If you can hardly imagine that you could follow the Horatio Alger script to the letter and still find yourself sinking in quicksand, you’re never going to understand why someone would be so contemptuous of the pieties of a system that only pays attention to you when doing soft-focus interviews in search of a journalism award or a campaign ad.
Rob Ford tapped into an unseemly vein of anger in Toronto, and that anger propelled him to success.
As Rob Ford didn't have any sort of verbal filters, he comfortably told things as he saw them (which is not to be confused with "telling things as they are.") There were not-so-subtle undertones of racism in his comments and approach. It's more than fair to say that he had a huge amount of support from some of the demographic communities he disparaged, a reality that can't be understood without a deep understanding of the social context within which those communities exist.
At the same time, Ford uncorked and gave voice/license to a swell of resentment, anger and bigotry which has been bubbling just beneath the surface in Toronto for quite some time. In some instances, things got ugly.
It could have been much worse, though - Ford could have had a bit more self-discipline and held keys to a higher office. When he said things like "run 'em out of town" he could have had the legislative clout to actually make that happen - or the will, experience and resources to intimidate even the law makers and enforcers to stay out of his way.
If Trump wins, he will be Rob Ford maginfied. How would Donald Trump have responded to Ferguson? How would he respond to the next one? It's not too much of a stretch to apply his "we have to be much tougher" logic and think of Daraa. Remember - Assad still has his supporters.
Shit could get very real and very ugly in a hurry with a "no deals" President with a fondness for divisiveness and gut punches in charge.
That is the model we used to see a lot more of in the days of empires and kingdoms, which far too many modern leaders see themselves as rulers of.
This is only part of the story, thank god.
The other part is more hopeful. Increasingly, there are governments and leaders recognizing not only that they can't do it all alone or have all the best ideas, but that their role as leaders is actually to empower and support the communities that form their constituencies. This is where Open Government is emerging.
Tied to Open Government is a renewed level of civic activism - not the oppositional, protest kind that seeks to challenge unliked policies and practices, but that hacks, designs, facilitates, etc. solutions that come from and work for the people. It's a very messy process right now, with egos and misunderstandings and good intentions without sufficient information doing as much harm as good, but it's a starting point.
We've seen recently in Canada, both under Ford and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper how other levels of government, public servants and communities at large have managed to make things work despite the wrong kind of leadership. Funding cuts were worked around; some federal laws simply weren't enforced provincially; new partnerships were made to develop and implement community solutions from the ground ip, rather than simply fight against top-down impositions.
Increasingly, we're seeing a reinforcement and return to quasi-dictatorial top-down leadership and divisive politics being countered by the emerging concepts of open government and responsible society. This is significant; this represents a massive change in the way governance works, communities are engaged, what communities are about.
My gut tells me we will see (probably over a longer term basis) a realignment of political power, with politicians becoming facilitators more than representatives or neo-feudalists. I also think that there will be a lot of friction and conflict, potentially on a massive scale, before we get there.
At least things won't be dull.