During last Thursday’s mayoral debate, Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory declared that he doesn’t believe in “turning left or turning right.” Rather he believes in “moving forward.”
Who speaks like this? What does this even mean? Specifically, how does moving neither left nor right, but only going forward, have for the practical questions of the day such as: contracting out of garbage collection, property taxes, the expansion of the Island Airport, or the debate about the Scarborough subway vs. LRT?
I can’t say, but only because I think there is no answer. It is a phrase devoid of meaning that has been crafted by advertising consultants, and poll-tested to invoke a warm and fuzzy feeling in the low information voter. Unfortunately for the focus-grouped politician, because it is completely insubstantial, it is also open to ridicule. It is also indefensible when challenged. An American example was George H W Bush’s, “a thousand points of light”, ridiculed (justly) by Neil Young in his song, “Rockin’ In the Free World.”
You know, if you are a political candidate and you are presented with a slogan by your campaign, it is a good test to ask yourself, do ordinary people talk like this? If not, don’t talk like it either.
This is one of Rob Ford’s secrets as a master communicator (and yes, he is a master communicator). He doesn’t spew out bafflegab like this. He talks like an ordinary person using plain language everybody can relate to. This is one of the keys to his popularity, and what allows him to survive scandals the size of tactical nuclear wars. It is also what allows him to differentiate himself from phony slicksters like failed Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader John Tory.