The 51% Rule: Why the Blue Camp Refuses to Vote
United Daily News editorial
January 12, 2010
During last month's three in one local elections, and the three county legislator by-elections held last weekend, the most noteworthy political phenomenon was the low Blue Camp voter turnout. The Blue Camp vote count in the three in one local elections, was one million votes fewer than the Blue Camp vote count during Ma Ying-jeou's presidential election. The vote count for Anita Chan Lai-ling in the Taoyuan County Legislative Yuan by-election was about 37,000 votes. It was almost 40,000 less than Liu Cheng-ching's vote count in the previous election. In other words, it was merely half.
A string of elections held since the second change in ruling parties show that President Ma Ying-jeou has not won over any voters in the Green Camp. Instead he has suffered a serious loss of enthusiasm and support within the Blue Camp. The Green Camp is a monolith. Ma Ying-jeou cannot broaden his support by pandering to the Green Camp. He can only alienate his Blue Camp supporters by making them feel betrayed and abandoned. For Ma Ying-jeou, this amounts to a fatal erosion of his political base. Moreover, the less he is able to rally support within the Blue Camp, the more maneuveuring room he offers the Green Camp. Ma Ying-jeou's leadership position is increasingly tenuous. The Blue Camp is frustrated with the Ma administration's failure to fulfill its potential. Its sense of alienation and loss is more and more serious. This has led to a vicious cycle and generated divisions.
During the 2008 presidential election Ma Ying-jeou's campaign headquarters had a "51% rule." This was its election strategy. The so-called 51% rule meant that Ma Ying-jeou must be transformed into a political figure whom a majority of the public would award a score of 51% or more. In other words, their goal was to avoid transforming Ma Ying-jeou into a political figure whom a minority of the public would award a score of 90%, but whom others would award a score of only 5%. Their thinking was that as long as a majority of the public awarded Ma Ying-jeou a score of 51%, he would not become someone whose image was too sharply drawn, hence invite powerful reactions, either pro or con. This would allow him to break out of the Blue vs. Green dichotomy. This would allow him on the one hand to win Pale Green centrist votes, and on the other hand pave the way for social reconciliation after assuming office. The 51% rule was not entirely an electoral strategy. It probably reflected Ma Ying-jeou's moderate beliefs and introverted personality.
The Ma Ying-jeou administration apparently continued to use the 51% rule after it assumed office. It continued to walk on eggshells, eager to please all of the people all of the time. But as we can all see, it merely created a Green Camp monolith, and alienated his Blue Camp core support. As one can imagine, most Blue Camp supporters initially awarded Ma Ying-jeou a score well above 51%. But the reality now is that many Blue Camp supporters are awarding him a score lower than 51%. They refuse even to vote. Many more Blue Camp voters, regardless of whether they vote, feel alienated and adrift.
This is the Ma administration's plight. Green Camp momentum is strong. Blue Camp members' enthusiasm, sense of identification, sense of pride, sense of participation, sense of accomplishment, and degree of support have gone from bad to worse, and can go no lower. This is a deadlock. This is a crisis.
Compare this with the KMT. The absolute number of votes for the DPP may not have increased, but its supporters' enthusiasm and sense of identification with the party is high, well over 51%. From this we can see that the question is not whether the KMT can inspire the Green Camp and break down barriers between the Blue realm and the Green realm. The question is whether it can re-ignite the enthusiasm of its Blue Camp supporters. The question is how can it enable them to feel a sense of identification, a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a degree of support. Ma Ying-jeou cannot base his rule on such an alienated, even contemptuous political foundation. Blue Camp voters are not about to seek refuge in the DPP. But if they are so disillusioned they no longer expect anything from the Ma administration, is that not a frightening prospect?
What are the factors that led to our current situation? We have repeatedly tried to explain. The main reason is that the Republic of China is a nation divided by deep differences over national identity, communal group membership, cross-Strait policy, and social justice. This situation is not one that a "civil servant" such as the president can wave away with a magic wand. It requires a "national leader" to turn the tide. Alas, ever since President Ma took office, he has "retreated to the second line of defense," he has "refused party chairman status," he has "refused to issue emergency orders." His behavior has been that of an administator rather than a national leader. Ma Ying-jeou considers his behavior law-abiding and measured. But his supporters see it as cowardly and incompetent, as shirking responsibility. Ma Ying-jeou may consider his behavior consistent with his 51% rule. But the 51% rule is precisely what landed him in his current predicament.
Here we wish to avoid a possible misunderstanding. We are not saying that Ma Ying-jeou should cozy up to "Deep Blue" voters. We merely think that Ma Ying-jeou must respond to mainstream Blue Camp expectations. He must help his supporters recover their cohesiveness and pride. If he persists in abiding by his 51% rule, if he persists in binding himself hand and foot, if he persists in his efforts to be all things to all people, then most of his supporters will give him a score below 51%.
To make a percentage-based analogy, a person in office cannot expect 100% of the public to give him a score of 51% or more. Instead, he should enable 60% of the public to give him a score of 60% or more. This should be his goal. If he can get 60% of the public to give him a score of 60% or more, what reason is there to assume the nation's morale cannot be revitalized and restored?
If Ma Ying-jeou is unable to inspire enthusiasm and a sense of pride within the Blue Camp, he shouldn't even think of attempting to inspire enthusiasm in the Green Camp.
2010.01.12 03:25 am