Political Genius Genus Evil

In the afterglow of Rob Ford’s surprisingly convincing mayoral victory last week came the inevitable outpouring of ink and bytes about the whys and hows of his win, complete with a revelation of a “dirty tricks” controversy. Actually, let’s call it more of a contretemps or set-to, to lessen it slightly from such a harsh moniker but mostly to cement my downtowner elitist status. Kelly Grant’s exhaustive piece in the Globe and Mail revealed a campaign team that was highly disciplined, relentless in ferreting out where its support was, tireless in punching the divisive hot-button issues that set the agenda from Ford’s entry into the race.

While I hesitate to use the word ‘genius’, as its constant misapplication drains all meaning from it, for my purposes here, let’s do so. Political genius. Eliciting the question, why does so much political genius manifest itself as the evil variety? Squandered as it is, attempting to make silk purses from sows’ ears, foisting upon the voting public candidates clearly unfit for office and out of their depth. George W. Bush. Sarah Palin. And now, Rob Ford.

Imagine if the likes of Lee Atwater (may he be roaming swelteringly the halls of Hell still), Karl Rove and now the boys of the Rob Ford brain trust applied their significant skills to the betterment of society rather than to the detriment of it. But, of course, that instantly answers the above question. They have no interest in contributing positively to society. Their political genius comes from having to mask that simple fact. On a mission to drive back the gains made for the greater good by FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s War on Poverty and PET’s Just Society (or any other government intent on making life a little fairer and more equitable), they dance and sing populist songs, with generically uplifting titles like Respect For Taxpayers while exemplifying none of it.

They are the political ‘Hidden Persuaders’, Vance Packard’s 1950s term for the marketers and ad men who convinced the public that cereals were the only breakfast food, cigarettes were the epitome of cool with health benefits to boot, and that consuming more of everything than we needed put us on the path of enlightened happiness. We applaud them for doing their jobs well, for convincing us to go against our best interests and better instincts and buy into a truly toxic, detrimental world view. Yep. They got us to put the shotgun barrel in our mouths but, damn, were they smooth!

I have little doubt that Rob Ford, like George W. before him on Ronald Reagan before him, truly believes that government in all its forms is the source of much that is wrong in society today. Raised on the teat of neo-conservatism with his beloved late father a small part of the Common Sense Revolution, Ford may be many things but disingenuous about his politics does not seem to be one of them. He is the perfect spokesman and front man for the movement of the privileged class to be embraced by a big chunk of the population that shares absolutely nothing in common with it.

What’s even more remarkable about this political sleight of hand is the timing of the current version of the trick. Economic calamity brought on by overly zealous free marketeering combined with governmental lapse of judgment and negligence of duty. Crushing private sector debt piled into the public purse, followed by immediate calls of out-of-control government spending and demands for cutbacks and rollbacks. A mere two years after a deep lingering recession brought on by neo-liberal/conservative politics, we’ve already internalized the counterintuitive belief that only neo-liberal/conservative policies and politicians can dig us out of the hole they helped us dig. It is truly a bravura performance, delivered by masters of their profession who should be richly rewarded for their outstanding efforts in pulling such a feat off.

Except that, they are amply enriched by the narrow interests they serve and protect. Except that, inevitably they’re much better at campaigning than they are governing and tend to leave big, heaping piles of steaming crap in their wake. Except that, society is that much worse off because of what it is they do, the dark arts they practice.

You can admire, even applaud, those whose brilliance is obvious even though their purpose is contemptible. The great villains are always our favourite characters. But what we really have to stop doing is handing them the keys to power. They aren’t in it to make the world, the city, the neighbourhood a better place for anyone else beside themselves, and those sharing their perspective, regardless of how much they try telling us otherwise.

People who use their talents for evil should not be expected to do good. It’s not in their nature. We need to stop expecting anything else from them. Experience should’ve told us that a long time ago.

full of goodnessly submitted by Cityslikr

Resist The Darkness

Sitting here in the quiet of the office, the Goldberg Variations playing soothingly, at least in part to help drown out the snoring of Acaphlegmic who’s crashed on the couch having just returned from what he thinks was last night’s Nuit Blanche. Who knows what passed as art to him on his peregrination throughout the city.

There is a truly autumnal feel outside today and a kind of grayness fills the sky that crushes any last hope we might have still been harbouring that summer is not yet over. The peaches I bought yesterday aren’t nearly as sweet as the apples were. This means it’s now time to get back to business, nose to the grindstone, flip-flops replaced by wingtips.

Conventional wisdom had it that once Labour Day was past us, the serious campaigning for City Hall would begin with people setting aside their Harlequin romances and picking up a newspaper. We’d see a determined focus descend upon the proceedings; all ant and no grasshopper. It’s go-time, laggards. No more messing about. We have a mayor to choose.

Maybe because we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have been at it since the very beginning, way back on January 4th, but we’re just not feeling it. There’s no palpable sense of excitement or anticipation in the air. It’s much more like, dread and resignation. “Holy fuck. Do we really have to do this?”

The exception, of course, is over at the Rob Ford camp. They seem absolutely juiced about getting their guy elected mayor so that he can finally mete out some long overdue justice against all us downtown elite, tax and spenders. Yeah, it’s our turn, baby! You’re going to feel our rage. Positively negative, in other words. Building a brighter future through petty short-sightedness.

I’m sure there are those working for the other 3 “major” candidates who are just as passionate about their respective standard bearer but, frankly, at this stage it looks more defensive than anything. It’s in reaction to the Ford surge rather than proactive. Despite the glaring shortcomings of the front runner, neither Smitherman, Pantalone nor Rossi have been able to convince enough voters that they’ve got the goods to not only prevent a Ford win on October 25th but also ably lead this city in these trying times.

Leaving those of us still luxuriating on the gravy train with the dismal prospect of voting against someone not for them. There’s nothing upbeat or invigorating about that. It certainly doesn’t prime our pumps as we gaze anxiously into the future. At this point, things look as dreary as it does out our windows today. Damp. Dark. Dismal.

It’s also discordant (to continue my alliterative string). As we prep our plans to participate (can’t seem to help myself) in the actual Nuit Blanche, the energy and verve that will be out on the streets tonight runs contrary to everything we’re hearing from the front running mayoral candidates, save Joe Pantalone. Toronto is a city that feels like it just might finally be growing comfortable into its skin. Problems? Unquestionably. But I hazard a guess that they’re problems most cities around the world wish they only had.

So between now and election day, we need to take a moment to seriously consider whether we really want to vote for someone — under any circumstances – who thinks otherwise.

undisheartedly submitted by Cityslikr

Newwwwww York Is Where I’d Rah-zer Be!

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are off to New York today on a fact finding mission. Our task? To suss out just what the big deal is about the place anyway. NYC. Gotham. The Big Apple. The Empire City. Father Knickerbocker. Simply, The City.

How come it gets so many nicknames? What exactly has the place got that makes it so fucking special, I guess is the job we’re setting out to discover. That, and Acaphlegmic scored us tickets from a friend of a friend who knows a guy who knows a guy that runs a website, and we’re going to a couple Yankee games over the weekend against their arch rivals, the Bosox from Beantown. The Walking City. The Hub. The Athens of America.

So we may be a little light with the postings over the next six days or so. There will be our regular Meet A Mayoral Candidate column this Friday, of course. And since we won’t be getting much rest as the city claims to be one that never sleeps, the odd occasion should pop up, allowing us to deliver a progress report or two about our research.

Also, keep your eyes peeled over to the right side of the page here for our Twitter entries (or easier yet, sign on and become a slavish follower.) We’re going to be spending the time away, trying to master the technology. Apparently, it’s all the rage with the younger set. And if there was ever a place that could be summed up in 140 characters, it would be New York City.

So, until next week, toodles. As they say in the outer boroughs.

Frommerly submitted by Cityslikr