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Rob Ford coaches the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School football team during a game in Etobicoke on Oct. 21, 2010.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and

Apparently, according to many of Rob Ford's supposed progressive opponents, the apocalypse is upon us because the rough-and-tumble populist has been elected mayor of Toronto. What a crock of hog-wash.

Who knows whether Ford will be a brutal mayor, a brilliant one or somewhere in between. But every time so-called, and often self-titled, progressives overreach in their rhetoric they help advance the chances of their opponents while coming across themselves as pompous twits disconnected from reality.

Ask Paul Martin's team or Elizabeth May's supporters how successful they were with the "sky is falling" routine they employed to try to stop Stephen Harper in the 2006 federal election. Martin is now enjoying retirement and May is still trying to find her footing. Positioning yourself as superior in character or intelligence to your competition often makes you look stupid and out of touch with the electorate.

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Rob Ford pushed the buttons of the people of Toronto because he didn't try to set himself above them. Instead, he just walked with them. Not unlike Jean Chrétien, who himself was quite wealthy yet was positioned as the "Little Guy from Shawinigan," Ford - a successful entrepreneur - came across as street fighter for the people. He drinks pop, swears and looks like he is not afraid to mix it up. The we-know-best set in Toronto might not like that but apparently a broad swath of the voting public did and they are always right.

It's time for the self-defined progressives to find better ways to persuade the public. Use your advanced levels of intelligence to dial back the smugness and connect with people on common ground not from an elevated perch.

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