09.10.2017 09:37 AM

Hurricane Trump

I did a radio panel yesterday. The subject-matter doesn’t matter. 

I only mention it, in fact, because I did what I often do on TV and radio, this year: I reminded everyone that supposedly-smart guys like me know SFA. We don’t know anything. 

I thought about that when I picked up the New York Times this morning. It was thick as a brick – the theatre season has started anew, apparently – but here was the only part worth reading:

Mr. Trump’s candidacy was dead when he announced it. (Mexico is sending “rapists.”) His candidacy was dead when he insulted a former prisoner of war named John McCain. (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) His candidacy was dead when he cast suspicion on an entire religion. (“Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”)

Dead when he attacked a federal judge, a Gold Star family, the pope. Deader than dead when he bragged about grabbing women by their genitals. (“When you’re a star, they let you do it.”)

The more Mr. Trump’s candidacy was said to flatline, the more life I saw in his crowds.

In August 2015, a month after a high-ranking Republican National Committee operative promised me that America would never tolerate a man with no military service disparaging an American military hero, I was standing on a football field in Mobile, Ala., surrounded by 30,000 screaming Trump fans, an unheard-of turnout six months before a primary. Were they mad about the candidates words on Mr. McCain? No. The opposite. “He’s not afraid of anybody,” one woman told me.

I don’t think the nameless woman had the blinding insight the author was after. These nameless Trump fans did, however, further into the piece:

“Trump sees us,” his supporters would tell me, everywhere we stopped. “You don’t.”

That’s it. 

It’s not a revelation. I (and others) have said as much before. Trump’s voters (like the Ford brothers’ voters, who called themselves a “nation,” so desperate were they to be rendered visible) had their socio-economic beefs, to be sure. But, mainly, they were sick of being forgotten. 

In one of my books, I forget which one, I recalled a conversation with a smart Liberal friend at brunch in Ottawa one morning (people in Ottawa love brunch, I don’t know why; being a member of the Calgary diaspora, I think it’s stupid). He said to me: “Kinsella, you’re too much of a CBC and Globe and Mail Liberal. You need to be a Toronto Sun and talk radio Liberal.”

There being more votes on Main Street than Bay Street, I took his advice, and was thereafter rewarded with being a very small part of five very big majority wins: Chrétien and McGuinty in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 – and 2011, when we got just a seat short of a majority. 

But old habits die hard, eh? Here I am, this morning, reading the New York Times and listening to CBC, and still trying to know what seems unknowable. Trying to figure out MAGA and Ford Nation. 

Yep. Old habits die hard. 


  1. doconnor says:

    If you wish to understand the political world, you probably have to read both.

  2. Eric Weiss says:

    “It’s not a revelation. I (and others) have said as much before. Trump’s voters (like the Ford brothers’ voters, who called themselves a “nation,” so desperate were they to be rendered visible) had their socio-economic beefs, to be sure. But, mainly, they were sick of being forgotten.”

    Not just forgotten, but blamed for racism and bigotry in the past because they’re white, and a belief that they’re victims of “reverse racism” because of hiring quotas and affirmative action. The butthurt runs long and deep with Ford Nation and the #MAGA crowd. Most of it is Overblown BS, but I get how they can feel that way, when the current state of identity politics tells them that their concerns are unimportant.

  3. Bill Templeman says:

    Good on you, Warren for ‘fessing up. University degrees and a lucid writing style are not qualifications for understanding people we don’t even know…the Invisible. It is easy to think the rest of the world sees life like “we” do. We all live in bubbles. I tried to describe how this syndrome works here in Peterborough. For those who don’t know Peterborough, Hunter Street is our Ginza; lots of trendy bars and restaurants, patios, boutiques, etc. Easy to believe that the rest of town is like Hunter Street. it is not. http://www.electriccitymagazine.ca/2017/08/peterboroughs-usual-suspects/

  4. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I hope that Tory truly understands his voters because the Ford phenomenon is coming again and I for one am not willing to reflexively regard Ford as a spent force. If I was part of Team Tory, I would already be shaking and making Job One to seriously and credibly address the concerns of Ford Nation.

    In the words of recent events, Hurricane Doug is already on its way.

  5. Jack McLeod says:

    How about appearing on Rebel Media. one on one with Ezra Levant. If nothing else, it will certainly be entertaining.

  6. Mezba says:

    The racist heckler who tried to interrupt Jagmeet Singh turned up at the Ford Fest at Doug Ford’s mayoral campaign announcement.


    Time for Doug Ford to say he denounces such folks and bigotry if he wants to be mayor of Toronto.

  7. Mervyn Norton says:

    Warren (and readers), you will recognize the theme of this call for a Restoration Story–the Politics of Belonging:


  8. Pedant says:

    Rob Ford succeeded by sweeping the parts of Toronto that include some of the federal Liberals’ safest seats : Etobicoke North, York West, Scarborough-Agincourt, for example. These are places where the federal Tories fell short in 2011 while taking many of the more affluent seats in the city.

    What the Ford Nation phenomenon proved is that voting habits are far more complex than the pundits would have us believe. Scores of lower-middle class voters in the 416 who vote Liberal like robotic drones in federal and provincial elections threw their lot in with a brash, uncouth tough-talking populist. Ethnic minorities across Etobicoke and Scarborough watched as the effete elites of the Left went into a spit-flecked fury (my favourite of your expressions, Warren) over the ignorant dufus Ford, shrugged, and put an X beside his name anyway.

    Yes John Tory should be worried. He is popular, likeable and occupies such a wide swath of the political spectrum that he should be able to withstand a Doug Ford surge. But what would have been a cakewalk reelection in 2018 has become an actual race.

  9. Matthew says:

    Just one thing to add. The parallels between Ford nation and the Trumpeteers was pretty obvious from the get go, and I think it had a similar effect in both places. Motivating and engaging extreme opinions at the edge of the (then current) political spectrum. Rob Ford engaged with racists and homophobes by the simple expedient of repeating barely acceptable dispargements. Slagging Pride for example. ‘You can march, but I ain’t payin for it’, you can marry who you want, but I wish you couldn’t. The press lapped it up, the didn’t report it, they mocked it widely and polarized the electorate by drawing in peripheral opinions and creating the racist friendly talking points. If you ask me, it is the mockery and weak journalism that made it all possible, politicians will often take whatever route to power that is possible, and this was made possible by the media coverage of the decade preceeding.

  10. Dave S says:

    Couldn’t agree more. You’re telling me I gotta wake up early on my day of rest, dress and drag myself out of my home to a place that doesn’t even take reservations, and stand in line to pay for overpriced food that’s only slightly more challenging and time-consuming to make at home than a can of Campbell’s soup?

    And people do this for FUN?!! Some people look forward this all week?! Jesus, some people need to get out more. Brunch is just moronic.

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