Monday, March 17, 2008

A Watershed Decision: Forward or Reverse?

A Watershed Decision: Forward or Reverse?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 17, 2008

This was the last weekend before election day. In a contest of popularity and momentum, the entire island was abuzz with the sights and sounds of political mobilization. One side issued a call for "A Million High Fives, a Reversal of Fortune." The other side declared "Taiwan must Move Forward," hoping to counter a potential reversal of fortune for the DPP by moving the KMT forward. Four KMT legislators miscalculated. They paid an abortive visit to Frank Hsieh's election headquarters, giving Green Camp morale a significant boost. But the controversy also heightened a sense of crisis in the Blue Camp. The public was thought to be cooler to this election than any in recent memory. But in its final stages, voter sentiment has heated up. Less than a week remains. Republic of China voters will have to choose between moving forward or going back. Everything hinges on who will be able to move ROC voters this week.

To tell the truth, this is a very ugly election. Green Card allegations and other forms of muckraking dominated the first half. A controversy over a Cross-Strait Common Market dominates the second half. On the surface it is a debate over public policy. In fact it is a battle over reunfication vs. independence, in the guise of a debate over a "One-China Market." Frank Hsieh pays lip service to "reconciliation and coexistence." But the very manner in which he wages his campaign reveals he has no intention of reconciling, and has no desire to coexist. Ma Ying-jeou wants to talk about policy, about assuming responsibility. But he can't even assume responsibility for blunders committed by four legislators within his own camp. In other words, most of the time, this is an election that has totally lost its focus. In the end, the rival platforms have been reduced to "moving forward" or a "reversal of fortune." The election long ceased to be about the future of the country, and became about feelgood slogans.

Fine. Let's talk about feelings. Why should we choose the Green Camp's "Reversal of Fortune?" Why should we believe that the Blue Camp will necessarily be able to "move [Taiwan] forward?" We hate to say it, but such feelings cannot be based on hearsay evidence about green cards, or scare tactics about a "One China Market." Still less can they be about four KMT legislators who blundered by dropping in on Hsieh's campaign headquarters. What will happen to Taiwan if the Green Camp enjoys a "reversal of fortune?" What will happen to Taiwan if the Blue Camp succeeds in "moving forward?"

The theme of yesterday's Green Camp march was a "Reversal of [the DPP's] Fortune." No mention was made of reconciliation and coexistence. Instead, the Green camp reverted to form, harping on reunification vs. independence. Its only answer to the issue of economics was to "Say No to a One China Market" and to reiterate its "UN for Taiwan" [sic] demand, as an expression of its "Opposition to Chinese Hegemony." This was an appeal to hardcore Deep Green supporters. If Hsieh hopes win the presidency by relying on support from this segment of the political spectrum, it is hard to imagine him opening up cross-Straits exchanges. Remember the political momentum behind Chen Shui-bian in 2000? Even he was taken hostage by the Deep Greens. If Frank Hsieh wins the presidency by relying on this segment, he will be retracing Chen Shui-bian's footsteps.

Even more bizarre is Hsieh's interpretation of "checks and balances" and "one-party dominance." These, along with his "Save Taiwan, Save Democracy," appeal, form a bizarre jigsaw puzzle. Has any political party hoping to to assume power ever wanted "checks and balances?" Yes, the KMT is dominant within the Legislative Yuan. But its dominance is not the dominance it enjoyed under martial law, when new elections were postponed indefinitely. Its dominance is the direct result of ROC voters casting their ballots and making their choices. The question the DPP should be asking itself is why ROC voters have punished it by reducing it to the minor party it is today. What right does it have to disrespect the voters' decision? What right does it have to spin its contempt for the people's decision as some sort of noble effort to "Save Democracy?"

Suppose the DPP is allowed to enjoy a "Reversal of Fortune," just so Frank Hsieh can "check and balance" so-called "one-party dominance." How will the result differ from what we have now? When the KMT had even less control over the legislature, we endured an eight year long running battle between a Chen presidency and an opposition legislature. Would a Hsieh presidency, conducting another running battle with an ostensibly more dominant KMT, really result in "checks and balances?" If the DPP is allowed to enjoy a "Reversal of Fortune," then our eight year ordeal will be extended for at least another four years. Are ROC voters really that stupid? The Hsieh camp knows how to wage an election campaign. But will a shrewd campaign really capture the hearts and minds of ROC voters?

The Blue camp's "Taiwan must move Forward" campaign is reeling from the Green camp's "One China Market" spin control. The four KMT legislators who visited Hsieh campaign headquarters also lent a superficial plausibility to allegations of "one-party dominance." As Ma Ying-jeou marches forward, he must remain vigilant.

The Green Camp's demonization of a "One China Market" consists of nothing but malicious distortions. But why are so many people so quick to believe it? The four KMT legislators' visit to Hsieh headquarters was hardly a crime. So why has it had such an impact? Why did Ma Ying-jeou feel compelled to apologize at least seven times? One must never underestimate ROC voters' concerns. Any emotions that can be manipulated must never be underestimated.

Less than a week remains. The last round of political debates have ended. Polls may no longer be published. Over the past few days the Blue and Green camps have been attempting to win the hearts of voters. Do the voters wish to go forward or go back? The hearts of the voters already contain the answer.










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