Has the Outgoing Democratic Progressive Party Learned Its Lesson?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 27, 2008
After the election debacle, Chen Shui-bian hid from public view, and the Four Princes of the DPP fell silent. The DPP has two months to luxuriate in its power. No one, it seems, is willing to urge the upper echelons of the party to reflect over its eight years of folly. It is amazing how little time it took for the DPP to fritter away the moral capital it earned during the "dang wai" (party outsider) era.
The DPP has dragged its feet on conducting an internal review for years. In 2004 Chen Shui-bian "narrowly won" amidst a mysterious shooting incident. In the four years since, the DPP has barely managed to hang on to Kaohsiung City. Its margins of victory have steadily diminished. These were warning signals, expressions of disappointment and discontent with the ruling DPP. Alas, the Democratic Progressive Party chose to rest on its laurels, by consolidating its core support. It had absolutely no intention of engaging in self-introspection.
Even now, the Green camp feels betrayed and bewildered by the electorate's "desertion." Some claim they failed to adequately "package" their political achievements. Some openly express disgust with the people of Taiwan. Some pass the buck to people who never even joined the party, such as Chuang Kuo-jung. Many more concentrate exclusively on fighting over official positions within the party hierarchy. No one engages in heartfelt introspection. The DPP was arrogant when it wielded power. It is resentful in the face of defeat and unresponsive in the face of public censure. Its behavior betrays its dictatorial mindset, and the hollowness of its progressive slogans.
Does the Democratic Progressive Party even know why it fell from grace? Does the Democratic Progressive Party know why its trump cards, its Sinopobia card, its McCarthyite smear card, its Nativist card, its "ethnicity" card all lost their magic this time? The DPP had better think through these questions before it launches a new wave of purges. Only then will it understand what role it must play in the future of Taiwan's politics.
What is the DPP's problem? One could say that it chose the wrong political path, but it would be more accurate to say that it lost touch with the people. First, Chen Shui-bian abandoned his "all people's government." He began inciting petty ethnic hatred, consciously adopting methods he knew would hurt people. He intentionally divided people on Taiwan into "us" and "them," leaving people queasy and anxious. Chen Shui-bian knew perfectly well that goals such as Taiwan independence were impossible to achieve. Yet he relentlessly demagogued the issue. He insulted the public's intelligence and feelings. A political party that plays people for fools, eventually plays itself for a fool.
Secondly, when Chen Shui-bian and other government officials were implicted time and again in corruption scandals, the DPP did not engage in self-introspection. It ignored right and wrong and backed Chen all the way. This was contrary to the people's expectations. When Green camp leaders of integrity were attacked and ostracized, the old and new "Three Stooges" suddenly became media darlings. How long did the DPP imagine the public would tolerate the DPP's decadence? The Chen regime repeatedly invoked Transitional Justice to rationalize unwarranted campaigns to "Rectify Names," to purge the legacy of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo, to "de-Sinicize" Taiwan, and to engage in "historical revisionism" of public school textbooks. Such actions revealed the DPP's cold-blooded nature and affronted the public's moral sensibilities.
The ruling DPP lacked ability, but stubbornly refused to recruit from outside the party. It disrespected professionalism and abused its power by hiring political cronies and blood relatives. Bad money drove out good money, and the economy nose-dived into depression. The DPP has long boasted it had the gift of gab, and could make the people believe anything. Therefore it did not need to listen to the people. The DPP had toyed with the people's feelings for so long, and abused their trust for so long, it was only a matter of time before the people finally spurned the DPP.
For eight years, the DPP has been living in the past. On the one hand, it imagines that as long as it firmly affixes a label reading "Demon" on the KMT's forehead, it can endlessly defraud the people and win their unconditional support. On the other hand, it has retained its combative nature as an opposition party. It invests all its energies in endless struggles for power. It gives no thought to governing the nation. It remains incapable of responding to the people's desire for stability and prosperity. Living in the past has disconnected the DPP from the rest of the world, not to mention the public on Taiwan. Its "field army" governing style has caused no end of suffering and instability.
The DPP's plight is not the fault of Chen Shui-bian alone. Nor was it the fault of Chuang Kuo-jung and his ilk. It was the result of the entire party's willful self-delusion. Power corrupts. The DPP confirmed the truth of this addage by observing the KMT. Yet when the DPP acquired power, it confirmed the truth of this addage by its own actions, even more swiftly. The DPP does not need to issue solemn declarations about its reformist zeal or revolutionary courage. All it needs to do is engage in self-introspection. All it needs to do is realize how it betrayed the people, and why it has now been disowned by the people it betrayed.
The DPP, after eight years of gross misrule, will soon have to relinquish political power. Sad to say, the DPP still hasn't learned its civics lesson. What is gratifying though, is that the people are no longer willing to play the DPP's game. They are no longer willing to be True Believers in the DPP's fictitious "Future Nation of Taiwan." The people have chosen to live in the real world. To advance steadily towards the down to earth goal of peace and prosperity. It is now the Democratic Progressive Party's turn to decide what role it wants to play.
2008.03.27 04:32 am