The strange and terrible Ford saga
Pop politics and the death of decency
As of this writing, it is Monday, Sep. 22. Advance polls in Toronto’s mayoral race have John Tory leading at 40 per cent, with Olivia Chow in second at 25 per cent. City Councilor Doug Ford is lagging behind with 23 per cent. Rob Ford is in the hospital with a malignant liposarcoma that’s spreading at an alarming rate. Optimistic doctors with promises of chemotherapy are suggesting that Ford will pull through. Cancer is difficult to beat for the healthiest of men. My outlook is not so positive. Rob Ford is dying. No more politics, no more public, no more fun.
Up until very recently, people treated Mayor Ford in much the same manner they would treat shit on the sole of their shoe. He was a stumbling, bumbling boob, constantly falling down, and making lewd and inappropriate comments about friends, coworkers, and family. And, that’s when he wasn’t getting high or drunk. People were so quick to demonize an addict, simply because he was a more public figure than any patron of a methadone clinic or needle exchange program.
Sorry to be the contrarian again, but I might like to point out that Rob Ford was a phenomenal politician who managed, in that particular arena of scum and villainy, to keep nearly every election promise he made. He ran a lean political ship and somehow managed to keep taxation rates in the center of the known universe (according to those that live there) at an affordable and reasonable rate. This shining example of what politicians should be is about to shuffle off the mortal coil.
That’s right, I said shining example. Think of the political lineage that Rob Ford belongs to: John F. Kennedy, Pierre Eliot Trudeau, et cetera. These troubled figures weren’t asked to step down for their problematic personal lives. Rather, they were celebrated for their achievements. Their private lives became a part of the mythos, making these men more legendary than you or I. I anticipate that we are living in the shadow, now, of a very similar human being. Time will be kinder to Rob Ford than all of us have been or will ever be.
Think about this, now. Most of us can’t be bothered to vote in our own civic elections. But for one bright moment in our generation, we all cared. We all cared about the political and popular fate of a city that, like its mayor, seems far more legendary than reality. Doug Ford, unlike his brother, is seen as an unlikable bully. Ford Nation is praying to whatever demons that control the political landscape that the sympathy vote will be enough to keep a Ford in Toronto’s city hall. It will not. The Fords are not interchangeable, as much as they would like people to believe that they are.
Ford Nation is set up for a fall of Biblical proportions. For all the people who wished Rob Ford would just go away, so they could forge their own reputation as ambassadors of Hog Town and of Canada, you got your wish. The man who could have led us into a most entertaining era of public politics and prosperity is gone. I notice that the publications who would go for his jugular at every off-the-cuff remark, every news outlet that would refer to him sardonically as “ROFO,” even Gawker, who referred to him as “crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford” have been awfully quiet in the days following Rob Ford’s diagnoses. Addiction is a joke; cancer is not.
I look now at my “Rob Ford for Prime Minister” shirt not with bemusement, but with a sense of sad irony. Most of us fed at the trough of Rob Ford’s Chris Farley-esq exploits, and for that, we owe him thanks. For everything else, we owe him an apology. This was mine.