Ford, who died just over a year ago, from cancer, lied constantly and consistently and railed against the media and liberal élites. As one scandal led to another, he surrounded himself with cronies and family loyalists and, when truly tested, fell back on the flag-waving rallies that fired up his base.
.. In a city of immigrants, Ford’s message wasn’t built along racial divisions but along economic and social ones. Toronto’s inner suburbs were his Appalachia, less wealthy than the downtown core of the city, which served as his proxy for a sort of coastal élite. Ford created a culture war, presenting himself as an advocate for the hardworking everyman with the long commute behind the wheel on potholed roads and against the coddled, bike-riding latte sippers who lived downtown. Ford evoked his “war on the car” as brazenly as Trump’s own “war on coal.”
.. He effectively adopted this posture despite the fact that he inherited millions of dollars from his family
.. His typical supporter was the small-business owner fed up with taxes and traffic, who believed that he was ignored by a political class focussed on high-minded ideals of global urbanism and walkable cities. His campaign slogan was “Respect for Taxpayers,” and he promised to stop the city’s “gravy train” of runaway spending, on behalf of the little guy.
.. His swearing-in ceremony was conducted by the hockey commentator Don Cherry, who wore a pink double-breasted paisley suit in mockery of the “left-wing pinkos” opposed to Ford
..he included the city’s newspaper reporters, a group of people “that ride bicycles and everything,” Cherry said, implying a host of liberal sins.
.. When, three years into his tenure, journalists reported the existence of a video showing the mayor smoking crack, Ford fell back to his base and the comforts of the culture war.
.. Post-truth was a hallmark of his administration. He peddled in falsehoods (for example, a repeatedly disproved claim that he’d saved the city a billion Canadian dollars) and flat-out lies (he claimed not to have smoked crack, even though the video had been seen by numerous journalists, police, and others who described it in detail), and reiterated them loudly and unashamedly. Efforts to debunk his lies were dismissed by Ford as nothing more than the jealous desperation of the liberal élites. His Breitbart was a weekly call-in afternoon radio talk show that he hosted with Doug, coupled with friendly columnists at the right-wing Sun tabloid newspaper
.. The more Rob Ford’s lies were flagged and earnestly debunked, the more he was perceived as a straight shooter by his base.
.. Ford’s foibles were, to them, a big middle finger to Toronto’s status quo.
.. Jimmy Kimmel mocked him nightly. But nothing stuck. He was shameless, and that shamelessness coated him like Teflon.
.. but as the months wore on and Ford stayed the course it all felt a bit futile. Why bother writing articles, mounting investigations, and uncovering facts if they had no discernible impact?
.. What we couldn’t see at the time is that politics is a long game. Yes, Ford held onto office, but, by the time he was forced to bow out of his reëlection campaign, because of illness, his political career was already damaged. His name was a global punch line, he retained few political allies, and many of his formal powers had been stripped from him by the city council. Even his radio show was cancelled
.. Yes, the true loyalists of Ford Nation still adore him, and many voted for his brother, but his appeal to a broader base of small-government conservatives was gone. It hadn’t vanished overnight in a sudden, dramatic revelation that forced Ford from office. It built over each story, eroding Ford’s appeal bit by bit, until at least some of the voters who put him into office were ashamed to admit they’d done so and did what they could to right their mistake.
Perceptions of a new divide between haves and have-nots emerged, exemplified by an epidemic of traffic-snarling condo construction and a growing class of young, affluent creatives. To those who weren’t benefitting from the boom, or who simply preferred Toronto as it had been, the city’s council and left-leaning mayor seemed élitist and out of touch, content to levy taxes from their perch downtown.