By Jonathon Van Maren
There is a legend that Irish funerals were referred to as “wakes” just in case the person was unconscious rather than dead, and thus people could gather around and keep a close eye on the body for some time before burying it. Perhaps everyone should have been keeping a better eye on former PC leader and current PC leadership contender Patrick Brown, who has obviously spent the last few weeks in exile organizing a comeback unprecedented in Ontario politics. The commentariat is mocking the idea that a man so recently thrust out by his own colleagues over sexual misconduct allegations could actually win, but I wouldn’t write Brown off so quickly. His campaign to retake the PC party was very carefully planned, and there’s no telling what could happen next.
- A lot of people are speculating as to whether Patrick Brown is simply trying to get revenge on the party that forced him out in a matter of hours over allegations he claims are false. While that might be the case, it’s important to remember that Brown has been in politics since he was elected to the Barrie City Council when he was 22. After he got kicked out of the PC caucus Friday morning—after claiming that he hadn’t actually resigned, followed by the Toronto Star releasing audio of his resignation—Brown’s political career would have been functionally over, denied even the chance to run for the PC party as an MPP. Running to replace himself as leader, as wild and unprecedented as it is, is Brown’s last-ditch attempt to salvage a career he’s worked on for nearly two decades.
- Brown is obviously hoping that people take his fiery denials at face value, without listening too closely to the answers he actually gave during his hour-long interview with Global. When asked if he had perennially dated very young woman as an older man, he said that he had “loved both older and younger women.” When asked if he was a playboy, he said that he’d had his heart broken before and that he’d love to be married and have a family. And repeatedly, he used his female family members as a human shield, as if loving and caring for your sisters and your mother and your grandmother somehow means you can’t also be a creep in pursuing non-related women sexually. His answers were practiced, coached, and very dodgy—but the performance was effective, if you weren’t listening too closely.
- Brown is also betting that amid all the chaos, nobody will remember that he was exposed as a liar when it was revealed that the PC party did not have the 200,000 memberships that he perennially claimed, but rather closer to 133,000. Additionally, a mere day before Brown showed up at PC headquarters to file his papers for the leadership race, sisters in tow—something he’s obviously been planning for weeks—Brown rebutted the idea that he might be seeking the leadership on Twitter. That, too, was deceitful—but who remembers that after the last crazy 24 hours?
- Canadaland has provided a brilliantly researched and extensive breakdown of the situation as it unfolded, including the fact that CTV had a third alleged Brown victim who they decided not to bring forward because of her support of the Ontario Liberals, and the fact that Brown has hired private investigators, at least one of which is naming the women on social media and “distributing pictures of one of the alleged victim’s past partying,” a classic strategy to undermine victim testimony. Additionally, they note, there is still much evidence of Brown’s “sober partying,” which he did not answer to during the Global interview. It’s important to note that Brown prepared the public for the possibility of more allegations: When the Global interviewer asked him if more girls might come forward, he responded that since he didn’t even know who had set his current accusers up to attack him, it was certainly possible that nefarious forces could be do the same thing with others. In other words, Brown attempted to pre-empt other accusers by saying that if more were to come forward, they were obviously lying, too.
- A brief look a Twitter already shows that Patrick Brown’s campaign will become a rallying point for men who hate the #MeToo movement either because they think that the sorts of behavior Brown was accused of is “normal”—a very common statement—or because they think, despite much evidence to the contrary, that #MeToo is simply a device that vengeful women use to ruin men. (The accusations against journalist Steve Paikin prove that the #MeToo trend is somewhat self-regulating—he was accused by a woman and his denial was almost universally believed. It is very likely that she will be disgraced, and not he.) Others support Patrick Brown because they fear a society in which the sort of behavior he was accused of is stigmatized.
- It is very possible that Patrick Brown could win this leadership race. It seems far less likely that Brown could defeat the Liberals, considering the fact that his support, especially among women, was already dismal—the PC party polls actually got a boost when they dumped Brown. The PC party, regardless, will remain in utter chaos. Brown will accuse elements inside the PC party of wanting him gone, which is obviously true. The caucus was divided on whether he should even be allowed to stay in the party, much less return as leader. It’s hard to imagine the PC party actually surviving the return of Patrick Brown, although he may be too narcissistic to see it. In the audio of his resignation released by the Toronto Star, Brown is heard saying he doesn’t want to interfere with defeating Wynne and the Liberals. Now, he says it isn’t about him—when it so obviously and manifestly is. Brown has always been an unprincipled hack, willing to shift with the wind and change overnight in the pursuit of personal power. It’s always been about him. And now, he’s willing to blow everything up to make sure it stays that way.
And so, it seems as if those of us who write about political happenings spoke too soon: Patrick Brown is back like a bad rash. We’ll have to see how thoroughly he manages to infect the leadership race and the party he is seeking to retake in the weeks ahead.