Always talk about running for mayor of Toronto.
Back in April, I marched down to City Hall to file my nomination papers. I would run for Mayor of Toronto.
Well, jog, anyway.
I made my candidacy known on April 21, with an announcement in this here Huffington Post. Within days, my campaign registered a furious uptick in support. Voter commitments skyrocketed, with a near 60 per cent spike of support in areas closest to my parents' kitchen. First my mom, then my dad, then a torrent of friends and family were considering a vote for me. Before long, media outlets from the Toronto Star to CityNews to Latin American youth magazines all wanted a piece. My team of staff grew to include Aron Harris -- a local Shepard Fairey-type -- who helped coin the slogan that would define my campaign.
When I started my journey into your hearts, I had so many questions. Where was City Hall? Could an agoraphobe become mayor? Mine was a feeling of youth revisited. Everything was in front of me. Here was a chance to stop writing and filming and dickering, and instead take time to be relentlessly ridiculous -- a.k.a. my natural state of being. Best of all, it would be in service of something I love: Toronto. An occasion to wrap my community machinations in a bow of self-deprecation, to weigh neighbouring suggestions, all bound by witticisms and the adroit posturing which pours from the distracted mind of the unfocused but earnest.
But there was a loose thread. And I noticed it early on. And it would unravel everything.
It began just as I was considering an invitation to my first debate from an Etobicoke homeowners association. Where once I had been sparked by potential explorations -- like sitting down with Bad Boy Mel Lastman for advice on when to call in the military to clear snow banks -- I felt some of the enthusiasm drain from me as I answered my first of dozens of candidate questionnaires.
The underbelly of how I would actually have to campaign was exposed. And I did not like it.
I had worried my veneer of snide and silly would be crumpled under the weight of being told I was not capable, not qualified, and -- most hurtfully -- not amusing. But I recognized all that about myself. I was Eminem at the end of 8 Mile. It would take more than the truth to take me down.
Ultimately, the truly dispiriting aspect of running for mayor -- and it's easy enough to observe -- goes mostly unconsidered. It is the thing which makes public office a repulsive proposition to many wonderfully critical, diplomatic thinkers. The thing which burdens itself on your shoulders the minute you step foot out of the doors from private to public life.
In order to become mayor I would have to relentlessly promote myself.
At the start, when my mayoral mission was one of gleeful satire and the diplomatic combat of ideas, I believed I could be just as nod nod wink wink pandering, egomaniacal, and argumentative as the litany of lawyers and business leaders and career politicians who form our representative governments at every level. You know, assholes.
Turns out, I don't have it in me. Ford Fiesta, JTIncorporated, and O.Cho are built from different stuff. They don't have much vision for the city, but what they do harbour in quarry-sized stashes, is something no less potent: shamelessness. They love to pick a side, stick to it, and yell it from every hilltop in the ward. They have that potent assuredness best quantified in the legendary Stephen Colbert roast of then-President George W. Bush (which I will paraphrase).
They will believe on Wednesday, what they did on Monday, no matter what happens Tuesday. They are on message and their message is clear: Me, me, and me.
And that's the essence of campaigning. Running for mayor, when you shed the facade of what degree of corporate welfarist you'll be, or which parades you'll most enjoy attending in-sash, is mostly a task filled with telling people how awesome you are, how every idea you espouse was born in a cavern of magic behind your eyes.
My campaign was always intended to be investigatory. I was hopeful that throwing my name in the ring would bring out a deep well of civic duty which might convince me to position my life so as to make a legitimate run in 2019. Instead, the endeavour was overwhelmed by the staggering amount of self-promotion required. It is little surprise these offices do not lure the most innovative, that the debates are more theatre than substance, as the barrier to entry is robo-calling for large quantities of money while bellowing in a self-contained echo chamber, all in the efforts of winning a popularity contest that boils down to trite slogans and empty iconography. Of course, it's not all bad. There are T-shirts and buttons.
Being a representative of others should logically run counter-intuitive to the urge to self-promote, but those attracted to this type of contest tend to be the most profound self-promoters we produce. I resent them being in charge of my interests even at the best of times, but unfortunately that's what this brand of politics bequeaths us.
You can still vote for me on October 27, but striking your ballot will have the same result. Instead of putting up my dukes, I'm admitting the humbling failure that was this brief foray, and settling into a future more suited to someone of my limited skills and boundless grumbling.
Follow Mike Gallay on Twitter: www.twitter.com/memachine