So, you finally got fed up enough with our mayor’s antics that you took to the streets yesterday. Made a sign and headed off to Nathan Phillips Square to demand his resignation. Four thousand strong according to Facebook.
But a fraction of that. Four hundred? Three hundred? A hundred? Seventy-five?
Right-wing supporters of the mayor mocked you via the same social media that promised you droves of people out to protest. Don’t let that discourage you. If four thousand people had turned out, those same voices would’ve brushed it off as nothing more than ‘the usual suspects’ and then given you the number of people who voted for Rob Ford in 2010, doubled it and added a couple zeros. Six hundred million. The largest mandate in the history of democracy.
There is a more essential take away lesson from this, however.
As much as it pains me to say this, the importance of social media, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, remains only a small fraction of our democratic process. I’d like to think a valuable and growing component but a minor one nonetheless. Currently, it punches below its weight.
Speaking from personal experience, exclusive reliance on social media makes us lazy participants in our own democracy. It’s virtual engagement. So far, virtual engagement has won no elections.
It is about boots on the ground and getting people interested and out to vote. Not for nothing was former mayoral candidate and political something something, John Nunziata, on Twitter earlier today, taunting the efforts of those at Nathan Phillips Square. “Majority of those clammering for the Mayor’s resignation,” he opined, “didn’t even vote in the last election and are unlikely to vote in the next.”
I don’t know how exactly Mr. Nunziata knows that. He certainly didn’t back up the assertion anywhere but he is on to something. Turnout is key in any election. While 2010 was unusually high for a municipal election, it was barely over 50%. Anger has to result in action. Otherwise, it’s just anger.
Let’s assume that, barring any further damaging revelations (and that’s not a bet I would make), Mayor Ford gets through this term and runs for re-election in 2014. It will do no good for anyone not wanting to see him get another kick at the can to stand around in disbelief at the possibility, to rail against those who are still in his corner, thinking he’s the greatest mayor ever. To cross your fingers and pray to god a plurality of Torontonians come to their senses.
Yesterday at Nathan Phillips Square has to be viewed as just the beginning. Anger into action. The boots on the ground have to be our boots on the ground. Getting out there to convince people what’s at stake, why it’s important for them to pay attention to what’s been going on and why they have to vote. We must connect to those who didn’t take the time to get involved last time out, and those who thought the city needed someone like Rob Ford to be mayor and now aren’t so convinced that was a good idea.
Most importantly, we need to connect to them and with them, face-to-face and not just on Facebook.
— hopefully helpfully submitted by Cityslikr