Tag Archives: George Smitherman

Ford’s Win As Explained by Zizek

One of things that I noted about Ford’s seemingly surprising victory in Toronto is that the field of candidates was historically weak. Joe Pantalone was not a particularly suitable vessel for carrying on Miller’s centre-left legacy. (I recall reading someone who said that Pantalone had all of Miller’s negatives and none of his positives.) Smiterman ran a terrible campaign based around the fact that he was a sort of centrist technocrat who should be mayor because, well, he is a centrist technocrat. Rob Ford ran a fairly typical populist campaign and won by telling people over and over that the elite were unaccountably wasting our tax dollars. In the end the contest was between the centrist technocrat and the right-wing populist and the right-wing populist won.

Viewed through this lens, the Toronto election campaign is reminiscent of something that Slavoj Zizek said on a Dutch TV show recently. Zizek argues that throughout the West political movements are lining up in these two categories, centrist (be it centre-left or centre-right) technocrats and insurgent, far right populists driven more emotion than hard facts. These right-wing populist movements are now better able mobilize people than any particular left-wing group, they have even taken over the language of class by complaining about nebulous “elites” who don’t listen to the people. As Zizek says, “The only channel that functions for more radical forms of discontent is right-wing populism.”

There is no reason why more progressive political parties cannot own the issues of waste and government corruption or the sense that people get that government is unresponsive to them. I mean is Tommy Douglas’ “Mouseland” speech not an excellent example of a progressive attack on government that ignores the vast majority of citizens?

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Bullshit in a China Shop

Yeah, I know I’ve been like an absent father for this blog, but some things need commenting on, such as this bit of stupidity from the National Post. The editors the Post claim that Ford will act as a “bull in the china shop” to get things done in Toronto. Really? Ford’s penchant for making enemies does not strike me as being particularly efficacious for any agenda. The Post puts faith in Ford’s record on council, but he doesn’t have one – he yells stuff into the record but seems incapable of working with other right-wing members of council to accomplish the sorts of things he says he wants to accomplish. Tantrums are not a “record” on city council.

The Post goes on to address the bad behaviour thusly, “we believe [Ford is] serious when he pledges — as he did in a recent meeting with our editorial board — that the most egregious of his gaffes are behind him.” Oh really? As if Ford was going to tell the editors of a newspaper that he was going to have even more hissy fits. Ford strikes me as being barely able to keep his rage over plant-watering budgets and graffiti (on private property) at bay. All the while offering what in exchange for his cuts? A subway to nowhere and the end of Toronto’s streetcars at a time when many other North American cities are rediscovering the value of light rail.

People are upset with the status quo at city hall, the polls surely indicate that, but replacing the status quo with something that’s actually far worse is no kind of solution. Ford will get nothing done and embarrass himself and Toronto in the process.