Su Tseng-chang's Two Cities Strategy: Reasonable? Justified?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 2, 2010
The evening the ballots were counted for the four county legislative by-elections, the Su Tseng-chang camp let it be known that Su intended to run for mayor of Taipei. When asked about the matter the following day, Tsai Ing-wen dismissed it as "mere rumor." She said she learned about it only after reading the newspaper, and hoped everyone would give Su more time to think about it. Su Tseng-chang would neither confirm nor deny the rumor. He said he would report to Chairman Tsai before commenting. Those in the know believe the two have yet to reach a consensus.
Su Tseng-chang announced his intention to run in advance. He hoped to force Tsai Ing-wen to accept a fait accompli. But clearly Tsai has reservations. Su Tseng-chang's "Two Cities Strategy" has numerous defects. The most egregious of which is that Su Tseng-chang is treating the five cities elections as a Machievellian political tool, when his real goal is to run for president in 2012.
The Su camp says that the number of seats the DPP wins in the five cities election is secondary. The Su camp says its primary concern is how many ballots the DPP receives. Only this will help the DPP return to power. In other words, Su Tseng-chang is "shorting New Taipei, and transiting Taipei City." His purpose is not to win a mayoral seat for the DPP. His purpose is to establish a coat tails effect, to create momentum, paving the way for a presidential run in 2012.
Before his strategy can be considered reasonable and justified, Su must answer two questions. One. Must Su Tseng-chang be the DPP's presidential candidate? Two. Su Tseng-chang is using the five cities election as a stepping stone in his presidential campaign. But suppose he resigns his position as mayor, only to lose his bid for the presidency? Can the Democratic Progressive Party really afford to pay such a heavy price?
Tsai Ing-wen hopes to take three cities out of five. Her goal is to win New Taipei. Su Tseng-chang would draw out Chu Li-lun. In terms of political responsibility, Su cannot refuse, since he is the one candidate most able to take on Chu Li-lun. If Su chooses not to run, the DPP would essentially be surrending Taipei City. Su may be trying to force Tsai Ing-wen to go up against Chu Li-lun. But if Tsai Ing-wen loses, the cost could be even greater than if Su Tseng-chang loses. In which case, how can Su justify exploiting Tsai Ing-wen?
Su may be able to emerge victorious over Chu Li-lun. But Su is unwilling to be drafted, and is refusing to do battle. Actually, if Su were to prevail over Chu Li-lun in New Taipei, he would still have two alternatives. One. He could announce that he is making a bid for the presidency, and hope the public approves. Two, He could announce his intention to quietly serve out his term as New Taipei mayor, and endorse others, such as Tsai Ing-wen, as the Democratic Progressive Party's presidential candidate. That however, is not Su Tseng-chang's calculus. Although Su has declared that the goal is to "take four out of five," he has adopted a strategy of "shorting New Taipei, and transiting Taipei City." He is unconcerned whether the DPP wins or loses. He is concerned only about his own bid for the presidency. Su Tseng-chang must explain why he wants to run for president, and why the DPP must go along with his strategy of "shorting New Taipei, and transiting Taipei City." Is it reasonable? Is it justified?
Su Tseng-chang's Two Cities Strategy may have won over some Green Camp supporters. But it is far too risky. It could be a lose/lose proposition. The benefits are difficult to assess. Who knows whether Su can get elected president in 2012? Should the DPP assume such a risk for the Su alone? Should it force the entire DPP to bear the risk for such an opportunistic move? Given the DPP's larger concerns, it may be unwise, and should be given careful consideration. Otherwise Su's Two Cities Strategy could leave the DPP in the lurch, both in New Taipei and in the Presidential Palace.
In terms of rational decision-making, if the DPP hopes to return to power, its best strategy is to take one step at a time. It needs to treat any victories in Taipei City and New Taipei as victories in their own right. Su Tseng-chang wants to run for president. If the DPP adopts a strategy of "shorting New Taipei, and transiting Taipei City" for his sake, wouldn't it be counterproductive? Wouldn't it amount to "licking blood from the blade of the knife?"
Su Tseng-chang's extremely tricky Two Cities Strategy is both opportunistic and risky. It may not withstand close scrutiny. Never mind DPP leaders such as Tsai Ing-wen, who may not agree with Su Tseng-chang's opportunistic attempt to treat the party as his own political instrument. Su's Two Cities Strategy has yet to meet with the approval of the entire nation. Will the general public countenance Su Tseng-chang manipulating the five cities elections so cavalierly, treating democracy as a game?
Su Tseng-chang may not wish to be locked in by the five cities elections. If so, he can choose not to run at all. He can choose not to run in New Taipei. He can choose not to run in Taipei City. But if he chooses to run, he can hardly announce beforehand that his real goal is to run for president. He cannot treat the five cities elections as a Machiavellian political tool. The Democratic Progressive Party has no reason to "short New Taipei, and transit Taipei City" for Su's sake. Nor can the general public allow Su to play them for fools. Su Tseng-chang's strategy is much too ego-centric. It exaggerates his own importance. It indulges in wishful thinking. Once reality rears its ugly head, his strategy could backfire. He could find himself denounced as an opportunistic politician, manipulating democratic elections for his selfish purposes.
Is the Two Cities Strategy reasonable and justified? One. Why has Su Tseng-chang's candidacy become a given, no longer subject to question? Two. Why must the five cities elections be treated as Su Tseng-chang's political too, paving the way for his presidental campaign? Three. Does Su really intend to adopt the strategy of "shorting New Taipei, and transiting Taipei City?" Four. Should the sanctity of democratic elections be debased in such a manner? If so, how do Su Tseng-chang and the DPP intend to answer to the public?
The DPP has long achieved victories by means of opportunism and trickery. But isn't the Two Cities Strategy just a little too opportunistic and a little too tricky?