Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hsu Hsin-liang Rains on the DPP's Parade

Hsu Hsin-liang Rains on the DPP's Parade
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 16, 2009

Former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang called on all the Green Camp "princes" to enter the mayoral races for the five major cities late next year. This would increase political momentum leading up to the presidential election. His reasoning was that the Democratic Progressive Party never broke through the basic pattern of "60% Blue, 40% Green" voter support during the recent local elections. "The DPP really has no reason to rejoice."
Some people in the Green Camp may agree with Hsu's first statement. The Green Camp "princes" are probably already making plans. But the Democratic Progressive Party may be unhappy about Hsu's second statement, namely that the Green Camp didn't really win a victory. It may feel Hsu is raining on their parade, merely out of spite. But unflattering advice is often what one needs to hear the most, and with a cool head.

As Hsu sees it, the Green Camp's increased support was primarily a result of Blue Camp voters staying home. In fact, the total number of votes the DPP received fell, by tens of thousands votes. In his view, a victory may boost morale. But without a change in the basic pattern of Blue vs. Green voter support, the DPP cannot hope to win back the presidency. Therefore he urged the "princes" to formulate a strategy to win all five municipal elections. Only then can the DPP build sufficient momentum. Only then can it change the basic pattern of Blue vs. Green voter support. Only then can it hope to win back the presidency in 2012.

Hsu Hsin-liang is hardly alone in this view. Cooler heads on Taiwan have all arrived at the same conclusion. They have all concluded that there has been no major change in Blue vs. Green voter support. On the surface, Green Camp support has increased. The KMT now commands a mere two and a half percentage point lead over the DPP. But if one merges support for Fu Kun-chi and others into the Blue Camp, the gap between the two camps still exceeds eight percentage points. Numbers talk. The Green Camp has a right to be happy about its victory. But it should not get carried away.

Besides, before the election the Green Camp boasted that it would win six to ten county seats. It won only four. This suggests that although people may be dissatisfied with the ruling KMT, in a one on one election, many people still have misgivings about Democratic Progressive Party rule. Conversely, Ma Ying-jeou refuses to admit defeat. He maintains that the Blue Camp still holds a substantial lead in the number of county and municipal executive seats, and that the gap in support between the two camps still holds.

The "basic pattern" of Blue vs. Green voter support has persisted for years, through one election after another. The Kuomintang has undergone two consecutive schisms. Internecine warfare led to a string of Blue Camp debacles. Blue Camp supporters now understand the dangers of "split-tickets." Over the past two years, the single-member district two-vote system for legislative elections has established a KMT/DPP two party system. Smaller parties have evaporated. The basic pattern of "60% Blue, 40% Green" voter support is largely set.

The Green Camp has a clear ideology. Therefore its core support is relatively solid. No matter how poorly the Democratic Progressive Party performs, Green Camp voters persist in giving it their support. By contrast, Blue Camp supporters support the KMT for many different reasons. Blue Camp core support is not as solid, not as unquestioningly loyal as the Green Camp's. Because of this, whenever the KMT governs badly, Blue Camp voters either stay away from the polls, or cast protest votes for independent or third party candidates. But during major one on one elections, they remain united in their "opposition to Taiwan independence." In other words, if the DPP refuses to make reasonable alterations to its stance on reunification vs. independence, it will continue "running into a brick wall" during general elections.

Hsu Hsin-liang is urging Green Camp "princes" to build political momentum. He has a point. If done properly, it might have a powerful psychological effect. But it is also a tactic of desperation, one full of risk. After all, such a move would thwart the rise of younger generation political stars. If the "princes" lose, the younger generation political stars will have to wait four years for their next opportunity. Hsu Hsin-liang believes that if the "princes" win their bids for mayor, then run for president, their supporters will forgive them, providing they are up front about their agenda. In fact, the practice of using public offices as springboards, and using public elections to increase one's political capital, may lead to a voter backlash. Most importantly, if the Democratic Progressive Party misjudges the significance of their recent election "victory," and adopts a radical platform, a "pendulum effect" will kick in. Voters will revert to their basic pattern of "60% Blue, 40% Green" voter support. The key to Hsu Hsin-liang's thinking is that he expects the DPP to break through the basic pattern of "60% Blue, 40% Green" voter support.

Hsu Hsin-liang has admonished the Democratic Progressive Party not to celebrate too soon. He rained on their parade. But he spoke the truth. He helped the Green Camp keep a cool head. The Green Camp may have built up some momentum during the local elections. But the basic pattern of voter support remains unchanged. In order to win the five upcoming mayoral elections, not to mention the presidential election, it must win the trust of over half the voters. It must behave in a manner that will win that trust. Electioneering gimmicks alone will not be enough. The Democratic Progressive Party must not misinterpret the meaning of its recent election "victory." It must not react inappropriately, and thereby forfeit the opportunity to undergo a rebirth.

2009.12.16 03:38 am










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