In both races, he was a player despite not having a seat in either party at the time when he ran for leader. This would be comparable to me running for leader of either Liberal party, yet he managed to finish ahead of honest to God sitting members in both races.
I resurrect old Gerard here from the dustbin of history because I want to make a point about the fairy-dust like popularity of politicians like Andrea Horwath who are (as the Liberals pointed out to no avail last week before getting stomped in 2 byelections) all sizzle and no steak. Here we are facing bankruptcy in Ontario and an increasing number of voters seem to want to trust Bob Rae's old party with increasing amounts of power. They seem to be able to tolerate Andrea's wildly contradictory policy positions because, well, she's a nice young fresh face.
(We won't trouble ourselves asking how the Liberals are able to handle Justin "The Budget Will Balance Itself" Trudeau's vapidity while having a big problem with Horwath's.)
It's becoming more and more common in political la-la land for people to look at Horwath's approach and conclude that she'll never hold up to the scrutiny of a general election. But you see, that's the same thing they said about Ford. "Who is this buffoon from Etobicoke?" they said. All the while failing to see that a segment of the cynical, passive aggressive Canadian electorate had attached themselves to Ford and wouldn't let go no matter what he did. That's pretty significant.
And as various luminaries position themselves to try and beat Ford, basically running on "Vote for us and we won't smoke crack" platforms at this point, we have to wade through endless articles about just who composes Ford Nation and what we're going to do about this stubborn 40% of people polled, written by the same people who didn't get Ford back in 2010.
We need to get very concerned about Horwath's personal popularity, because she's going to stay personally popular. All attacks so far have bounced off. All attempts to cast her as dangerous have failed. Unless she personally melts down or comes up with a totally toxic policy that inflames the unions, she's going to do better in the next election than she did in the last one. Then she's going to do better in the election after that. And the one after that. It isn't going to matter if she can't spread her team out across the province in a general election. Her union crew will set up shop in riding after riding and win them one by one if they have to until eventually, like the proverbial lobster in the pot who doesn't notice that the temperature has been steadily climbing, the province will find itself well and truly marinated.
The other thing Andrea has going for her is that she doesn't have a bunch of people around her who wake up every day and who expect the perks of government and are infuriated when they don't get them and are poised to stab her in the back every time she makes a misstep. When they win a riding in a byelection, it's a big deal. If they win 10 ridings in the next election, it's a massive deal. Nobody in the NDP goes home angry when the party gets 7% in Thornhill so long as they win Niagara Falls.
These people will grind it out for as long as they have to because they are a union front, and a union front is composed of privilege-appropriating revolutionaries who want to oppress those who have oppressed them, and who will go over, under, around and through to get into that position. They smell blood in the water.