Harping on Water Spinach, Ignoring the Platform for the Coming Decade
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 12, 2010
One of the magic tricks spin doctors are able to perform, is to alter people's perceptions of issues by giving them their own spin. This phenomenon figures prominently in the five cities election. Trivial matters have constantly been blown out of proportion. Major failures on the other hand, have constantly been trivialized. The Green Camp has blown the Flora Expo water spinach non-issue into a "major scandal." Meanwhile, the DPP's "Platform for the Coming Decade," announced during the party's anniversary celebration, remains nothing more than empty rhetoric.
The DPP announced its Platform for the Coming Decade, hoping that a fresh new political platform would help cleanse the negative image left behind by the Chen Shui-bian regime. It hoped to gain public support by casting itself as an opposition party with a political vision, qualified to lead the nation. The DPP announced the platform during its 24th anniversary celebration on September 28. A controversial article entitled, "Ethnic Diversity," first proposed in August, was repeatedly excluded. During this year's anniversary celebration, the DPP haphazardly proposed an article pertaining to "Judicial Reform," not included in the original twelve articles. The article attempted to hitch a ride on the "White Rose Judicial Reform Movement" bandwagon. It was an ad hoc response to emerging circumstances. Apparently the Democratic Progressive Party's Platform for the Coming Decade, if not stillborn, is at least experiencing a difficult birth.
The reasons the Platform for the Coming Decade is experiencing a difficult birth are simple. One reason is internal. Differences of opinion within the DPP make it impossible for the party leadership to reconcile the conflicting views. When a consensus is impossible, such matters are best shelved. A second reason is strategic considerations. The five cities elections are imminent. If the Platform for the Coming Decade is introduced now, it will be susceptible to outside attacks because the details have yet to be worked out. The election comes first. It is better to delay introducing the platform. A third reason is real world limitations. The DPP has long been a giant at rhetoric, adept at debate. But the DPP has long been a midget at governing. It has never been able to implement its ideas, especially those pertaining to economic development and cross-Strait relations. Starting out from an anti-[Mainland] China and anti-ECFA standpoint, it has with great difficulty agreed on a policy that can benefit Taiwan. But if it changes its fundamental position, it may reveal its internal contradictions, and end up appearing indecisive.
DPP Secretary General Wu Nai-jen recently denounced the DPP's political rivals as "bums." The Green Camp carefully crafted its campaign strategy. But Wu's remarks inadvertently exposed the gap between the DPP's rhetoric and actions. The DPP vehemently opposes allowing members of the media or general public to question its candidates during the five cities mayoral debates. Wu Nai-jen said "Masters fight one on one. Only bums seek out helpers to engage in group brawls." The implication was that if members of the media and the general public had the temerity to question the DPP's mayoral candidates, they would be "bum's helpers."
The Secretary-General's attitude was shockingly coarse. More shocking still, this was a political party that once held the fate of the nation in its hands. Yet it held the Fourth Estate and respected civic leaders in such contempt, and felt nothing for them except seething hatred. Election debates on Taiwan are nothing new. Questions from members of the media or the general public, or both in turn, have a long history. Consider the 2008 televised presidential debate. Does anyone really believe the format was unfair to the DPP? The format for these election debates were either suggested by the DPP, or at least agreed upon by both sides in advance. They were conducted according to principles of reciprocity and fairness. But lo and behold, this year the DPP chose to throw a temper tantrum. It denounced anyone who dared question the DPP candidates as "bum's helpers," and the debate as a "group brawl."
Wu Nai-jen is hardly a political novice. His fallacious statement is hardly a slip of the tongue. Therefore the so-called "bum" thesis reflects the DPP's feeling of being trapped in a confrontation with no escape. It also reflects the DPP's secret contempt for the public. The DPP habitually boasts that it "respects the will of the people." The DPP routinely demands "public referendums," almost at the drop of a hat. Yet it vehemently opposes questioning of DPP candidates by members of the general public. Are people nothing to the DPP but voting machines? Are they qualified only to robotically cast their ballots for the DPP, but not to participate in greater depth in political debates?
The Flora Expo is a stage on which the Republic of China can exercise its soft power. Yet the DPP has no qualms about making political hay with a few bunches of water spinach. For selfish election advantage, it is willing to distort the larger picture. Meanwhile, the DPP's commitment to its Platform for the Coming Decade, has vanished without a trace amidst the "fog of war." Contrast what politicians care about and are willing to give priority, with what they are not. Politicians are adept at donning political masks and distorting the facts. How unpredictable they are. How impossible it is to defend against them.
Most importantly, voters must not allow themselves to be confused by the fog of war. They must maintain their focus. They must retain the ability to discern when they are being manipulated. If one sees only half of dish of water spinach, but cannot see the main course, the Platform for the Coming Decade, then what is the Democratic Progressive Party's "democratic feast," but self-deception?