First published at Global News on March 13, 2018.
Doug Ford hadn’t even been officially announced as the Ontario PC party’s new leader before media hysteria ensued.
Contrary to what the naysayers predicted in the lead-up to Saturday’s reveal in Markham, Ford emerged as the victor. And many in the media are displeased.
It’s hardly a shock that the Toronto Star — which spared no effort in its attempts to dethrone Ford’s late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford — isn’t a fan, though it was amusing to see how the paper twisted itself in knots over the new PC leader.
The newspaper’s editorial said he was a byproduct of a “flight to the right” in the PC party (as though it’s revolutionary for what’s supposed to be a conservative party to choose a conservative leader). “So all we have to go on is sloganeering and attitude,” and “simplistic rage” against the elites, the editorial determined.
The Star’s editorial board members listed a few of what they felt were Ford’s objectionable policies, before concluding that he doesn’t have any policies.
In fact, their real issue is that he doesn’t embody their policies.
A CBC analysis warned readers in the headline that Ford would bring “Disruption, distraction and dysfunction.”
The most bizarre response to Ford’s win was a tweet from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, featuring a photo of a laughing Doug Ford with a fire alarm edited in. The photo was captioned, “We’re gonna need your help,” with a link to a fundraising page.
On the page, there was no information about Ford, nor his apparent secret plan to erode civil liberties. A CCLA representative was unavailable for an interview to explain.
Usually, when fear-mongering about politicians kicks into gear, we at least get a half-true sentiment to fuel it. With Ford, the “independent, non-partisan” CCLA thinks it’s enough to say, “Look at him, now give us money to stop him.”
There’s a very simple explanation: like the Toronto Star and CBC, the CCLA is suffering from Ford Derangement Syndrome.
It’s a revival of the condition that swept Toronto during Rob Ford’s mayoralty, and is now spreading across the province.
It follows the path of Trump Derangement Syndrome, Harper Derangement Syndrome, and, of course, the original, Bush Derangement Syndrome, coined by columnist Charles Krauthammer and defined as “acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”
It’s when loathing of a conservative supersedes any sensible discussion about their policies.
Ford’s critics are unconcerned — or even unaware — of his policies. They simply don’t like him.
Conservatives and liberals alike often don’t have much time or patience for each other’s worldviews. The major difference is how the left exhaustingly tries to reshape and redefine conservatism on its terms.
It’s why we see commentators asking, “Why can’t all conservatives be like _____?” ad nauseam.
Michael Chong was a favorite in this category in last year’s federal Conservative leadership field. In the PC race, it was Christine Elliott, who has always been a more moderate figure in the conservative movement.
There is another criterion that endears conservatives to the left, however — irrelevance. When you cease to be a force, the hatred and derangement subside.
Ford’s ideological conservatism is disliked as much as his potential for victory is.
Take a look at the mea culpa columns and op-eds from the last couple of years about George W. Bush. After facing the left’s and the media’s wrath for the better part of the decade, Bush is now held up as a model conservative.
Ford, on the other hand, has a shot at leading Ontario. He could win or lose the election come June, so to say either outcome is a certainty is foolish.
If you want evidence of this, just take a look at Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells’ Jan. 29 tweet saying, “there is no chance Doug Ford will lead the Ontario Conservatives (sic). Suspense now is over whether he realizes this.”
Wells had a sense of humour about his inaccurate prediction, but the tweet illuminated a truth you’d think the media would have figured out by now — underestimate anti-establishment candidates at your own peril.
While comparisons between Doug Ford and Donald Trump may generally be weak and lazy, one similarity that does exist in both of them is the defiance of what the intelligentsia thought inevitable.
From Brexit to Donald Trump to Doug Ford, the left didn’t just advance a narrative that these outcomes were unlikely, but rather that they weren’t even within the realm of possibility.
And this will continue as Doug Ford seeks the job of Premier of Ontario. Ford Derangement Syndrome may, in fact, be his greatest asset in the upcoming election. When they don’t think he can win is when they stop fighting.