I am a fan of Rob Ford. He is an inspiration, for if Rob Ford can be Mayor of North America's fourth largest city, anyone can be Mayor of North America's fourth largest city. Ford has shown the world that anyone can do anything they put their minds to -- though it does help if you're a millionaire first. I am a fan of Ford not only for who he inspires but also who he incenses -- the downtown Toronto elite, and this is one of the reasons he still (for now) inspires allegiance among so many Torontonians outside the downtown core.
An idea not seen anywhere apart from this column: what if one of the reasons Toronto is so prosperous is precisely because its Mayor is too befuddled and unimaginative to interfere in any serious way with the functioning of the city? What if Mayor Ford is great precisely because he does little to nothing? And what if that's the reason so much of the city still surreptitiously supports him? From him the voters know precisely what they will get -- no wide ranging attempts at social engineering, no farsighted schemes based on the ideas of some obscure social interest group -- but instead a focus on cutting taxes and controlling spending.
Say what you will about Ford and his "extracurricular" habits, Toronto has a thriving economy and remains Canada's economic engine. To pretend no credit for this belongs to the Mayor is to be disingenuous, as were the opposite the case, the Mayor's critics would lambaste him as the architect of Toronto's decline.
What many people don't understand is that the Mayor's weaknesses are also his strength -- he does not sound like an intellectual; someone whose end products are "ideas" as opposed to things like microprocessors or pharmaceutical drugs. Many ordinary people have a natural distrust of intellectuals as they tend to be the architects of enormous disasters and frequently believe that although they are indeed more intelligent than the average person, their intelligence can serve as a replacement for the collective experiences of average, less intelligent people.
Intellectuals like Michael Ignatieff found this out the hard way; to be politically successful, intellectuals must mask their true intellect -- which Barack Obama does quite often when he slurs his speech and talks about "folks" or "ya'll" and Bill Clinton had down to a science. To be successful, intellectuals must reveal their true nature only in the presence of other intellectuals, which is why American politicians (who are experts in this regard) will talk to the media (a collection of intellectuals) one way and ordinary folks at a rally in another.
This is why so many of the elite hate Rob Ford -- ultimately, he is not one of them. Yet Harvard product, David Miller, more palatable to fellow intellectuals, did not produce a more prosperous city. And had George Smitherman been successful, another candidate more palatable to the elite (who admitted to experimenting with drugs), he would not have produced a city with more jobs or any more opportunities. And there would most certainly still be scandal, just not of the variety one might see on an episode of The Wire.
Ford is down, certainly, but it's always darkest before the dawn. Canadians are dying for excitement in politics and Ford, like a pizza shop, is delivering it straight to their door.