THE FORD BROTHERS seem confident of an autumn electoral victory, and they’ve good reasons. Rob Ford has admitted to lying to the public, and his lack of self control and dignity have become matters of non-controversy: yet he remains in office and enjoys a healthy approval rating, as well as a credible prospect of a second term. His powers and office budget have been reduced, yet the Fords are as bombastic and arrogant as ever. Both Doug and Rob are uninterested in – indeed, hostile towards – public policy and the workings of government. Their contempt of politicians and the political process constitutes a good portion of the duo’s appeal. After all that has transpired, it is difficult to imagine the scandal that might end their political careers. Could it be that there is no such scandal? The Ford brothers behave exactly as people who believe that it could.
One month ago, at the turn of the new year, the mayor was a chastened and humiliated man. There was nowhere for him to hide, and so he threw himself into social media and talk-show exhibitionism. His speaking points were simple and evasive: mistakes were made, and what can you do? – the past is the past, so let’s move on. He assured the people of Toronto that he was committed to personal transformation. Shed a few pounds, and all public memory of the conflicts of interest and the cavorting about with criminals and the misuses of public office will melt away. One month later, he told an audience that he was who he was and could never change. This admission concerned his determined refusal to attend the Pride parade, which for years up until this point he had falsely claimed was not a refusal at all but rather a scheduling conflict. With two bold about-faces in one sentence, the campaign began. We’ve become numbed to these sordid performances.
Look back across the public record and you cannot fail to miss the plain fact that from the outset Rob Ford has equivocated, dissembled and lied to the citizens of this city, on every topic from his 1999 Miami drunk driving conviction to his fiscal record. His thuggish brother and accomplice has at each step along the way provided the cover of fog and blarney. The Fords are shameless liars, self-deluded fabulists, and thick-skulled blunderers. The only real controversy now is over the entertainment value of their sideshow. Whenever they are submitted to plain and truthful criticism, the Fords lunge into petty and self-pitying bluster. The Enemies! The Elites! Everything is everyone else’s fault, Doug mechanically barks: the mayor is the very best bestest in the whole wide everywhere, ever – and he has never told a lie or missed a day of work. Like the spoiled inheritors of easy and unearned privilege that they are, this pair of dysfunctional menchildren will never bring themselves to account for anything. In their frat boy minds they are deserving of uncritical applause and admiration – and spoils – because they are Fords.
If the brothers Ford win the October election, it will be a victory for the principle of unearned and undeserved privilege. A Ford victory will champion the notions that honesty is irrelevant, integrity is unnecessary, the lowest common denominator constitutes the highest of virtues, and celebrity is a good substitute for character. All indiscretion and corruption can, and will be, patted aside by the loyal – so long as the mayor and his cheerleading brother make noises about low taxes and unpatriotic enemies. At this point Ford Nation stands for little more than resentment and self-righteous self-pity. The Ford brothers govern with a wrecking ball and in a drunken stupor, and their fans applaud.
What do the Ford brothers stand for? Not for you, the taxpayer. Stop believing their greasy proclamations of love and devotion. Get real. This is an old political move and a shtick. The Ford brothers stand for the Ford brothers. Sure, they’ll come to your house and shake your hand, if that’s what works. They’ll buy you a beer and step into your selfie. These are all good tactics for building a family dynasty self-promotion machine.
Their Kardashian-styled tactics have worked. The Ford brothers are now world-wide celebrity entertainers, with a profitable brand presence and product division in the political market. More than one in three of you say you’re going to ask for another season. And the Fords, who are in it for the applause that they believe is theirs by birthright, will happily give it to you. They’re confident you’ll keep applauding and supporting the brand, no matter what. They depend upon it, because their plans for further self-aggrandizement won’t be realized unless you’re duped.