Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Rob Ford Phenomenon


I'm not sure a thorough post-mortem is required for yesterday's election in Toronto. Much has been written about Rob Ford in recent weeks and it's fairly easy to understand what happened. It was simply a case of Ford being the right person with the right message at the right time. Politics is usually as simple as that.

But since people usually try to make it a lot more complicated, let's take a quick look at what this wasn't a case of.

1. It wasn't a case of Toronto suddenly becoming more conservative. Calgary has had Liberal mayors for 20 years without electing a single Liberal MP. So I wouldn't take this as a sign that Stephen Harper or Tim Hudak are about to march to the CN Tower anytime soon. This theory becomes ever shakier when you consider the number of conservative incumbents who were tossed out in favour of Liberals in other Ontario cities.

2. It wasn't a case of Ford winning by default or because other campaigns messed up. This election was all about Ford from start to finish. If voters truly didn't want Ford, they had plenty of time to switch their vote to Smitherman. If they didn't like Smitherman, there was plenty of time for a third candidate to emerge, the way a third candidate emerged (and won) in Calgary when voters were underwhelmed by the two front runners.

3. It wasn't Joey Pants' fault. If you look at the numbers, Pantalone wasn't the difference in this one. Even if he drops out, Ford still wins. And it wasn't like Ford came out of nowhere - everyone knew that voting for Pantalone meant they were tacitly endorsing Ford for mayor, and they were cool with it.

So what was last night all about? Part of it was the anti-incumbency craze which is sweeping the nation. Toronto voters, especially those in the suburbs, were fed up with waste at City Hall and felt the suburban car crowd was being ignored. Ford played on that sentiment beautifully.

He got his message out early and just kept blabbing about the "gravy train" over and over again like a broken Teddy Ruxpin doll. Most debates I watched went something like this:

What's your plan for snow removal Mr. Ford?
Stop the gravy train!

In politics, if you get a powerful message, you stick to it. And Ford did just that.

So that's the "right message, right time" part of the equation. The real question is how on earth an inarticulate hot head who opposes immigration to Toronto and has been charged with everything from drunk driving to spousal abuse could be the "right person"?

Well, for starters, he had credibility on the waste issue due to his track record of not spending from his council expense account. Having the right message isn't enough if you don't have credibility on it. Given Smitherman's track record at E-Health, he wasn't perceived to have the same level of credibility on this issue as Ford.

Ford also has the rarest of qualities in a politician - he comes across as genuine. Because they saw him as a real person, voters looked past the shaky math and were willing to forgive his many, many, many shortcomings. Ford reminds me more and more of Ralph Klein with each passing day (right down to the incoherent red faced victory speeches), which is why he cannot be underestimated.

I know the common sense is that he'll be a disaster and will be O'Brien'd in 2014.

Perhaps.

But so long as Ford stays true to what got him this far, voters may very well continue to forgive. Ralph Klein had a good run and it's incredibly presumptuous to assume Ford won't be around to exasperate us downtown Toronto Liberals for many years to come.

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35 Comments:

  • Hopefully he won't get his way with the transit file... Transit City took years of planning and is a smart much needed boost to Toronto's infrastructure... not to mention all of the money that has already been spent + the penalties that would arise from scrapping it.

    By Blogger MERBOY, at 3:48 PM  

  • Winning elections and governing are two very different things, particularly at the municiple level where you cannot count on party discipline to overcome any lack of ability to build a consensus.

    Mr. Ford made alot of enemies over the years on the TO council and many of them got elected last night as well.

    It will be interesting to see how effective he will be in keeping his promises.

    By Blogger ottlib, at 5:06 PM  

  • If Smitherman was straight, he'd be mayor today. Never underestimate a voter's anti-gay bias when voting.

    Follow this link to see the breakdown of Ford's and Smitherman's base:

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299288

    Ford has the most support among those between the ages of 45-64 (48.1 percent) and 65 and over (60.1 percent). However, Smitherman has the most support (37.7 percent) from those between the ages of 25 and 44.

    When it comes to education levels, Ford has more than half (57.3 percent) support from voters who have high school education or less and only 28.1 percent of potential Ford voters have university education. On the flip side, Smitherman has 45 percent support coming from Torontonians who have obtained a university education.

    Ford holds 51.7 percent support from those born outside of Canada. Smitherman has 30.1 percent.


    Using support of same-sex marriage as a gauge, those numbers breakdown almost identically to Canadians who are gay-positive, and those Canadians who are anti-gay:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/homssmpoll04.htm

    Support for SSM was:

    51% of women

    43% of men

    32% of those with some high school or less

    42% of those who completed high school

    48% of college graduates or some post-graduate education

    56% with at least a bachelor's degree

    42% among those earning less than $30,000 annually

    45% among those earning $30 up to 60 thousand

    54% among those earning over $60,000

    60% of those aged 18 to 34

    48% of those aged 35 to 54

    33% of those aged 55 and above.


    This wasn't a vote for Ford, this was a vote against the homosexual, who's married to a man, and adopted a baby with that man.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 5:09 PM  

  • Paul - If Smitherman was rejected because he was gay, wouldn't another challenger to Ford have emerged?

    Rossi, Thompson, and Pantalone never did anything in this contest despite being straight.

    I'm sure a few people voted based on that, but I just can't see it as being the only factor with the margin of victory as large as it was.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:12 PM  

  • So is everyone pretending Mel Lastman was never mayor, wasn't conservative or just didn't exsist at all? The first mayor of mega-TO was a rightie, Ford is just a sillier version.

    By Anonymous DR, at 5:39 PM  

  • GC, did any other candidate have biased advertising directed at them? Any anti-woman ads against Sarah Thomson? Any anti-Italian ads against Rossi, Pantalone, or Mammoliti?

    From the beginning it was Ford and Smitherman--and as the old TV theme song goes--and the rest.

    Just go to the Star and read the anti-gay comments posted about Smitherman. I don't usually post links to other people's blogs on someone else's blog, but go to Toronto Mike's blog and read what Ford supporters were writing about Smitherman:

    http://www.torontomike.com/2010/10/rob_ford_is_peter_griffin_vote.html

    Lastly, while in Toronto on Friday I heard this conversation on the subway:

    Who you gonna to vote for?

    I dunno. The fat guy? Not the homo.


    That may not be indicative of voter sentiment, but dismissing anti-gay bias amongst voters out of hand ignores the fact that many in Toronto are anti-gay.

    Smitherman had enough support to put him in second place. Ford had enough anti-gay support to put him in first place.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 5:40 PM  

  • The first mayor of mega-TO was a rightie, Ford is just a sillier version.

    Yeah, "Tommy Boy" ran for mayor, and won.

    Lastman was a conservative, but he wasn't a douchebag.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 5:43 PM  

  • As a member of the GLBT community, I get quite offended when someone cries wolf about homophobia with only anecdotal and very loosely correlative evidence (let alone anything that definitively shows causation).

    Perhaps that one random person you heard on the subway didn't vote for Smitherman because he was gay, but it is unfair to generalize that to all of Ford's supporters.

    As for the "evidence" you assert, I think you should have actually read the tables for the Ekos poll. Ford and Smitherman were within the margin of error for your enlightened 25-44 year old category with 35.6% and 37.7% respectively. A 2.1% point difference is hardly a landslide victory for Smitherman in the youth category.

    As for all those 65+ year olds that you accuse of being anti-gay, right-leaning candidates almost always do better in older age categories. This isn't a one-off event limited to race with a gay candidate.

    Based on the data you provided, you may as well do a Parizeau and blame Ford winning on the "ethnic vote".

    If I lived in Toronto, I doubt I would have voted for Ford. However, it's unfair to make baseless accusations on him or his supporters.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 7:32 PM  

  • ...And another thing. It REALLY irritates me when someone can't handle that a candidate other than his or her choosing won. Blaming the fact that the "wrong" candidate only won because of homophobia simply shows one as a sore loser.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 7:36 PM  

  • Ok, this is the last post in a row, I promise lol.

    Another interesting tidbit from your "evidence": Ford polled better with women than men! Based on your anti-gay argument, in which women are more likely to support same-sex marriage than men, I guess that means Ford's supporters were actually pro-gay! Huh! See how silly this line of reasoning can get.

    Ok, I'm done debunking this nonsense.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 7:43 PM  

  • "If you look at the numbers, Pantalone wasn't the difference in this one. Even if he drops out, Ford still wins."
    I don't agree.

    Here's the vote numbers:
    Rob Ford 383501 47.114%
    George Smitherman 289832 35.607%
    Joe Pantalone 95482 11.73%

    Now, here's what happens if Pantalone voters had gone to Smitherman:
    George Smitherman 385314 47.34%
    Rob Ford 383501 47.11%

    By Blogger Jacob, at 7:49 PM  

  • Jacob,

    that is only true if every single Pantalone voter had gone over to Smitherman. I think it's fair to say that SOME of Pantalone's supporters would have either not voted or may have even switched to Ford. I agree a majority would have probably gone to Smitherman, but Smitherman would have needed nearly 100% in order to just squeak by.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 8:09 PM  

  • Matthew,
    You are right on a practical level: Pantalone couldn't have gotten 100% of his voters to switch to Smitherman. Additionally, 77397 people voted in advance polls. Assuming that Pantalone got the same number of votes in advance polls that he did on voting day, five times as many people had already voted for Pantalone than the margin between Ford and Smitherman+Pantalone. So even if Pantalone had dropped out right before the election and 100% of his supporters had gone to Smitherman there wouldn't have been enough to tip the scales against Ford.

    I guess I was more responding to the first sentence: "If you look at the numbers, Pantalone wasn't the difference in this one." Pantalone voters were the difference. You're right though, that it's unlikely that Pantalone dropping out would have changed the outcome.

    By Blogger Jacob, at 9:08 PM  

  • As a member of the GLBT community, I get quite offended when someone cries wolf about homophobia with only anecdotal and very loosely correlative evidence

    As a member of the LGBTQ community, I get offended when apologists toss around the word homophobia, when none was implied. What I'm talking about is an anti-gay bias.

    but it is unfair to generalize that to all of Ford's supporters.

    Did you bother following the link to Toronto Mike's blog to see what Ford's supporters wrote?

    It's apparently very simple for you to dismiss the facts I supplied. However, that does not change the simple fact that Ford went in knowing he had the anti-gay vote locked.

    If I lived in Toronto, I doubt I would have voted for Ford.

    Of course you would have Matthew Anonymous.

    However, it's unfair to make baseless accusations on him or his supporters.

    Of which you are one.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 9:50 PM  

  • It REALLY irritates me when someone can't handle that a candidate other than his or her choosing won.

    Seriously? Your candidate won and you still can't handle that. If Ford isn't your boy, why are you defending him so adamantly?

    Blaming the fact that the "wrong" candidate only won because of homophobia simply shows one as a sore loser.

    And again, there's no homophobia here. An anti-gay bias exists among a great many of Frod's supporters, but no homophobia.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 9:54 PM  

  • Ford polled better with women than men!

    Please provide a link proving this statement, Matthew.

    Ok, I'm done debunking this nonsense.

    You haven't debunked anything, Matthew. All you've done is shown that apologists come in all shades--including pink.

    Let's see what tune you're singing when Ford refuses to fly the rainbow flag on City Hall in June 2011; and refuses to proclaim Pride Week. You are after all, a "member of the GLBT community".

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 9:58 PM  

  • Based on the data you provided, you may as well do a Parizeau and blame Ford winning on the "ethnic vote".

    I certainly don't hope your only defense in this debate, is to accuse me of being racist. No where in my comments did I bring up race. That was a specious argument on your part, and shows your desperation in trying to change the channel on this, Matthew.

    By Anonymous Paul Raposo, at 10:02 PM  

  • Good analysis by Calgary Grit.

    Ottlib
    "Mr. Ford made alot of enemies over the years on the TO council and many of them got elected last night as well."

    Rob Ford exposed city waste and corruption, "over the years". That does not make you alot of friends.
    It gave his message credibility.

    Smitherman had none.

    I was at the victory party at congress centre.
    It was multi ethnic. It looked like Toronto.

    By Blogger Rotterdam, at 10:27 PM  

  • I do not live in Toronto. Why does Ford want to get rid of the Street Cars, a lovely hing of the past San Fran was thinking of this, but people screamed and they kept them/ Ford has no class.

    By Anonymous Annie, at 11:28 PM  

  • @Jacob:
    Rocco Rossi came in 4th place in the election despite having dropped out.

    If Pantalone had dropped out, he would have still have been in 3rd place. Dropping out doesn't remove the name from the ballot. Not everyone gets the memo about these sorts of things.

    If the margin were different, Pantalone dropping out could have pushed Smitherman over the top. But the margin was too razor thin for that to have helped.

    By Anonymous Leo, at 11:49 AM  

  • Paul,

    The link YOU provided to the Ekos poll stated Ford did better amongst women than men:

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299288

    In the article, click on the link to the Ekos polling results tables. It shows candidate support based on gender.

    As for the distinction between anti-gay bias and homophobia...you're right...I don't see much of a difference. I've occasionally been the target of both, but perhaps you could educate me on the nuanced difference between the two. However, fine...I'll stick to the language you use. You offer nothing but some anecdotal evidence that some of Ford's supporters have an anti-gay bias. You still haven't offered any proof that this factor was the determining factor in the election as you claim: "If Smitherman was straight, he'd be mayor today"

    There's no way to prove that I'm not a Ford supporter. I don't believe his policies add up and I find his rhetoric to be overblown. If I lived in Toronto, I would have voted for Rossi (if he had stayed in the race). I just don't think it's fair to blame Ford's victory on anti-gay bias which you do.

    You also seem to doubt whether I sincerely am a member of the gay community...again...not sure how I can prove that. My boyfriend would attest that, yes, I am quite gay lol.

    My facebook profile can be found at:
    http://www.facebook.com/matthew.beasley#!/profile.php?id=100001417681804

    Though I suppose I could be engaging in identity theft and be simply pretending to be that guy lol.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 12:03 PM  

  • I believe you are right on all counts.

    Further, Calgary and Toronto are different cities at different stages. One needs more and better urban planning, and one needs more responsibility. I'm happy for Calgary and hopeful Toronto can turn a corner. Both mayoral races work for me...

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 1:39 PM  

  • Paul, I'm a transgendered queer person and I did not choose to support George Smitherman as mayor and it had absolutely nothing to do with his sexuality.

    If the United States can elect a non-Anglo-European as President, I'm pretty sure Toronto, an incredibly queer-friendly city, could elect a candidate regardless of their sexual identity.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 1:47 PM  

  • Annie, I love streetcars and they are an important part of Toronto's identity and Toronto should imo always have streetcars prominently serving routes.

    There are too many of them on unworkable routes and Toronto requires better subway service. Toronto's traffic flow efficiency improves when the TTC strikes (I have read it is the only city in the world which can claim this) because the streetcars hold up traffic.

    imho Annie, Toronto overrelies on streetcars instead of incorporating streetcars.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Vert, at 1:55 PM  

  • If it makes you feel any better Matthew, I think you're gay.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 4:26 PM  

  • Ford is Toronto's answer to Glen Beck.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:42 PM  

  • Lol...why thank you, Robert.

    I worked very hard to earn my gay card (powder pink, of course).

    Really, I shouldn't let random people online irritate me so much. I just think that unnecessary accusations of anti-gay bias detract from the legitimate concerns the community has.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 7:09 PM  

  • >>unnecessary accusations of anti-gay bias detract from the legitimate concerns the community has.

    Bingo

    By Anonymous Nail On The Head, at 8:32 PM  

  • Glen Beck is Fox's answer to Rob Ford

    By Anonymous Trawna, at 10:19 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:50 PM  

  • My cousin is gay. I have advised him to stay away from Toronto for the next four years. He is a nice man, and I would hate to see him insulted by the likes of Ford.

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  • My personal relative is actually homosexual. I've recommended him or her in order to avoid Toronto for that following 4 many years. He's a pleasant guy, as well as I'd detest to determine him or her insulted through the kind of Kia.


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