We don’t usually editorialize about international politics — and never before about American politics. Their shenanigans don’t have much to do with the price of beans in mid-Toronto. Not directly in any case.
But this presidential election in the United States is tempting us mightily.
It’s tempting us because of the references we’ve picked up to parallels between a certain phenomenon south of the board and an experience we’ve gone through recently in Toronto.
The U.S. has seen the rise of its own Rob Ford, in the person of Donald Trump. Or so the wags would have it.
Trump is supposed to represent the marginalized ordinary folks who are rising against the elites of his country, just as Ford did in our city. Both Trump and Ford have been outlandish characters with checkered pasts and with propensities for getting caught up in endless scandals, but their core followers have stuck to them regardless. Both have been repeatedly caught misstating the truth, yet their fans continued to admire them for “telling it like it is.” Both have insulted opponents and have used lewd language — without fazing their hardline supporters. Both have been accused of racism, misogyny and … but why go on?
More important is that they have both preached from the old, far right-wing, economic gospel — misrepresenting themselves as helping the common people (against those elites), while promoting policies that would direct more of society’s wealth from the middle and lower classes toward the real elites (of which they are actually members).
At this time of writing, it appears Trump’s polls are nosediving and his rise to power is about to be cut short (although this could change several more before election day).
If his ride is about to end, there’s something else we have to warn Americans about.
Just as our editorials cautioned during the last Toronto election to beware Ford being replaced by Ford-lite, we want to point out the risk of the post-Trump era giving birth to Trumpism-without-Trump.
Trump, like Ford before him, is being discredited now not by exposure of how ill-thought-out, counterproductive and dangerous his policies are, but by issues of character.
If he loses, after seeming for a while to have come very close to winning, there will be other politicians ready to take his place. They’ll note how he won massive support with lies, xenophobia and demagoguery. And they’ll calculate how much further a candidate with the same appeal but without Trump’s baggage might go.
This is why it is important not just to write off Trump as a bizarre, flash in the pan with a potty mouth.
His ridiculous policies have to be thoroughly debunked. His intolerant proposals have to be completely exposed. His pose of representing the ordinary people has to be demolished.
So no craftier political scam artist with the same message can take his place in the future.