Is this a repudiation of the political culture of bullying?
Is it my imagination, or did the WP, of all parties, take the high road? No smears, no attacks. Grace, humility and ability to apologise and learn, and a listening ear.
Some of the PAPs candidates are magnificent. PM, Tharman, Nadia Samdin(disclosure- colleague alert- congrats!). Lawrence Wong has had a good run, Chuan Jin and Iswaran show themselves to be gracious and gentlemanly, Indranee is a charm offensive unto herself and able to change minds through a combination of logic and more importantly, empathy. Tin Pei Ling and Patrick Tay clearly work the ground and win hearts and minds. Some PAP names are still untested or not well known to me, or are perceived to not listen, or to be arrogant and mean spirited.
The PAP run a country well. They run a campaign terribly (a shout-out to Stef for stealing her line). My two cents worth:
- You are the majority- take the high road. People expect it. You are held to a different standard. That is neither illogical, illegal or unfair. Dominance has its responsibilities (like Competition Law).
- Stop bullying candidates. Stop attacking them. Play the ball, not the man. Trust us to distinguish between good and bad ideas. We don’t like to see those in power beat up those outside looking in. Support for the underdog resides in all our hearts.
- Be humble. I never saw a response to AWARE’s objection to a rather tasteless analogy about the wife beater analogy. Learn to apologise. People respect that. You will say something tone deaf or offensive. It is inevitable in the heat of the moment. You will get called out. Walk it back. Don’t double down. Say sorry. Express regret. We respect that, and that humility wins us over.
- Don’t insult us. Our feelings, our intelligence or our aspirations. “Don’t worry about voting in all 93 PAP MPs – there will be 12 NCMP seats to ensure representation”. That is neither convincing or persuasive. Some see an NCMP, and there is a “loser” sign on their forehead. That is not what legitimacy looks like. Don’t tell us “own self check own self” works. That would be unacceptable in almost any form of organised public activity or corporate life. Why would we accept that in political life, where the stakes are the highest?
- Understand what we want. We want you to run the show. But you clearly don’t need 100% of the seats to do that. You could run this country effectively if you lost 25 seats. You’d have 68 seats. Yes, you would have lost some talent. That forces you to partner and co-opt more ideas, you need to foster inclusivity, and encourage an active citizenry to step up. Groupthink is checked. You have to kick around ideas more- even consult your political opponents! But would that be so bad?
- Don’t fearmonger. The LKY playbook is antiquated. Strategies for a time when the stakes were existential. It worked then, it is toxic today. We can survive because your predecessors have built a strong Singapore and a strong people. We have talent, energy and passion all around us. It just needs channeling by appealing to a collective stakeholdership, a real sense of ownership, and a solidarity or purpose. It’s there. If you think it isn’t then the last 50 years are a failed experiment where we have sowed the seed of failure even in our success. Reject that. Choose to believe we are better.
- Be scrupulous in designing a fair playing field. Again, we aren’t stupid. We can see when things are not fair. The desire for fairness is a psychological default. Many won’t speak out- speaking truth to power is fraught with hazard. But resentment will build up. It’s more than a lost vote. It’s more than a civilised disagreement. Resentment means a disengagement of the citizen, a division of the soul and a rebellion of the heart against you. Why encourage that?
- Fight bad ideas with good ideas. Fight falsehood with truth. Don’t rely on over inclusive tools like POFMA (or other statutes). That’s using a flamethrower against an ant. Even where there is falsehood, have a sense of proportion. Some falsehoods are truly egregious, and truly dangerous. Others are more debatable, and still more others are marginal and will get lost in the noise of the hustings and excreted in the wake of information overload. Overuse, asymmetrical use, and disproportionate use of POFMA irritates the neutral observer and is a deep condescension to our intelligence.
- Think better of us. When you tell us that Singaporean’s are not really for a non Chinese PM, what is the basis for that? Do you have a poll? Or is it anecdotal? It feels that you are impugning our moral sense with a racism that isn’t substantively there. Yes, humans are tribal, but after 50 years, do you not think we can rise above that. Have you so little faith in the better angels of our nature? Maybe you do, but why default to it?
- Require better of us. And what does it cost you? A few votes from older Chinese voters ( assuming that that is even true)? You may win over other voters with your openness and inclusiveness. When did doing what is right, even though it is not popular, stop you?
You are trying to win hearts and minds. So it goes beyond logic. Legitimacy is built from emotional capital. It is not only about performance (what that looks like is another discussion!). Fairness, credibility, loyalty, passion, aspiration, understanding, unity, authenticity, warmth, respect, inclusiveness. Build on that.
To every MP on either side of the aisle, good luck, stay strong. We count on all of you. And today, I am strangely optimistic.
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Here’s a screenshot of the original post.