November 26, 2019

Hong Kong Elections

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“Hong Kong’s leader said on Monday she would listen to public opinion after a landslide election victory by opponents of Chinese rule amid months of sometimes violent pro-democracy unrest… Democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday’s poll.” Reuters

“Congress has approved two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The House overwhelmingly approved the bills [last] Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed them on voice votes. The bills now go to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.” AP News

Both sides see the vote as a repudiation of China, and note that further challenges remain:

“For months, members of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing establishment have spoken of a ‘silent majority’ here. The argument, parroted by government-friendly pundits and talking heads, offered a convenient counter-narrative to months of demonstrations and violent clashes that have ripped through the city: A large portion of the population, the fable went, had grown tired of the protests but remained quiet for fear of being attacked for their unpopular views. On voting day, they would emerge, cast their ballots, and restore an order of normalcy. That story line, flimsy from the start, has now collapsed entirely.”
Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic

“Xi has a big problem. Given a chance to vote on the last few months of protests, Hong Kongers have made it abundantly clear where they stand. And it's with those taking to the streets, not with pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam. Certainly not with Beijing, which has long claimed the protests are rooted in Western manipulation and a select few troublemakers. That lie has now been exposed… Xi's vision centers on Chinese accepting a supreme Communist Party that delivers improved living standards and global power. Xi calls this his ‘Chinese Dream.’ But Hong Kongers have now proven that the dream is an authoritarian nightmare, and they want no part of it. Xi will view this as the start of a broader backlash against his rule.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

One of the organizers of the 2014 Umbrella Movement writes, “Hong Kong’s next leader may still not be directly elected by the people. But there is a better chance that that person won’t have as much license to chip away at Hong Kong’s semiautonomy. The pro-democracy camp’s astonishing victory in the district council elections will not — it cannot — fix the democratic deficit patent in Hong Kong’s other institutions. But it is a fresh opportunity to cultivate the city’s democratic spirit. Whether at the grass-roots, community-level work of the district councils or during next year’s LegCo elections or with their even limited sway on the committee that will select Hong Kong’s next leader, the city’s democrats can now lay a solid foundation for the future. When our time comes to fully and freely exercise real democracy, the Hong Kong people will be ready for it.”
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, New York Times

“A word of caution before too many champagne bottles are popped over the Hong Kong election results. The District Council offices are advisers to the Hong Kong government and do not have a major hand in putting together policy. The role appears similar to that of a County Clerk and Recorder in America. It will be next year during the Legislative Council election when Hongkongers could send an even bigger message to Beijing. The council has an actual role in determining policy… Pan-democrats should keep pushing forward with their agenda and the importance of freedom and liberty in the region. There is no reason to stop, now. Freedom is winning.”
Taylor Millard, Hot Air

Both sides also support the bills passed by Congress and urge President Trump to sign them into law:

“Even though Hong Kong is legally part of China, the city's unique status – including an independent judicial system and a free-market economy – has enabled it to enjoy special treatment from the U.S. The legislation passed by Congress requests the State Department to ‘certify annually to Congress as to whether Hong Kong warrants its unique treatment under various treaties, agreements, and U.S. law. The analysis shall evaluate whether Hong Kong is upholding the rule of law and protecting rights enumerated in various documents.’...

“For more than six months, Hong Kongers have been waving American flags and singing American anthems. They want something we Americans sometimes take for granted – the freedom to choose. Congress has sent a message to Hong Kong, to the rest of the world, and especially to the authoritarian regime in Beijing: the U.S. always stands at the forefront with those who fight for freedom.”
Helen Raleigh, Fox News

“We understand Mr. Trump’s pragmatic desire not to insult Mr. Xi amid the trade talks, but his rhetorical indulgence of dictators is often cringe-worthy. The best you can say about Mr. Xi is that he hasn’t sent in Chinese troops to crush dissent in Hong Kong. Mr. Xi isn’t a sentimental man and he’ll make a decision on trade talks in China’s cold-blooded national interest. If he thinks he needs the deal for the sake of China’s economy, he’ll agree to U.S. terms whether or not Mr. Trump signs the new Hong Kong bill. After Sunday’s demonstration of courage by Hong Kong voters, a veto by Mr. Trump would betray America’s values and be a show of weakness to China.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“With China, the competition is not only over the South China Sea or trade. It is also a competition of profound consequence between China’s illiberal, authoritarian system and the values of democracy and a rules-based international order for which the United States must be the leading exponent and guardian… a trade deal that’s worth anything must be sturdy enough to survive amid all the other pressures and crosscurrents in the relationship with China. No one should want trade terms that are won by sacrificing freedoms and rights in Hong Kong or anywhere else… No future protests about silencing dissent, muffling the Internet, mass incarceration or intrusive surveillance will have the same punch if Mr. Trump goes limp on Hong Kong.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Far from weakening the U.S. position in the trade talks, where China needs a deal more than the United States, [signing the bill] would demonstrate an indomitable American will that Beijing has not previously encountered and which it must now accept in all its dealings… If China were to respond by indeed unleashing its army against Hong Kong, Trump should make clear that would immediately trigger the punitive actions provided in the act and would trigger severe international repercussions against China across the board.”
Joseph Bosco, The Hill

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

“The landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates in Sunday's district council elections is a stinging rebuke to the city's government -- and an example of what protesters can achieve given the opportunity. By avoiding unrest and trusting voters to support them, protesters scored a bigger victory than if they had disrupted the polls…

“It has been pointed out many times that had Lam responded to the initial mass protests against the extradition bill, she might have avoided the entire crisis. Equally, had an independent inquiry been announced months ago when the bill was finally withdrawn, it might have ended there. Now voters have shown not only the depths of the discontent, but also their power. And it may be the only thing that can truly satisfy them is overhauling the entire system.”
James Griffiths, CNN

“There is no reason why a Hong Kong with greater political freedoms cannot exist within the boundaries demarcated by Chinese national interests… Such democratization could take place in key areas where—importantly and surprisingly—little has been set in stone by Beijing. One such area is the composition of the chief executive nomination committee. How high the threshold of required nominators for entry into the race is, and the broadening of the electorate that determines who gets onto this committee, could be looked at…

“Hong Kong’s government must meanwhile set aside its approach of engaging only dominant interest groups and instead turn to setting up binding and transparent consultative platforms, where ordinary citizens not only could propose and prioritize items for governmental consideration, but also contribute towards participatory policy-making… None of these measures contravene Beijing’s red lines. They are feasible and not merely necessary but crucial.”
Brian Wong and John Mak, Time

“What’s clear is that Buttigieg is doing well in Iowa mostly because Iowa voters are exactly the kind of people who love Pete Buttigieg: aging, mostly white voters with midwestern sensibilities. The South Bend Mayor is about twice as popular with voters over 65 as he is with voters under 30, according to a recent New York Times/Siena poll, and overwhelmingly favored by white voters over voters of color. Many midwestern moderates are also drawn to his brand of hopeful liberalism… But those strengths don’t necessarily translate outside Iowa… It’s not that black voters in South Carolina necessarily dislikePete Buttigieg—they just don’t likehim. The most typical reaction from the black voters I spoke with during Buttigieg’s most recent swing through South Carolina was resounding indifference: not a sneer, but a shrug.”
Charlotte Alter, Time

But “the biggest question is whether $20.5 trillion is actually a plausible estimate of how much her plan would cost… Estimates from the nonpartisan Rand Corporation, the conservative-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and the center-left Urban Institute have each placed the 10-year cost of a single-payer plan at $31 trillion to $34 trillion… Reimbursement-rate cuts as big as Warren is envisioning would be extremely politically difficult to pass through Congress—and could lead to hospital closures or service cutbacks if they do… The reality remains that most countries around the world have established and maintained quality universal-health-care systems that cost less than even Warren’s proposal… The problem, of course, is that Warren and other single-payer advocates are not writing on a clean page, but rather seeking to reconfigure an enormously complex structure that consumes one-sixth of the national economy and employs hundreds of thousands of people.”
Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right sees Buttigieg and Biden as the winners of the debate, and criticizes the answers on housing and foreign policy.

From the Right

“Following the withdrawal of the extradition treaty that initially sparked the demonstrations, the pro-democracy camp has shifted its focus to broader issues of police brutality and the expansion of suffrage. Many will see the election results as a mandate to continue protesting until universal suffrage is granted to the people of Hong Kong… If Xi fails to address the concerns of Hong Kong protesters… existing discord within the party could increase, and he could find himself on even shakier ground. After all, the strategic importance of Hong Kong to Beijing has always been political first and foremost: If the Chinese state can’t show the strength to get its way in Hong Kong, dissidents on the mainland might be emboldened. And emboldened mainland dissidents would be an existential threat not just to Xi’s leadership but to the party itself.”
Daniel Tenreiro, National Review

“Xi now also has to worry about his fellow senior leaders in Beijing, who can convincingly argue that, by pushing too far with his extradition bill, he is to blame for the unfolding debacle in Hong Kong. Xi, during more than a half-decade of relentless purges, has given hundreds of Communist Party members a reason to get even. He has now also given them a means to do so.”
Gordon G. Chang, The National Interest

“Trump’s counting on reaching a trade deal with Beijing before the election to give the economy a lift and ease the strain in agricultural states, where he has fans who are struggling after losing access to China’s market. If he gets an agreement, he can tout it as the biggest best most beautiful agreement ever and put his main economic liability behind him. Now here come Cruz and Pelosi and about 520 other legislators to roll a political grenade onto the negotiating table, and there’s nothing Trump can do to defuse it. If China walks away from trade talks, Trump will be on the hook for any ensuing economic deterioration.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Did Bill Taylor deliver the smoking-gun testimony House Democrats need to justify their drive for impeachment? Or did GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe ‘destroy’ the former Ukraine charges d’affaires in two minutes flat, as Nunes claimed last night?… The only way to really know what happened is to see the transcripts, and the serial leaks out of the SCIF make Schiff’s security arguments a bad joke… No one should trust any of these reports until we see the transcripts. In fact, no one should put any confidence in this process until it gets conducted openly, honestly, and fairly. House Republicans might have been conducting a stunt this morning, but the purpose of that stunt is spot-on. The House Democrats’ star-chamber approach is an affront to justice and due process, and their conduct in using selective leaks to goose public opinion from these proceedings is nothing short of despicable.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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