Saturday, November 09, 2013

Living in Ford Nation

Mitchell Anderson writes that we're all living in Ford Nation now:

Mayor Ford’s puzzling popularity in the face of one salacious scandal after another seems to be propelled by his cheapening effect on values — and how that appeals to a morally lazy electorate. Like a pair of drunks egging each other on, Ford and his die-hard supporters are enabling each other’s bad behaviour, something that’s gone far beyond mere substance abuse.

Ford’s everyman appeal stems in part from how he makes it respectable to indulge our ugliest instincts. Don’t care about the poor? Neither does he. Are you a racist and a homophobe? So, apparently, is the mayor. Drive drunk? Who doesn’t?

We may not like it, but we get the government we deserve. And, if we choose to overlook our leaders' shortcomings, we have only ourselves to blame. What is true of Ford is also true of Stephen Harper, whose alliance with Ford helped propel him to a majority government:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a career of appealing to the smallest of human sentiments. The latest speech from the throne was notable mainly for its myopic focus on consumer trivia like cell phone rates and cable costs — as if the highest ideal to which Ottawa can aspire is to make it cheaper to tune in to Honey Boo Boo.

Many Canadians are now represented by politicians who share their unchallenged values. Harper is spending billions on prisons, untroubled by the evidence which says crime rates are falling, or that incarceration exacerbates criminality. Scientists somewhere are making depressing proclamations about climate change — but honestly, who has the energy to think about such things?

And what we accept as reality today wasn't always so:

Lester Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for his courageous diplomatic work inventing the now long-discarded practice of military peacekeeping. Pierre Trudeau battled political foes and provincial interests to ratify the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despised by many during his remarkable life for such difficult and principled work, in death his casket was carried by both Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro. Even Brian Mulroney took a principled stand against apartheid and U.S. military intervention in Central America.

Harper and Ford's operating philosophy is ME:  What I want is what I deserve. And when we elect them, we get what WE deserve.


bcwaterboy said...

The problems we face today compared to what Pearson and Trudeau had are so much more dire than they could have ever imagined. Yet the quality of leadership that we demanded of them allowed them to take on these issues and gain the respect that comes with it. Today, that is simply forgotten and we settle for repeated soundbites that ring hollow, ignore the root causes, the mounds of evidence and rationality at all costs. Ideal breeding ground for dregs like ford and harper to win elections. Political leadership today is really about power consolidation and this translates directly into all of our pocket books. It's absolutely no accident that the majority of people have seen their incomes lag behind those who are in the real "elite".

Owen Gray said...

I agree, waterboy. Politics today is all about the consolidation of wealth and power.

And Harper and Ford -- posing as populists -- are leading the charge.

Lorne said...

"We have met the enemy and he is us." So said Walt Kelly many years ago in his comic strip Pogo. It was true then, Owen, and it is true today.

Anonymous said...

It did amaze me, how much alike Harper and Ford's character's are. Neither one of them have any, honor, decency, ethics nor morals, what-so-ever.

How anyone with self respect could support a monster such as Harper, boggles me. I have even read? Harper is not welcome at, the Armistice Day Services. We went to war so, we wouldn't have Fascism and Dictatorship in our country. I doubt Ford will be welcome either.

Owen Gray said...

These are two men who really are overgrown children, Anon. They believe their own interest is in the national interest.

Owen Gray said...

Both of these men refuse to take responsibility for the decisions they make, Lorne.

And until we take responsibility for the people we put in office, we will continue to elect men like Harper and Ford -- men who masquerade at being leaders.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to avoid demonizing politicians we don't agree with. I don't support Harper or his politics but he is not a monster. We need to build bridges and seek to understand why he is popular. He is clearly a control freak and has demonstrated little respect for the democratic process. The cause is that the ideology of division has spread from USA.
Harper does what he does as he places a higher priority on unfettered business because he and his supporters feel that for decades Canadian governments have wasted billions of tax dollars.

Owen Gray said...

There is a place for debate of Harper's ends, Anon. The problem is the means he uses to achieve them. He's willing to destroy Canadian democratic conventions to get to those ends.

And, for that reason, he's a dangerous man.

Anonymous said...

Owen, you make a great point and I agree with you fully but I feel we need to understand how he has secured power. His supporters are mostly good people who support Harper as the opposition has no grand narrative that resonates. For example if the opposition included the idea of helping people become independent and successful they might find a method of building a broader support base that includes many of Harper's supporters.

e.a.f. said...

Harper's photo op with Ford is just another example of Harper's poor judgement.

Ford appeals to people because he is a populist. He is very different from what many people consider the "political elite". It would not be surprising if Harper didn't care much for Ford, he just wanted the votes he thought Ford would throw his way.

The majority of people in Toronto voted for Ford, now they have him. The majority of Canadians voted for stevie slime, now we have to live with it also.

It is easy for people to consider politician elitist, but they keep voting for them.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with you, Anon, that both of the main opposition parties have no grand narrative. In fact, it has been their failure which has enabled Harper.

I caught an interview with Joe Clark the other night. He made the point that a lot of Canadians seem to believe that the building of Canada, the nation, has already been accomplished. In fact, he said, nation building is always an on going process.

And then he argued that rather than building the nation, Mr. Harper is hell bent on dismantling it.

Owen Gray said...

Like you, e.a.f., I suspect that Harper has little respect for Ford. In fact, I suspect he has little respect for anyone -- except himself.

Like everyone else, he views Ford as a conduit for votes.

And as long as Canadians -- politicians and voters -- allow themselves to be used by Harper, they will also allow themselves to be abused by Harper.