Choosing champions.

One of the aspects of populism that confuses people is that they can come from the left or the right or any other part of the political spectrum. Typically, the populist rises from the environment that generated the specific populist movement. This is why Donald Trump in the United States is not considered a populist. He just had the ego and enough money to take advantage of the opportunity. He is a narcissist, a womanizer, ignorant and incompetent and those are just some of the polite words used to describe him.

But Donald Trump’s arrogance, simplistic message and racism attracted a following among a broad swath of mainly apolitical Americans ranging from neighbourhood bigots and bikers to the Klu Klux Klan and the National Rifle Association. Not even Trump had any idea how effective those people would be at the polls. When Hillary Clinton called some of Trump’s supporters “deplorables” it helped drive them to the polls to vote against her.

In America’s red states that dominate middle America, the God-fearing, embittered and concerned right had no one else to vote for as president. It was this odd coalition of the holy and the unholy who won the electoral college to make Trump president.

In Canada, we are seeing a somewhat similar situation developing in the planned June election in Ontario. Nobody is suggesting that Doug Ford is as racist and incompetent as Mr. Trump but there is some confusion between Ford and his late brother Rob Ford, the crack-cocaine smoking and plain-spoken populist mayor of Toronto for one term.

Rob Ford was the get-even mayor of Toronto. His one term as mayor created chaos. It held the city up for ridicule on late night television in the United States and in British tabloids.

While Doug Ford, the older brother, served one term in his brother’s former council seat, it was Rob who was the populist. Since the forced amalgamation of the city by the Harris Conservatives, there has been a serious schism growing in Toronto between the downtown inner city and its suburbs. Without their local politicians and councils, the suburbs have felt isolated.

What made matters worse in a city of 630 square kilometers, that rises from the downtown up steep hills, the inner-city politicians declared war on the automobile. The suburbs saw their routes to downtown congested with restricted bicycle lanes and no better public transportation services in the offing. Enter populist Rob Ford to save the day.

But Rob Ford is dead and his brother Doug failed to replace him as mayor. Doug Ford is no populist.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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