The Iowa caucuses are underway. Rick Santorum declares that his fellow Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul is ‘disgusting’. Paul is a Libertarian with past links to wacky far-right Christian reconstructionism – the belief that fundamentalists should infiltrate and take over government – and racist newsletters published in his name. Santorum is a cookie-cutter fundamentalist-conservative who has a problem with the idea of evolution and gets so worked up about homosexuals that you have to wonder if he secretly fears he is one – and has tragically if hilariously had his name hijacked for other purposes as a result. Both, in short, are freaks, though by the standards of fellow candidates like Michele Bachman or Herman Cain, they are arguably below-average ones. The nearest thing to a normal human being in the Republican line-up is a Mormon who was Ambassador to Beijing, and he is trailing the field.
Much to the consternation of our local Chinese officials, who get the heebie-jeebies about polls they aren’t rigging, Hong Kong is to see a primary election of its own on Sunday. It promises to be an embarrassing non-event, attracting a few tens of thousands to makeshift polling stations set up around MTR stations to take part in a play-acting exercise to choose a pan-democrat candidate for a similarly play-acting Chief Executive election in March. The irony being, of course, that the former play-acting camp denounce the latter.
The two contenders, Albert Ho of the Democratic Party and Frederick Fung of the ‘moderate’ (ie, insipid) Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, had a debate last night. Neither called the other disgusting. The other main contrast with the Americans is in the charisma department: neither Ho nor Fung has much of the magic ingredient. People have at least heard of Ho before, so he will no doubt be the pro-democrats’ make-believe candidate in the make-believe election – but taking part in the all-too-real and potentially highly amusing TV debate with, barring an act of God beyond Tamar, Henry Tang.
Ho called at one point for a declaration of war on the hegemony of property developers. Many of us, if debating Ho on that point, would dismiss him as a turncoat weakling softy and insist that we should just lynch the bastards now without warning. But the ADLP is the ‘acceptable’ pro-democratic group, acknowledged by Beijing at times when all other pan-dems have been shut out as anti-patriotic Western stooges. Fung disagreed with Ho on the grounds that he preferred not to aggravate hatred in society. We want reasonable moderation and moderate reasonableness, and we want it now.
Mostly, Ho went on about the Holy Cause. Like most of the pro-dems (other than Long-Hair-style radicals who reject participation in the CE quasi-election) his obsession is universal suffrage. Just as the Evangelicals of Iowa want to hear that raped women should be forced to have their babies or schools should teach the Bible rather than biology, so Hongkongers want to hear that the property market is a cartelized pyramid scheme and the electricity companies rip us off. Timetables for phasing out functional constituencies just don’t do it.
With 22% of votes counted, the latest is that Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and the other Mormon, Mitt Romney, are neck-and-neck.