Mayor Rob Ford gets scrummed at the Walk of Fame Festival at Nathan Phillips Square Sept. 20, 2012.
Credits: Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
If you want an example of why conservatives have gotten so good at winning, take look at Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Many, many folks in and around Toronto regard Ford as an unmitigated disaster. A loser. Just a year ago, for instance, Ford was named the “World’s Worst Person” by a U.S. TV show. He is, in the opinion of many, an oaf and a poltroon.
Many, many folks in Toronto dislike him intensely, and not just lefties like me, either. They are embarrassed that he is mayor of Toronto, a city that regularly aspires to be world class. Ford’s mistakes and missteps happen daily. They are legion.
Most recently, he has been the subject of a great big conflict-of-interest scandal, wherein he has gotten in trouble for his involvement with a high school football team. Ford, who evidently sees his coaching duties as more important that anything else on earth, has used taxpayer resources to support the team.
When lobbyists donated thousands to a high school football foundation, Ford was ordered to pay the money back. He refused. He then voted on the resulting mess, and even gave a speech defending his willingness to take the money. For that, he may well be removed as mayor. A judge’s decision is expected soon.
He loses virtually every vote at council. His former allies are starting to turn against him. Even the proudly conservative Toronto Sun has taken to editorializing against him. If you were to suggest out loud that Rob Ford is a winner, then many people would think you are nuts. They’d think you are as crazy as the Toronto mayor regularly seems to be.
But he’s a winner. Recently, I conducted a highly scientific survey at the King St. E. diner in Toronto where I hang out, a block or so from the Sun. I spoke to Terry, the guy who runs the place. I adore Terry. Terry asks me what I think of Rob Ford. I tell him. He shrugs.
“Me, I like him. He drives the intellectuals crazy. I like the way he talks. He makes me laugh. I understand him.”
And that, in short form, is why conservatives are getting better at winning elections, and winning power. And why progressives like me are losing, a lot.
Conservatives like Rob Ford know that the political brain is all emotion. Logic, if it plays any role at all, it’s a supporting one. Conservatives like Ford know that if they speak like a regular guy, regular guys like Terry will hear them better, and listen to them, too.
They know that if they align themselves with the everyday values of regular guys, as Rob Ford does all the time, they’ll win their hearts. They’ll win votes. Unless progressives understand the need to get better at communicating — the need to get better at values — Rob Ford is the well-fed face of our political future. He, and his type, are going to keep winning.
Rob Ford is a buffoon. He is unfit to clean toilets at city hall, let alone be mayor of Toronto. But he’s a winner. He knows how to reach the hearts and minds of guys like Terry.
And, until progressives like me learn how to do likewise, we’re the ones who will be mopping floors and cleaning toilets.
— Kinsella’s book on political communications and values, Fight The Right, was published last week by Random House.