They just want to Make America Great Again.
It’s hard for some in Toronto not to watch the American presidential election campaign unfold without feeling a little déjà vu. It’s especially poignant these days with some polls showing Donald Trump’s hyperbolic, xenophobic campaign becoming competitive against the smoother, more inclusive campaign conducted by Hillary Clinton. While some in America are flabbergasted by this potentially close race, Torontonians know from experience that a blunt, divisive, sloganeering right-winger can channel the anger of the electorate and be elected.
But if Donald Trump were running for Mayor of Toronto, could he win? And, who in the Toronto politics and media world would support him?
“You know that thing ‘Never Trump’? You know why it’s ‘Never Trump’? Because I’m going to stop the gravy train for all these consultants and all of these people that are ripping off our country. It’s called the gravy train.”
—Donald Trump, referring to the #NeverTrump movement in Charleston, West Virginia, May 5, 2016.
The obvious parallel to the Trump Train is Ford Nation. Like Trump, the late mayor Rob Ford was a businessman who came by his wealth through his birthright and seemed to maintain a personal popularity despite his outrageous comments and behaviour. Like Hillary Clinton, Ford’s main opponent in the 2010 mayoral election was a long-time politician with high unfavourable ratings (George Smitherman); Ford turned that election into a popularity contest where the more famous candidate prevailed.
There was a mutual admiration between Mayor Ford and Donald Trump; the two men met in April 2012 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Trump International Hotel and Tower near Bay and Adelaide. Later, when Ford was plagued by the drug scandal that engulfed his administration in 2013, the not-yet-a-candidate Trump tweeted his (perhaps, somewhat backhanded) support for the embattled mayor: “Who would you rather have negotiating with Iran—President Obama or Toronto Mayor Ford? My money is on Ford.”
And shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in June 2015, the now-former mayor, in an interview with Joe Warmington in the Toronto Sun, seemed confident of Trump’s chances despite his underdog status at the time. “A lot of the media were taking shots at him and making it out to be a joke but in the end it will be them who will be surprised,” Ford said. “They can laugh all they want, but Mr. Trump is a very successful man and a very good candidate for president.”
But the Trump/Ford analogy isn’t perfect; Trump’s constant Twitter presence is hardly a substitute for a mayor who publicized his personal cell phone number and prided himself on following up with every inquiry or concern that went to his voicemail. One can’t imagine the president of the United States being so accessible. Another difference is that Ford, despite once famously referring to himself as “the most racist guy around,” paradoxically drew a great deal of support from non-white voters. A typical Ford Fest is a truly multicultural event, as opposed to the overwhelming whiteness of a typical Trump rally—even with Trump recently adjusting his message to appeal to non-white voters after more than a year of alienating comments about Mexicans and Muslims that fuelled his growing popularity among the “alt-right” (a White Nationalist movement within American Conservatism).
Another difference between the men is that Ford had his fair share of defenders in the (local) media, especially during his 2010 campaign. One may recall Marcus Gee’s Globe and Mail column urging Ford to run in the first place or the National Post‘s immortal editorial endorsement (“Torontonians rightly sense that their city is in trouble. In our opinion, Rob Ford is the best candidate to address this situation.”). Contrast this with Donald Trump. Even with an election still two months away, American newspapers that haven’t endorsed a Democrat in 50 years are already rejecting Trump in their editorial pages. His major media advantage thus far has been the extensive coverage his every word receives on a daily basis.
Now, of course in Toronto, most of us don’t get to vote in an American election. But that doesn’t stop us from having opinions, and in past American elections our local politicians and media figures have happily weighed in on the virtues of Barack Obama or George W. Bush. Yet, in the current presidential election cycle it is hard to find voices, even in Toronto’s conservative circles, who give unqualified support for Trump.
Based on their public comments, one can make educated guesses on the very few key influencers who have shown support for Trump in this town. Here’s what we think. (Again…these are only theories!)
The truest of the true believers in Ford Nation, the ones who pointed to rumours of the crack video as proof of the left-wing media conspiracy against the man and then said “I’d rather have a mayor on crack than a sober David Miller” when the rumours were confirmed, are the ones most likely to indicate an enthusiastic preference for Trump over Clinton—though they may stress they “don’t agree with everything he says.”
The once-and-future mayoral candidate and former Ward 2, Etobicoke North councillor believed Trump would win the nomination back when they all laughed and is bullish on his chances to win the presidency. He’s one of the only politicos that is fully in the tank for Trump. Ford recognizes Trump has taken pages from his family’s playbook in his campaign (including promising an end to the gravy train in Washington) and finds it flattering: “Donald Trump is borrowing from us. Rob blazed a new trail for politicians like that,” he says. “People are tired in North America of the BS-ing politician. You tell it the way it is, you hold back nothing and the vast majority of the conservative-minded people are sharing the same ideas.” If Trump wins, you can expect Doug to take some credit; it may even embolden him for a rematch against John Tory in 2018.
Trump is an avatar for millions of voters; when he is mocked by the MSM, they feel mocked. MSM mockery is not rebuttal, and not persuasion.
— Ezra Levant (@ezralevant) August 1, 2016
The Conservative firebrand and commander of Rebel Media (headquartered in Toronto) is supportive of Trump. He thinks the charges of anti-Semitism against Trump are unfair and recorded a message for American “Jews who don’t like Trump,” explaining how the Republican nominee is actually the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in history. The reason we don’t all know this is because the media is trying to arrange it for Clinton to win the presidency and allow radical Islamic terrorism to flourish…unless she’s actually too sick to be president.
Trump kindred spirit Conrad Black, who attended the reality show star’s third wedding, is a stalwart supporter of the short-fingered vulgarian.
In his typically grandiose style, ol’ Blackie writes that only Trump can rustle the jimmies of the elite establishment (of which Conrad is presumably not a part):
The fecundity of the theatrical imagination of America was necessary to produce so unevenly talented a crusader, but he has stormed Babylon and its rulers are being weighed in the balance. As of now, it seems that, like Belshazzar, the entire political class, executive, legislative, judicial; the biased and mendacious Washington media, the lobbyists, the whole federal sleaze factory and the Clinton pay-to-play casino—all will be found wanting. They must go.
Sure, there’s no evidence of a pay-to-play Clinton scheme, and Trump is crusading on behalf of deplorable values, but what an outsider!
Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey often gets overlooked next to the likes of Joe Warmington and Sue-Ann Levy. But he can outdo them, dangit! Just watch him go!
In his endorsement of Trump (if he had a vote), Furey writes that the U.S. is undergoing a period of decline, and provides weird evidence.
Our cultural milestones are no longer those of serious nations.
In 1976, Bruce Jenner was celebrated as an all-American hero for winning the toughest of sports, the decathlon. In 2015, Jenner was celebrated as America’s woman of the year.
A great athlete transitions and publicly shares her story, and this symbolizes the decline of Western civilization. And who can save us from this worrisome trend?
Give Donald a shot!
I’m not sure how exactly Donald Trump would make America great again.
But he at least believes in the notion of American greatness, as it once was and can be again.
Trump won’t bow to the forces of moral relativism at the UN, on the world stage and, most importantly, at home.
This, more than anything else, is what’s at stake in America on Tuesday.
And it’s why, if I were an American, I’d vote for Trump.
Intrigued by Trump
The voices in this camp pledge an “agnostic” position on the Trump/Hillary question. These voices would counter Trump criticism as being but one side of the argument with Clinton’s sins and errors brought up to provide balance (“They’re both very unlikeable,” they might say). These supporters would characterize some of the harshest criticism of Trump (that he would start World War III, for instance) as being typical left-wing hysteria, the kind of stuff they say about every Republican candidate. But they won’t go so far as to plainly endorse Trump…not yet, anyway.
The entrepreneur and Canadian household name has not yet committed to running for the Conservative Party of Canada, though much depends on how Trump does this fall. O’Leary wants to project the same “successful businessman out to protect the little guy” image that has worked so well for Trump but insists he doesn’t agree with a lot of Trump’s policies. Nevertheless, he is quite confident Trump will win easily this November and that stock markets will soar as a result, kick-starting the U.S. economy. “I think what we’re going to see happen—although it’s so remarkable and I’m not endorsing his candidacy—is Trump is going to ride his way into the White House on a populist wave of anger at our government,” the Dragons’ Den alum says. Unlike most Conservatives, O’Leary’s opposition to Hillary Clinton is strictly business, telling CNBC, “I have nothing against her. She’s a fine woman. I respect her, but she has hurt me as an investor in biotech and pharma. These are great companies in America.”
@realDonaldTrump just a great speech. Classic
— Joe Warmington (@joe_warmington) August 20, 2016
The Night Scrawler resists being pigeonholed as a member of Trump Nation. In a recent column he said he’s met them both and has no preference: “I like Trump and Clinton. Either will make an excellent president and I have a good selfie with whichever one it is.” But for all his stated agnosticism, Scrawler has not travelled down to the U.S. to report enthusiastically from a Clinton rally, though he did go see Trump in Buffalo. “It reminded one of a Ford Fest without the free hamburgers. But the message was much tougher. It’s like Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump was in the octagon wailing on his opponents—not just the politicians, but China and Mexico, too,” he writes. On Twitter, a world where RTs are not necessarily endorsements, Scrawler has retweeted Hillary conspiracy theories only because they “raise questions” people may have. And, he congratulated Trump on his recent speech to African-American voters. When things like Trump’s past birther comments are pointed out to Joe, he replies that Hillary’s no angel. Warmington’s insistence that Hillary would ultimately be a fine choice as president may change in the next few weeks, but for now he’s officially “on the fence.”
The man who managed Ford’s 2010 campaign has given interviews where he offered his advice as to how he would manage Trump’s campaign. But Kouvalis’s support of Trump seems more theoretical: he’s uncomfortable with direct comparisons between Fordism and Trumpism, citing Trump’s xenophobia and lack of grasp on retail politics as two key differences that may prove fatal to the latter’s campaign. For what it’s worth, Kouvalis would give Trump the same advice he gave Ford: stay “on message.”
This is the safest of the three positions if you are sort of, kind of a Trump supporter but can’t go all the way and admit it publicly. These voices insist they don’t support Trump or have serious reservations about him, but on the other hand believe “anyone would be preferable to four years of Hillary Clinton.” This is a popular rationale in the American Conservative movement (House Speaker Paul Ryan is a perfect example) but has few practitioners in Toronto’s media landscape.
The Toronto Sun’s veteran columnist can’t quite be described as a Trump supporter. She recently tweeted Indigo in protest when they displayed her new book next to one about Trump (the work of a smartass pinko clerk, no doubt). She seems more enthusiastic about Trump’s family, praising Melania Trump’s speech at the GOP convention and invoking #Benghazi when Melania faced accusations of plagiarism the next morning. But regardless of how she feels about Trump, she is consistent in her contempt for Clinton, along with her husband, former president Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton, whose philandering in office was the ultimate deal-breaker for Levy. She thinks the “Clinton News Network” is trying to make Trump look bad, which is as close as she’s come to praising him so far in the campaign.
And there you have it. There may be additional support for Trump in Toronto’s media landscape depending on what happens in the next few weeks (depending on how the debates go or if Julian Assange actually springs an October surprise on Hillary). But as of now, Trump does not have very many ardent defenders in the 6ix. Of course, this could all change should Trump makes a speech promising “Respect for Taxpayers” in the next few weeks.