Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dividing By Zero

The first election I was ever involved in seriously- Ontario, 2007- consisted of John Tory bumbling his way to defeat, followed shortly by a bunch of people I respected getting marched over a cliff for daring to ask dangerous questions like "Why?" and "How?", and the people responsible for that particular disaster making every excuse possible and getting away with it. You could say it was a bit of a formative experience.

One thing I learned from that election that has held true through every single subsequent election, leadership review, leadership race, and generally every test that the Canadian public has been put to is that the voters will always- always- go for the safest option. Not the best option, not even the smartest option, but the safest option. What is likely to cause the least conflict and friction? Who's going to make us sacrifice the least? Who has the fewest negatives? Voters do this because they know on a very basic and intangible level that the world is a scary and frightening place, and the people who know this the best are (usually) the Liberals, who cynically offer them a chance to keep things the way they are and pretend conflict doesn't exist.

Before that election, the PC bosses were confident, as usual (and wrong, as usual) that nobody would believe any of the out-and-out lies the Liberals were going to tell about John Tory. Just look at him, they said. He gets up at 5 AM and doesn't leave a room until he's spoken to every single person in it. Nobody's ever tried to smell his poop, but not only doesn't it stink, it's probably worth more than any of us will ever be worth. What is Dalton McLiar going to do against that?

To this day, it's hard for me to believe that for one month in 2007 the entire province bought the notion that John Tory was a radical social conservative. They did, though. And it's because between the two of them, John Tory had one policy that was going to cause friction and Dalton had none. They got over it in time to help him be "the safe alternative to the Fords," though.

It's also hard to believe, but there was a time that everybody thought Rob Ford was legitimately the best option out of his group of candidates. George Smitherman was hated by his own party, treated anyone outside his Liberal circle like dirt, was a known former drug abuser, and thought this brutish knuckle-dragger from Etobicoke wasn't fit to polish his silverware. He thought Toronto owed him the mayoralty. He made no secret of it. Rob Ford kept it together for the duration of the campaign whereas Smitherman looked like he was going to bite off and eat the head of the first voter who looked at him funny.

Truth challenged but boring Premier beats privileged but decent zillionaire with a tendency to say awkward stuff. Privileged awkward decent zillionaire beats (the angrier brother of) the slightly oafish guy who is somewhat relatable despite saying really offensive stuff from time to time. Oafish and sometimes racist but still relatable guy beats preening snob ashamed of his humble beginnings. It's a hierarchy of safe and predictable from which voters choose the least worst option based on the options they're given for a particular choice.

Now I'm sure that John Tory has read all the newspapers telling the world that the circus has moved out of city hall and based on that he truly believes that he will be able to bring harmony to council, and in that respect he is wrong wrong wrongitty wrong wrongo wrong.

First of all, we have almost the exact same city council we had when the circus was in town, which means we pick up almost exactly where we left off. Rob Ford is still on council. All of Rob Ford's opponents are still on council. The ideological makeup of council is basically the same.

Then you still have Ford Nation out there in the upper left and upper right corners of the city with a whole bunch of entitled social justice warriors all over the place who decided to cut off their noses to spite their faces and let Olivia Chow burn because she didn't give them everything they wanted. Leaderless and confused, they still managed to get Ausma Malik elected to the TDSB even as nearly half of the money wasting trustees got cleared out, mount sizable challenges to centrist and right-centrist incumbents in Davenport, give conservative councilors elsewhere a run for their money, and help obnoxious leftist incumbents that by all rights should have been defeated stay comfortably where they were. That's a hell of a better final score than the right had at the end of the night.

If anything, this mayoral race is just another data point on the trendline showing that, if you want a halfway conservative government, your best bet is to form a "wing" of a much bigger and much better organized Liberal framework. And indeed these two groups, Ford Nation and the social justice warriors, will be pushing their agendas through their respective mouthpieces whilst Wynne and her new toy John Tory will tie their own centrist agenda into a pretzel trying to please everyone and failing. That's the next four years in a nutshell, but at least until council gets rolling again these two factions are battling it out in other arenas: the online debate over Ghomeshigate, for example, or in the chatter over what last week's attack on the Parliament Buildings means for our nation.

In this corner we have the tag team of "Ban All Muslim Immigration" and "Ghomeshi Is The Victim Of A Conspiracy of Crazy Women", and in this corner we have, "Canada Had It Coming And They Deserved What They Got" and "If You Don't Think Ghomeshi Is Guilty As The Day Is Long, You're Perpetuating Rape Culture." Ding ding! Well, it's not actually much of a fight, is it? Team Social Justice has critical-theory-using millenials, twitter and tumblr mobs, celebrities, and Glenn Greenwald on its side, and Team Ford Nation has the usual gang of reg'lar folk facepalm-generators.

Based on the other 8692 times we've had this matchup, I'm going to give Team Social Justice a slight edge and predict that it will become just a bit easier to blame Canada for terrorist attacks perpetrated against it, and instead of blaming women for being assaulted like we did and still do, we'll move a little bit closer to assuming men are just guilty (which is way better, of course).

John Tory can't even answer a simple question about white privilege without becoming confuzzled, so I can't wait to see what his views on rape culture are, or what he thinks about Glenn Greenwald's super clear and super helpful "distinction" between justifying the attacks and talking about their causes which is not a distinction at all because it's completely obvious what Greenwald wants to accomplish here: he wants to shift blame for terrorist attacks from Muslims to white people, which, like what the rest of the social justice warriors want to accomplish with Ghomeshigate, won't actually improve the way we treat one another but will instead just change who the victim is, so we'll all be equally frightened and equally guarded and equally miserable.

So long as we need someone to blame (which is always), the John Torys of the world are powerless.


  1. when 60% of the electorate always vote for one form of socialism or another, it does not matter how honest or great any candidate looks. it is not safety it is socialism and how much I am going to get from someone else that drives the vote in Canada.