Why Tin Pei Ling is no Sarah Palin
Tin Pei Ling aged 28, the PAP’s newest and youngest face and candidate for Parliament to be fielded in Marine Parade GRC, has recently been increasingly compared to Sarah Palin, a former Alaska governor who made international headlines for being selected by 2008 US Republican Presidential candidate John McCain as his choice for Vice President. But is this comparison fair and accurate? I would argue that the answer to that is a straight no. It is insulting and degrading for anyone to think Tin Pei Ling could ever be compared to Palin.
Insulting to Palin that is.
Unlike Tin Pei Ling, Sarah Palin ran and won elections first in the City Council of Wasilla in 1992 and 1995, Alaska and later on ran and won the mayoral election for Wasilla in 1996. She did all this without the help of a Group Representative Constituency. That’s right, unlike Pei Ling, Palin could not rely on proxy votes for senior politicians in an undemocratic system where voters may only accept or reject a whole bloc of candidates without being able to sort out the terrible and undeserving from those genuinely worthy of being elected.
On nepotism and coattails
While serving as Wasilla Mayor in 2002, Palin ran for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. While she came in second in the race, the eventual GOP gubernatorial winner, then-Senator Frank Murkowski made the ill-fated move of appointing his own daughter Lisa Murkowski as a Senate replacement for himself while he ascended to the office of governor. This sparked a backlash from even the Republican dominated state legislature, many of whom viewed the appointment as a naked act of nepotism. Lisa Murkowski was continually dogged by allegations of undeserving nepotism until she won the Senate seat by her own merits and efforts in the 2004 Senate election.
However, Governor Murkowski was not so lucky. The Republican electorate of 2006 remembered his nepotic act of 2002 and punished him accordingly at the polls. Murkowski lost the primary to Sarah Palin who ran again in 2006 , coming in a distant 3rd place with a mere 19.09% of the votes.
How does Tin Pei Ling compare to Sarah Palin in this respect? It doesn’t help her that her husband, Ng How Yue is none other than the Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister. Combine this with the fact that Sarah Palin won the 2006 election precisely because voters were punishing Frank Murkowski for his un-meritocratic and nepotic act of appointing his daughter to fill his Senate seat and one cannot avoid the conclusion that in this respect Tin Pei Ling stands in stark contrast to outsider candidate Palin. While no one knows how much of a factor this was in her selection as an MP candidate, who is willing to bet that her husband and her connections had absolutely no role to play in her being fielded as a candidate? Pei Ling, unlike Palin can’t rely on an “outsider” image to win.
After having won the Republican primary in 2006, Sarah Palin still had to run in the general election against former two term Democratic governor Tony Knowles. She triumphed by a margin of 8% in an otherwise Democratic year without the help of any GRC or proxy votes for Senior Minister. What about Tin Pei Ling? Because she will be fielded in a GRC, she has a free pass and ticket to Parliament purely by riding on the coattails of a former Prime Minister who is seen as more moderate compared to the incumbent PM.
All of the above notwithstanding, if there was any reason to vote for Tin Pei Ling, it must certainly have something to do with her political views and what she would champion if elected. In this respect, she has not done anything but toe the standard PAP line and thinking on all the policies and hot-button issues. Asked to name the biggest issue facing Singaporeans today, Ms Tin could only speak about the chasing the Singapore dream for the current generation of young working adults. That’s right, absolutely no mention of rising and unaffordable public housing prices, the increasing influx of foreign labour which depresses wages and raise the cost of living for all Singaporeans, nothing but vague commitments to “look out for fellow Singaporeans”.
Asked what more could be done to alleviate the high cost of living for the increasingly squeezed middle class, Ms Tin reiterated that many government schemes and subsidies are already available and the government has done a good job in keeping inflation low in Singapore. Again there’s no mention of two of the biggest issues, housing prices and foreign labour. Instead more mindless parroting of what you might expect from a typical PAP minister of how great and wonderful existing government policies are.
When asked which one single policy she would seek to change if elected, again Ms Tin says she doesn’t feel strongly negative about any policy. While avoiding all specifics, Ms Tin says that she would seek to educate Singaporeans on learning to care more for their grandparents and elderly. How is this any different from the present policy of shifting the entire burden of responsibility of retirement funding to the current generation? There’s zero mention of persistently low CPF interest rates which make it impossible to rely largely on. Again there’s no acknowledgement of elderly workers having to collect used cardboard boxes and empty drinking cans just to make a living, or even how to help them. Does she even know such people exist in Singapore?
A 2007 speech at the PAP party convention revealed what she really thinks about the government’s responsibilities in Singapore. Among other things, Ms Tin believes it is not the responsibility of the government to help narrow the widening income gap made worse by the GST hike to 7% for that year. How is this not the government’s responsibility?
For someone who’s active in PAP grassroots circles and hence closest to the sentiments on the ground pertaining to the concerns of Singaporeans, Ms Tin appears strangely disconnected from the sufferings and economic concerns of the people. No concrete plan was offered, not even a brief outline of what she might push for when elected. In short, PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling is really nothing more than, to borrow an expression from the 2008 US Presidential Election, lipstick on a pig. A young new face shielding the same old policies.