American conservative activist Morton Blackwell once noted that when it comes to politics “you cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends.”
This is a lesson Ontario Premier Doug Ford might have to learn the hard way.
I say that because for the past nine months or so, Ford seems to have adopted a strategy whereby he is eagerly trying to befriend his enemies, while at the same time he’s actively alienating his own political base.
Now before I explain why this is a potentially disastrous plan, let’s first consider how Ford seems determined to ingratiate himself with the federal Liberals, the very same people, remember, who tried to demonize him in the last federal election.
Yet Ford is willing to forgive and forget.
Indeed, Ford once gushed about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “You wonder why I’m always up here praising him? Because he did an incredible job as prime minister.”
He seems even more infatuated with Trudeau’s chief cabinet minister, Chrystia Freeland.
In fact, when it was announced she would replace Bill Morneau as Finance Minister, Ford could barely contain his glee, saying “I absolutely love Chrystia Freeland. She’s amazing. I’ll have her back, I’ll help her anyway we can.”
Sounds like a Liberal groupie, yes?
Now, while such cringeworthy blandishments might please the higher ups at the CBC, it’s hard to imagine Ford’s kissing up to Liberals is winning him many points with his hardcore conservative supporters, who tend to view Trudeau and Freeland as the worst things to happen to Canada since the Halifax harbour explosion.
Mind you, Ford’s apologists might argue, he’s only building bridges with the Liberal government to help Ontario, and yes, I suppose that’s plausible, but it doesn’t explain why he’s also busily throwing stones at his own side.
Recall, for example, back in the Spring, when anti-lockdown Ontarians – most of whom I’m betting voted for Ford — protested the government’s COVID restrictions, the Ontario Premier contemptuously dismissed them as “Yahoos.”
He’s also heavily criticized US President Donald Trump, whom I suspect is much admired within the ranks of Ford Nation.
What’s more, Ford declared that he wouldn’t campaign for the federal Conservative Party in the next federal election, saying “I wish them all the best — federal Conservatives — I wish all the federal parties all the best.”
He wishes all the federal parties “the best”? Does that include the socialist NDP too?
Yet by far, Ford’s most destructive move against his own side occurred with the recent COVID shutdown of small retailers and businesses in Toronto, while allowing “Big Box” stores to remain open.
Certainly, I’d wager that a large chunk of the PC Party’s donations come from small to mid-sized businesses and I also suspect it’ll be difficult for Ford to collect much in the way of contributions from this group in the near future.
At any rate, my point is by cozying up to Liberals while simultaneously irritating his own support base, Ford risks sabotaging his own party’s political future.
Simply put, it’s hard to win an election if your own base doesn’t like you. After all, it’s the staunch “true believers” of a party, who donate money, who volunteer to put up signs and who, most importantly, show up to vote on Election Day.
Of course, Ford is lucky because the two Opposition Leaders he faces – Andrea Horwath of the NDP and Liberal top guy, Steven Del Duca (who?) – have both been more or less invisible during the pandemic.
But things in politics can change quickly.
In a year or two from now, Ford might find himself battling a stronger NDP and a resurgent Ontario Liberal Party, (especially if the economy is in the tank) which means he’s going to need every PC vote he can get.
But, if he continues on his present course of angering his base, those votes might not be there for him.
Plus, Ford won’t be able to galvanize his support base with the time-honoured conservative strategy of bashing the Ottawa Liberals. How can he? He’s spent too much time extolling their virtues and expressing his admiration for them.
Nor can he rely on his newfound federal Liberal friends to help him out.
As a matter of fact, if Trudeau is facing electoral problems of his own, believe me, he and Freeland would be more than happy to throw Ford under the electoral bus. When it comes to winning elections, the Liberals are anything but sentimental.
So, at the end of the day, Ford might find that he has fewer friends than he needs and more enemies than he can handle.
Photo Credit: Toronto Sun
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