Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This blog still exists

It seems odd to think that this blog has been around for 7 years, limping along, a post here and there, lately reflecting not much more than a profound desire to avoid writing.  Of course we know why- there's a dissertation to be written!

In any event, writing at all has proven difficult.  And indeed, when one looks across the infinite horizon of the virtual landscape, there are moribund blogs everywhere.  So maybe it isn't just me.

I also know that people have moved on, to Facebook, to twitter, etc.  There are places where essays are also read and shared (metafiler is a good example), but blogging, that medium that "forced" newspapers to add comment sections to the bottoms of their articles, to the benefit of no one, now seems to have been a passing fad, consigned to the dustbin of internet history.

Instead we have sites like, uh, Medium, which is basically a blog, but it was created by one of the founders of twitter, and it's somehow new.

Does this seem like I'm complaining?  Why do I only ever write about writing?

Or about Toronto?  For years I've had a pet theory about Toronto mayoralty races since Toronto was amalgamated in 1998, and the current race, which I'm thankfully out of the country for, is a chance for this theory to really shine.  So I'm going to put it out there, in part because one of Olivia Chow's former advisors, Warren Kinsella, is asking this very question.

I call it the "Underdog Theory".  It's a pretty simple theory, but I've never seen anyone else write about it, and it's so far been a nearly universal predictor of who will become the next Mayor of Toronto.

Here goes:   About a year (or even earlier) before the actual election,  journalists in Toronto begin to create "buzz" about the next big candidate (if there's no incumbent mayor).  This buzz is amplified by polling firms, who take the conjecture of the media, and ask people who they might vote for, and also by the people who might want to be mayor.  This person, for the purposes of my theory, I've named the "consensus candidate".  By this I mean that person who, long before most people are thinking seriously about the election, and before anyone could even reasonably consider running, has been chosen by the media as the front runner.

 So for example, before the 1998 and 2003 elections, the frontrunner a year out was Barbara Hall.  After David Miller decided to step down, the consensus front runner was George Smitherman.  Do you notice anything about these frontrunners?  They never win.

Who wins?  Well, it seems to be the person who somehow bucks the consensus.  What's interesting about this is that it doesn't seem to have much to do with ideology - David Miller won mainly by being the lone candidate to campaign again the island airport, and Rob Ford won mainly because he represented an outsider looking into City Council.

So this is to me what makes this current race pretty interesting.  Firstly, we have an incumbent (or had I should say now).  But I think that, given everything that went on, including the fact that his powers were stripped from him, the current race was functioning effectively as one without an incumbent.

Now if anyone is actually reading this, and has bothered to stay with me so far, let's look at the consensus candidate from a year ago - Olivia Chow.  Does everyone remember all the stories about how polls showed that only Chow could beat Rob Ford at the polls?  When I saw this, my first reaction to it was "uh-oh".

I reacted this way for two reasons - firstly, at the time I thought this time might be the race that refutes my pet theory, and that would bruise my ego.  Secondly, I thought to myself, well if she's isn't going to win, who will, and the odds are that person is going to be awful.

So here we are a month out, and guess what?  Olivia Chow has basically disappeared from the race, and could sink to Joe Pantalone levels of support, and John Tory, who lost to Rob Ford, has come from below to steal the race from her, although as I've argued, she was screwed the day everyone said she would be the one to win!

But then Rob Ford got cancer, and his brother stepped in.  I cannot help but look at Doug Ford and see him as the new underdog, especially here in the bucolic splendour of Wolfenbüttel! 

Here's the thing - John Tory has been leading for some time now, and Doug Ford, whether or not deserves it, can pretty much count on all of Rob Ford's support.  What remains to be seen is whether or not the huge group of people who voted for Rob Ford but never admitted it to people (a tendency which, given the whole crack scandal, is strangely literary in its foreshadowing...) are prepared to switch their votes from Tory to Doug Ford.

Honestly, I don't know.  But now that I have finally had the courage to state my pet theory, I look forward to its refutation.  Mainly because the thing that seems really clear to me, if my theory is actually operating (somewhere) in the hive mind of the Toronto voting public, it's that the race for mayor has nothing to do with governance, or ideology. 

It's about something else.  I still haven't found a way to articulate what that else is, but it seems to have less to do with politics, and more to do with anxiety about "elites".  But I've already gone on too long.

With any luck, the next time I write on the blog won't be six months from now!