Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Will America avoid its 'Rob Ford' mistake next week?

Comedy Central meme interview with Trump supporter.
Over two weeks ago, Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne wrote this insightful article entitled, "How does Donald Trump still have supporters?"

In it, Coyne wrote, "The actual Republican nominee is a man who has shown himself unfit, not just for high office, but for any office; not just in his abilities as a leader, but in
his qualities as a man; not just occasionally, but on every day of the campaign.  He is not just deficient in this or that respect - knowledge, experience, judgment, tact, decency, integrity, leadership, policy - but utterly lacking in all.  Donald Trump is not just the worst candidate for president ever nominated by a major party, he is very nearly the worst candidate it is possible to imagine, and was even before it was revealed he was a serial sexual predator."

I love it when decent conservatives like Coyne show integrity and turn on horrible standard bearers like Trump.   Many also turned on another grossly flawed conservative in Toronto by the name of Rob Ford, once those flaws were exposed after he won the mayor's chair.

I'm not the first person to compare the Trump phenomenon south of the border with Toronto's own former and late mayor.   As the U.S. campaign finally winds down, I thought I'd compare the two men. 

The dynamics in this 2016 U.S. race and the 2010 mayoral election which saw Ford take the top job at Toronto city hall are eerily similar.  But there are also some major differences, which I believe will produce a different kind of result next week.   

Trump is an outsider with zero political experience.  Rob Ford was already an elected councillor with ten years experience at city hall when he ran for mayor, and a well-established record for local constituency service.  Although Ford still had a reputation for being an 'outsider.'

While Trump's bombastic campaign designed to shake up the establishment this year proved effective at vanquishing his mostly weak opponents in the GOP primary, including his pandering to racism and xenophobia in the Republican base, it has been less successful at winning over mainstream Americans.

Instead, Trump has proven to be an inept campaigner, following his shallow, stupid instincts like getting into a week-long Twitter war with a former Miss Universe after falling into every debate trap launched by his more experienced opponent Hillary Clinton.

Trump's been tone deaf and has failed to exploit Clinton's perceived weaknesses, usually going over the top in his attacks.  By contrast, Clinton's attacks on Trump have defined him as a sexist, racist jerk who is fundamentally unfit for the presidency.

In 2010, by contrast, Rob Ford's campaign was laser-like in its focus on "fighting the (imagined) gravy train" at Toronto City Hall and reducing taxes.  It was exactly what Toronto voters wanted to hear that year, at least on taxes.  Ford's main opponent was George Smitherman, an openly gay, former Liberal cabinet minister with a provincial record perceived by some as scandal-plagued and wasteful.

Sadly, Smitherman proved to be far less adept than Clinton at exposing his opponent's weaknesses.  Sure, many of us on the left knew that Ford was homophobic and racist, based on his previous comments.  Still, that didn't seem to matter to the 47% of voters who decided to give him a try in the mayor's chair.  In the end, the best theme that Smitherman could muster was essentially "I'm not Rob Ford."  That wasn't good enough to stop the Ford juggernaut that swept across Toronto's inner suburbs.  

When they voted, Toronto voters didn't know about Ford's drug and alcohol addiction problems, plus his apparent ties to criminals.   When his crack cocaine scandal emerged in 2013, many in Toronto were genuinely shocked.  Had a crack video emerged during the 2010 election campaign, it's easy to assume that Ford's campaign would've fallen off the rails like Trump's did following the release of the infamous Access Hollywood video. 

Instead, Toronto had to endure four lost years as Rob Ford spent more time smoking crack in the basements of gang members instead of governing at city hall.  It was a shit show we won't soon forget.

This year, it seems that Clinton has been able to successfully define her opponent as unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans.  Despite her own flaws and history, she is widely regarded as capable.  She's mostly won over the progressive left, aided by the generous support of her Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders.  And now she seems to have won over the majority of independents and even some moderate Republicans who've looked on in horror as Trump's enormous flaws have been exposed.

In spite of last Friday's bizarre announcement by the FBI that they've found more emails that may or may not be pertinent to the Clinton email server scandal and subsequent fall-out, it does seem that most Americans have already made up their minds.  They're not going to hand the nuclear codes to someone as obviously unfit as Trump.
@thelaynee: Trump supporter hangs black mannequins in tree.

Yet, Trump's bigoted base persists in supporting him.  Why?  In my mind, because they're largely racist and don't care much about whether Trump is otherwise unfit for office, or aren't smart enough to notice.  They've been won over by Trump's attacks on Muslims and Mexicans, and don't seem to mind his admitted history of sexually assaulting women enough to change their votes.   

Like Trump, Ford too had his diehard supporters who stuck by him and his brother despite the crack cocaine scandal as well as his failure to "stop the gravy train".  They stuck by Ford because they knew, like them, Ford hated LGBT people and spared no opportunity to show disrespect to them.  In Ford, they saw a kindred spirit.

Perhaps in some ways, Ford was a lot like his supporters.  Trump, on the other hand, is a billionaire philanderer who never gave a crap about the poor or the uneducated until he wanted to seize power with their votes.  

A very effective Clinton campaign seems to have stopped the Trump monster in its tracks, I'm glad to say.  Of course, we'll see how it goes next Tuesday.  But I'll be hoping the U.S. avoids its Rob Ford mistake.  

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