29 March 2016

On the passing of Rob Ford and his legacy, such as it was.

After the election of John F. Kennedy, John Wayne was asked his opinion of the new president. "I didn't vote for him," Wayne answered. "But he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."
That simple and noble sentiment is something I have felt myself many times over. I have not, in the last twenty years or so, cast a winning vote. But, even though the people I supported did not win, I hoped that whomever did win would do a good job. To wish otherwise is to wish catastrophe upon one's home.

Whether or not the sentiment was con Wayne's day, it is scarce now, as evidenced by the expressions of grief and schadenfreude that have been appearing in my combox in the wake of Rob Ford's death.
One of the most interesting statements about Rob Ford that I read came shortly before his election as mayor. It was in an interview with Kyle Rae, a long serving councillor who had announced his retirement from politics. Free from the grind of unning a campaign, Rae gave an unusually candid interview. He stated that he felt that all the 'intelligent' voters knew Ford wasn't the man for the job, and also that he believed that, should Ford be elected, council would move to render him impotent. Which is exactly what happened. Rae's attitude towards democracy in general bordered on utter contempt for the voters and the process- only intelligent (or people who voted like Kyle thought they should) votes should really count. And if the idiots won, then, their votes should be nullified. I had doubted that Toronto's councillors had any sense of willingness to work together with whomever the people had elected, but I had never seen it so baldly, nakedly stated. 

In the months following Ford's election, I found myself reluctantly defending democratic principles, and therefore, Ford himself. In the weeks between the still image from the video that showed Ford smoking something that may have been crack, until the revelation from Ford himself that he did smoke crack, there was an increasing call for Ford to resign his office, despite the fact that during those weeks there was no evidence that would justify his resignation. Then his opponents shifted, and said that his presence had become a distraction, and right or wrong, the council could not function with such a distraction, and therefore, for the good of the council, he should still resign. I argued with many people and stated that this was an extremely dangerous precedent. It would mean that future councils could force mayors to resign over innuendo and unprovable accusations (remember: this was before Ford confirmed that he smoked crack. There was no proof until that moment.) and claim the mayor, or any other councillor, had become a 'distraction.'

I realized, as I watched these event unfold, that many on the council would rather see it burn than see it under someone, anyone, with whom they disagreed. This revelation was, for me, Ford's true legacy. His term as mayor laid bare the poison in our council and in Toronto. Even in death, he has polarized us once again.

John Wayne's sentiment is gone from us by and large. Too many people want to see the elected representatives, and their parties, and their leaders fail. Even if that means the city, or the province, or the country, burns with them in their failure. They had rather see their home destroyed, than see any government in the hands of the duly elected 'wrong' person.

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