The following is a letter from a TOC reader.
First off, I just wanted to say thanks for all the effort and dedication TOC has put into running the website – it truly is a good platform for Singaporeans of all political affiliations and concerned citizens to have a voice.
It’s been an interesting month for you, given the reaction to Face to Face, the gazetting, and now the license requirements for your fundraiser this weekend.
I think it’s great that you’ve doubled down and are going all in. Have you thought about going all the way?
Your team is smart – you put together a great platform, and you attract all sorts of capable and intelligent writers to contribute.
Elections are imminent – that much is obvious given the recent government attention to you. You have enough influence to make them nervous, which is why they are acting the way they are. So why not go all in?
As a thought experiment: How hard would it be to register as a political party, field the requisite candidates, raise the money through crowdfunding online (kickstarter.com and others), look at visitor history to see where your general traffic for TOC is coming from, and then field candidates in that district (assuming your visitor history is directly linked to support)?
Obviously one must want to serve before one should serve. Andrew Loh and Choo Zheng Xi have often said on the site that they never wanted TOC to be a political entity. But things have changed. TOC is no longer just the platform of news and information it used to be. Singaporeans look at it as a force – I don’t know your visitor stats, but I think it’s safe to say that you get more unique visitors each month than any of the other political party websites. Even then, there is enough sentiment and awareness amongst young Singaporeans, the internet-connected, facebook-using, dormant support group that knows what TOC is, even if they’re not direct fans. This is a unique opportunity.
You’ve taken the social web and applied it to politics, even if that’s not what you meant to do. Even the US doesn’t have this kind of built-up potential energy in one specific forum. And the beauty is that you are dominant in the space (Temasek Review is a different beast I’d say).
It’s obviously not a walk in the park to run for election. Lots of work needs to be done other than the simplistic thought experiment above. But things are converging in a specific way today. Energy from the average Singaporean is rising – they are wondering more about their future, the uncertainty of the present, and of their place in a society that seems increasingly less theirs and much more stratified between the haves and have-nots You have a unique position to capitalise on this to benefit the country in the long run. Imagine if you could win a GRC, how that would be a clarion call for people to “wake from their slumber”, much like JBJ envisioned.
You don’t need to prepare for an alternate government yet. But if we agree that breaking the PAP deadlock on Parliament (beyond the basic two seats that seem to always be a consolation prize) is a crucial first step to improvement, then TOC might be best positioned for this.
And a coordinated campaign with other parties, to not contest in the same areas, would be the most significant effort again PAP hegemony since before independence.
Obviously this is an idea that is coming in from way out of left field. But in a weird and crazy world, it could work. You guys have done an amazing thing for Singaporeans, by being around, by fighting to stick around, and being principled, smart and reputable in all that you do. This very much could be the year Singapore takes a turn for the better. We are at the crossroads of choices; as LKY gets older, the current government becomes complacent, checks and balances of the system are dismantled in favour of subjective decisions by normal men, immigration becoming a flashpoint, aspirational Singaporeans leaving in droves, foreign policy with neighbours becoming more antagonistic and zero-sum, and so on. Something needs to change to swing the trajectory of the country upwards. Not just the economy, or the employment, or whatever random metric the government loves to tout. But an upward movement of the country and its people, into believing in something bigger than the consumerism and self-interested bubbles they operate in.
I’ve gone on enough, but I wanted to write to you with these thoughts.
Thanks again for the work that you do. It heartens me, an overseas Singaporean, to see that there are many of my fellow country-men working so hard to keep sanity in a place I once thought could not turn back from the path it was on.
Best wishes to you.