, ultimately, the kind of thinking that deserves a healthy beat down next October.

parsingly submitted by Cityslikr