Skip to main content

New Year in November (Reprise) 十一月的新年(重奏)

Four years ago, I wrote an article titled New Year in November about Barack Obama's historic victory. That's what it felt like — a new beginning, a rebirth – even to a blogger half the world away. Four years flew by in the blink of an eye and the president was up for re-election this month. This time I wanted to be there — in America, in the thick of things. I planned my annual home leave in the second week of November and arrived in New York just days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. Expecting the vote count to last all night, I stocked up on junk food in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan. I had my laptop showing the electoral map and a calculator to tally the votes. I toggled back-and-forth between CNN and Fox News on the flat-screen TV while posting the latest election results on Facebook. I was a ready for a showdown.

New Year in November (Reprise)

I’m not an American citizen and so I can’t actually vote. Even if I were, my vote wouldn’t have mattered much because New York is what they call a “Blue State,” where residents predominantly vote for the Democratic Party. Under the winner-take-all electoral college system, all of the state’s 29 electoral votes would have gone to Obama regardless which way I would have voted. Since the Bush era, America has become more polarized and adversarial than ever. The political divide between the liberals (“Blue States”) and the conservatives (“Red States”) is so wide that there are even talks of secession. Either side refuses to compromise or acknowledge that their opponents can sometimes be right. This extreme case of partisanship sounds eerily familiar. Here in Hong Kong, the standoff between political movements like People Power (人民力量) and Scholarism (學民思潮) on the one hand, and C.Y. Leung’s government and the pro-Beijing camp on the other hand, turns every policy issue into a binary proposition: my way or the high way. I have always been a staunch liberal and a fervent supporter of the anti-government movement in Hong Kong. These days, I am finding myself increasingly intolerant of dissent and opposing viewpoints. I suppose I am every bit as guilty of partisanship as the political opponents I criticize.

A country polarized

At around 8:15PM on Election Night, after I had barely finished my first Kit Kat bar, NBC News declared Obama the projected winner of Ohio. The 18 electoral votes from the swing state were enough for the president to defeat his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Just like that, the show was over: Obama had won a second term. I was relieved. For a long time I had been genuinely worried that Obama would lose the race. After all, no U.S. president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with the national unemployment rate above 7%. And the stakes were so much higher this time around. It would have been far worse for Obama to lose the re-election in 2012 than to lose the first election in 2008. In American politics, there is no bigger kick-in-the-teeth than a one-term presidency. Just ask Jimmy Carter and George Bush Senior. If Obama had lost to John McCain four years ago, we would have shrugged it off and told ourselves that America wasn’t ready for a black president. But kicking Obama out of the White House after a single term would have been a whole other matter. It would have been tantamount to telling the world that America is ready for a black president but just that the black guy can’t handle the job. It would have made the country look narrow-minded and small. In a way I was as much rooting for America as I was for Obama.

The Republican Party's top (only?) priority

But Obama didn’t really win the election — it was Romney who lost it. Post-mortems are heavily underway, as the Republican Party scrambles to find out what went wrong. Pundits and political analysts are blanketing the airwaves with their own explanations. To me, the reason for Romney's loss is as plain as day: the Tea Party movement. The weak American economy has fueled the rise of radical conservatism, which in turn has intimidated moderate Republicans into taking more extreme social and political positions. While the GOP speaks of fiscal responsibility and job creation, it seems far more interested in rolling back women’s rights and civil liberties. In the process, the Republicans have alienated women, blacks, Hispanics and other minority voters. The radicalization of the Republican Party troubles many Americans and baffles the rest of the world. Outside the U.S., we wonder how a country progressive enough to elect a black president can allow a bunch of red-neck whack jobs to hijack its national agenda. No wonder tourism in America is down and visitors steer clear of the Red States.

A tea partier having a grand old time

With Obama back on the job, all eyes are now on the next election. If my predictions are right, 2016 will see a run-off between Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Clinton has already stepped down as secretary of state to presumably make time for her White House bid. Christie, on the other hand, has been thrust to the national forefront after scoring major political points for his handling of Hurricane Sandy. To increase his odds against the most admired woman in America, the heavy-set WASPy governor will need to lose 100 pounds and learn a little Spanish. I've always wondered why America, a country that revels in political showmanship and invented reality television, doesn't have a first lady debate. It's about time we changed that, starting with Campaign 2016. Imagine the fireworks when Bill Clinton takes on little known Mary Christie on foreign policy in front of tens of millions of viewers. I can't think of a better prime-time entertainment.

Chris Christie and his wife Mary

To those who say that Obama has lost his mojo after a lackluster performance in the first presidential debate, look no further than the way he delivered his victory speech on Election Night. He still has plenty of fire in his belly. And to those who say that Western democracy is doomed because of wasteful campaign spending and paralyzing partisanship, look no further than what Obama said in his victory speech. He offered a cogent rebuttal.

“That’s why we do this,” he explained, “[because] people in distant nations are risking their lives just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.”

Obama was talking about us. He was talking about the 1.3 billion Chinese who, just two days ago, were told the names of their new leaders after the National Congress convened behind closed doors. In his first public speech as the new paramount leader, Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke of reform and a better life for the poor. That’s all very kind of Xi, except that not one of us had voted for him.

The new leadership meets the press
__________________________
This article was published on SCMP.com under Jason Y. Ng's column "As I See It."

As posted on SCMP.com

Popular Posts

Seeing Joshua 探之鋒

“We are here to visit a friend,” I said to the guard at the entrance. 
Tiffany, Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s long-time girlfriend, trailed behind me. It was our first time visiting Joshua at Pik Uk Correctional Institution and neither of us quite knew what to expect.

“Has your friend been convicted?” asked the guard. We nodded in unison. There are different visiting hours and rules for suspects and convicts. Each month, convicts may receive up to two half-hour visits from friends and family, plus two additional visits from immediate family upon request.
The guard pointed to the left and told us to register at the reception office. “I saw your taxi pass by earlier,” he said while eyeing a pair of camera-wielding paparazzi on the prowl. “Next time you can tell the driver to pull up here to spare you the walk.”
At the reception counter, Officer Wong took our identity cards and checked them against the “List.” Each inmate is allowed to grant visitation rights to no more than 10 friends and fam…

About the Author 關於作者

Born in Hong Kong, Jason Y. Ng is a globetrotter who spent his entire adult life in Italy, the United States and Canada before returning to his birthplace to rediscover his roots. He is a lawyer, published author, and contributor to The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Free Press and EJInsight. His social commentary blog As I See It and restaurant/movie review site The Real Deal have attracted a cult following in Asia and beyond. Between 2014 and 2016, he was a music critic for Time Out (HK)
Jason is the bestselling author of Umbrellas in Bloom (2016), No City for Slow Men (2013) and HONG KONG State of Mind (2010). Together, the three books form a Hong Kong trilogy that tracks the city's post-colonial development. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. In 2017, Jason co-edited and contributed to Hong Kong 20/20, an anthology that marks the 20th anniversary of the handover. In July 2017, he was appointed Advising Editor for the Los Angeles Review…

Join the Club 入會須知

You have reached a midlife plateau. You have everything you thought you wanted: a happy family, a well-located apartment and a cushy management job. The only thing missing from that bourgeois utopia is a bit of oomph, a bit of recognition that you have played by the rules and done all right. A Porsche 911? Too clichéd. A rose gold Rolex? Got that last Christmas. An extramarital affair that ends in a costly divorce or a boiled bunny? No thanks. How about a membership at one of the city’s country clubs where accomplished individuals like yourself hang out in plaid pants and flat caps? Sounds great, but you’d better get in line.

Clubs are an age-old concept that traces back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction of coffee beans to England in the mid-17th Century spurred the proliferation of coffeehouses for like-minded gentlemen to trade gossip about the monarchy over a hot beverage. In the centuries since, these semi-secret hideouts evolved into main street establishments t…

Media Attention + Upcoming Events 媒體關注 + 最新動向

2017 and upcoming events and speaking engagements


Talk at Independent Schools Foundation Academy
Topic: No City for Slow Men
Venue: Telegraph Bay, Pokfulam
Date: 30 November
Moderator at Enrich HK panel discussion Topic: Impact of financial literacy education
Venue: BNP Paribas, Two IFC Date: 11 December Time: 12:30pm

Contributor to HK24 (2017 Anthology by Hong Kong Writers Circle) Release date: December

Guest speaker and prize presenter at 2017 Hong Kong's Top Story Awards Venue: TBD Date: 11 December Time: 7:00pm
Speaker for Enrich HK's "Ask the Experts" series Topic: TBD Date: January 2018

Legal workshop for foreign domestic workers at University of Hong Kong's Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP) Topic: "Understanding Hong Kong Culture" Venue: TBD Date: February 2018

2017
Interview with NOW TV
Topic: Ho's corruption case and U.S. federal court procedures Interview date: 24 November

Interview with Apple Daily 蘋果日報
Title: "Ho's corruption h…

The Moonscape of Sexual Equality - Part 1 走在崎嶇的路上-上卷

There are things about America that boggle the mind: gun violence, healthcare costs and Donald Trump. But once in a while – not often, just once in a while – the country gets something so right and displays such courage that it reminds the rest of the world what an amazing place it truly is. What happened three days ago at the nation’s capital is shaping up to be one of those instances.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-to-4 decision on same-sex marriage, the most important gay rights ruling in the country’s history. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy wrote, “It would misunderstand [gay and lesbian couples] to say that they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find fulfillment for themselves… They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” 
With those simple words, Justice Kennedy made marriage equality a constitutionally prote…

The Hundredth Post 第一百篇

This month marks the third birthday of my blog As I See It, a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of living in Hong Kong. The occasion coincides with the 100th article I have written under the banner. Having reached a personal milestone, I decided to take the opportunity to reflect on my still-young writing career and wallow in, dare we say, self-congratulatory indulgence.

It all started in November 2008 on the heels of the last U.S. presidential election. I was getting ready to create a personal website as a platform to consolidate my interests and pursuits. To do that I needed content. That’s how my blog – or my “online op-ed column” as I prefer to call it – came into being. 
Before I knew it, I was banging it out in front of my iMac every night, going on and off the tangent and in and out of my stream of consciousness about the odd things I experienced in the city, the endless parade of pink elephants I saw everyday that no one seemed to bat an eyelid at. Though singi…

When Free Speech Isn't Free 當言論不再自由

The school year had barely begun when two incidents—both testing the limits of free speech on campus—unfolded at Chinese University and Education University and sent management scrambling for a response.
On Monday, at least three large banners bearing the words “Hong Kong independence” were spotted in various locations at Chinese University, including one that draped across the famous “Beacon” sculpture outside the school’s main library. Within hours, the banners were removed by the school authorities.
A few days later, a sign “congratulating” Education Undersecretary Choi Yuk-lin (蔡若蓮) on her son’s recent suicide appeared on Education University’s Democracy Wall, a public bulletin board for students to express opinions and exchange views. Likewise, the sign was taken down shortly thereafter.


That could have been the end of the controversies had university management not succumbed to the temptation to say a few choice words of their own. In the end, it was the reaction from the schoo…

The Joshua I Know 我認識的之鋒

When I shook his hand for the first time, I thought he was the strangest seventeen-year-old I’d ever met.
It was 2014, and considering how much Hong Kong has changed in the last three year, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Joshua sat across from me at a table in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, with his iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other. I ordered him a lemon iced tea with extra syrup.
He was eager to begin our conversation, not because he was excited about being interviewed for my article, but because he wanted to get it over with and get on with the rest of his jam-packed day.
During our 45-minute chat, he spoke in rapid-fire Cantonese, blinking every few seconds in the way robots are programmed to blink like humans. He was quick, precise and focused.

He was also curt.
When I asked him if he had a Twitter account, he snapped, “Nobody uses Twitter in Hong Kong. Next question.”
I wasn’t the least offended by his bluntness—I chalked it up to gumption and precocity. For a te…

Maid in Hong Kong - Part 1 女傭在港-上卷

Few symbols of colonialism are more universally recognized than the live-in maid. From the British trading post in Bombay to the cotton plantation in Mississippi, images abound of the olive-skinned domestic worker buzzing around the house, cooking, cleaning, ironing and bringing ice cold lemonade to her masters who keep grumbling about the summer heat. It is ironic that, for a city that cowered under colonial rule for a century and a half, Hong Kong should have the highest number of maids per capita in Asia. In our city of contradictions, neither a modest income nor a shoebox apartment is an obstacle for local families to hire a domestic helper and to free themselves from chores and errands.

On any given Sunday or public holiday, migrant domestic workers carpet every inch of open space in Central and Causeway Bay. They turn parks and footbridges into camping sites with cardboard boxes as their walls and opened umbrellas as their roofs. They play cards, cut hair, sell handicraft and p…