2017/02/20 Leave a comment
Doug Saunders reminds us of Rob Ford, that his base was largely the non-white suburban poor and the importance of addressing barriers that produce marginalization:
Canada’s most dramatic recent triumph of Trump-style politics occurred in Toronto, where nearly half the city’s voters (and Toronto has more voters than most provinces do) cast a ballot for a wealthy, unpredictable, populist, anti-immigration, anti-elite, racist-mouthed guy named Rob Ford in 2010, and a third voted for his movement in 2014. Many note the similarities between the late mayor and the current President. Others point out the big difference: Ford voters weren’t generally, or even mainly, white.
An analysis by University of Toronto geographer Zach Taylor found that the Torontonians who voted for Mr. Ford overwhelmingly lived in inner-suburban wards whose populations were mainly racial and ethnic minorities, mainly lacking university education and mainly getting by on family incomes of less than $100,000 a year. Those voters are what the journalist Naheed Mustafa, in an analysis of their backgrounds, called “the non-white suburban poor,” whom Mr. Ford pitted against an unseen, well-paid downtown elite (and sometimes against newer immigrants) – “Despite his personal wealth, he gave the impression that he spoke the language of the marginalized.” Sound familiar?
Since the eighties, new Canadians and their families have tended to live in the low-cost, poorly transit-connected high-rise suburbs; they are more likely to be excluded from the housing boom and the secure new-economy jobs that have buoyed Canada; they are generally not white. Mr. Ford spoke their specific language of outsider resentment; he stoked the anger felt by many marginal Caribbean, African, South Asian and East Asian Canadians, and worked their Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. He knew their sense of exclusion could be turned into angry intolerance and he gave his voters a mythic “them” to be angry about. And it worked.
Likewise, the 2011 federal election was the first in which most ethnic and religious minorities voted Conservative. The Harper Tories certainly weren’t a populist far-right party, but they didn’t attract these new voters by moving leftward.
This doesn’t mean minorities in Canada have turned to the far right – they haven’t, any more than anyone else has. It does mean that anger and exclusion and paranoia in Canada, and even racial intolerance and xenophobia in Canada, are just as likely to entrap minority Canadians. The places where I most often hear overtly pro-Trump opinions are on Toronto’s black-music radio station or in the suburban flea markets: His outsider message works there.
Canada has traditionally avoided extremism by offering hope: If you start on the bottom rung, you can make it higher. But the second and third rungs are no longer so secure. If they fail, we could wind up electing the world’s most diverse form of self-destructive intolerance.