By: James Di Fiore
In Canada, many of us pride ourselves on being progressive; a less animated, more civilized version of American politics is usually the standard. Our news contains less sound effects, our politicians have less money and our citizenry are less vocal. In fact, the old adage is that our collective identity is mostly comprised of making sure people know that we are not, in fact, American (place neo-conservative outrage here).
In the 2010 Toronto Mayoral Election, one man appears to be looking south of the border for cues in his quest to take over the mayor’s chair. Councilor Rob Ford is the front-runner, leading a pack of barely-on-the-radar politicians who collectively can’t muscle a formidable challenge to the outspoken, often belligerent Ford. His style of speak now, think later is a testament to the same circus some of us have grown to either love or loathe about our neighbours to the south. In America, politics is a blood sport, with both sides of the aisle choosing a methodology of over-the-top mudslinging and verbal attacks comparable to Bronx-style hip hop battles between two rival crews. And while the punchlines flung in politics are without the cadence and rhyme schemes prevalent in hip hop, effects from the verbal barbs can be just as damaging.
Ford’s pattern of dishonesty reminds this blogger of one of America’s most polarizing, controversial figures – radio broadcasting legend Rush Limbaugh. Aside from the mutual-yet-differentiating situations with Oxycontin, Ford and Limbaugh share an over-the-top, loudmouth style where the spectacle often outshines the practical. They speak to their bases in an unapologetic, unforgiving tone, usually railing against progressives and liberals in a venomous verbal assault that receives coverage for their entertainment value. Missing from their rants, and this is the crux of the problem, is factual evidence to prop up the conjecture. Simply put, they just sort of say stuff and believe context is flexible.
Ford is Toronto’s best improvisational politician – not because he possesses a brilliant mind or untouchable style – but because he never looks back after flubbing a line in the public arena. His reactionary pattern of freestlying responses when under the gun is legendary, often ending with an admission that his off-the-dome answer was not an honest one. His list of foibles and fuck-ups is a vast sea of buffoonery unparalleled in Toronto…maybe even Canada. He once offered to score Oxycontin off the street for a man who said he needed the drug to help him cope with an illness. When confronted about the situation, Ford claimed he only said it to get a stalker off the phone.
When asked about his now-famous, alcohol-laced rant at a Maple Leafs hockey game where he stated the following – “Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran to get raped and shot?” – Mr. Ford said he wasn’t at the game to begin with.
When asked about an arrest in Florida in 1999 for pot possession, Mr. Ford denied it ever happened.
In every ordeal, Ford has backpedalled, grudgingly restating his answers after his dishonesty has been uncovered. His saving grace is his loyal following who appear to not care about putting a blatantly dishonest politician in office. Toronto’s national reputation for being the most Americanized city used to be dismissed by Torontonians, but Ford supporters continue to push the city into a ’51st state’ setting where voters are eager to eat bumper sticker statements and ignore the blatant shortcomings of the politicians who represent them.
If Ford was your new neighbour and someone had sent you his track record when dealing with co-workers, hockey fans, Italians, Chinese people, women, homeless people, reporters and his very own spouse, you wouldn’t let him anywhere near your child.
But apparently, letting him into the mayor’s office is just peachy, leaving just one question: Where is KRS-ONE when you need him?