Time pan-democrats draw line in the sand with radicals

Alice Wu says US voters' rejection of 'tea party' politics should give our pan-democrats some ideas of what to do about the radicals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 3:30am

The best tweet on the US elections goes to Bill Maher, hands down. His "Tea Party has now cost the Republicans 5 senate seats. My next donation is going to them" is a funny and pointed observation about a group of people who are disturbingly absolute in their small-mindedness, and their hatred for authority.

It also sounds vaguely familiar.

For years now, our political scene has been hijacked by a tea party of our own - political stuntmen who have made anger and hatred the basis of their politicking. They got lots of air time, found like-minded enthusiasts in all things vengeful, bitter and angry, and gained political and electoral traction. In their fervour, they lit political fires wherever they went - burning allies and foes alike - forcing all to recognise them as a force to be reckoned with.

And so politicians began falling into the trap of aligning with them for political gains, which, as experience tells us, may not be gains after all. As the Democratic and Civic parties found out at the recent elections, what might have seemed like a sensible and mutually beneficial alliance turned out to be a bad political bet.

Alliances with radical ideologues tend to turn bad because ideologues, by definition, aren't into achieving the greatest good for the greatest cause. They are about pushing their agendas and stuffing it down everyone's throats. In America, the tea party not only made Mitt Romney lean so far to the right that he wasn't able to get back to the centre sufficiently on election day, it also cost the Republicans the control of the Senate. If the five seats and yet another presidency lost can't wake up the ultraconservatives of the Grand Old Party, nothing can.

And this is what Hong Kong's pan-democrats need to think about, too. They have suffered loss after loss - most severe in the district council elections, given that they are first-past-the-post seats - since the radicals of the League of Social Democrats and People Power came into their politics. And, yet, it wasn't until the Legislative Council election that it became clear that the radicals were their foes, not friends.

They really need to distance themselves from them in all ways, inside and outside the Legislative Council. Wipe clean any past collaboration, like the en masse resignation, and start fighting them. This wake-up call needs to start with never repeating the mistake of Frederick Fung Kin-kee's previous attempt to bring the radicals back to the pan-democrats' table, through the so-called "lunch-box meetings".

There is no political future for this city's pan-democrats if lines are not drawn. They will continue to suffer from the vitriol the radicals throw at them.

Legco seats are returned via the proportional representation voting system, safeguarding minority rights and interests, so there will always be radicals in our politics. But Hong Kong's polarised politics can no longer remain this way. To keep this city's politics from imploding, the full political spectrum between the two extremes needs to start showing all its colours.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA