Ko Wen-je: A Lion Agrees to be Caged
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 20, 2013
Summary: For the DPP, Ko Wen-je did not represent a chance to win, but a model for reform. Alas, the DPP has missed the mark. Ko Wen-je had an opportunity to throw open the DPP's cages. Instead he chose to walk into them, shattering his "Ko Wen-je as lion" myth. for Taipei voters, Ko had an opportunity to rise above stereotypical Blue vs. Green conflict, to wage a different kind of election campaign. Now alas, everything has reverted to the same tired old form.
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Ko Wen-je may not deserve to be perceived as a lion. The DPP may not deserve to be perceived as a cage. But in order to run in the Taipei Mayoral Election, Ko Wen-je has been forced to join the DPP. Malleable clay has been forced into a standardized Green mold. Ko has now lost his grass roots appeal as a non-partisan doctor and political outsider.
Ko Wen-je resisted joining the DPP. He asked, "Why must a lion be shut up in a cage?" But after some persuasion and waffling, he chose to enter the cage. The lion compromised. Worse, inside and outside the cage, numerous lion tamers stood, whips in hand, ready to teach him the rules he would have obey within the cage.
Consider the DPP perspective on Ko Wen-je becoming a party member. Every day, they were forced to watch him being touted as the ideal challenger among the political opposition. Everywhere he went, Green Camp voters flocked around him. Even more embarrassingly. Ko Wen-je had charisma. Declared candidates such as Ku Li-hsiung and Annette Lu were resentful and unhappy. Other party comrades were humiliated. To them, party nomination rules designed to ensure fairness had been ignored. Ko Wen-je donned Green Camp garb. This at least eliminated one tough to swallow objection. Internal regrouping may still enable the DPP to wage a successful Taipei mayorial campaign.
In fact, the DPP primary nominations for Taipei City and Xinbei City suggest no grander strategic plan. Inviting Ko Wen-je to run was clearly more a means of pacifying internal dissent than a mens of allowing outside participation. Its purpose was to win by not losing face. Its purpose was to avoid fielding a DPP candidate who might lose to a Pan Green comrade as an independent. By caging the lion, the DPP avoided a future debacle.
Can Ko Wen-je win on behalf of the DPP? Consider his recent poll numbers. He has provided the DPP a mirror by which it can reflect on itself. Consider his political orientation. Ko Wen-je clearly belongs in the Green Camp. Other DPP politicians are veterans. As a political outsider, Ko Wen-je paradoxically appeals to more voters of all ages in the capitol city.
Consider this from two perspectives. Consider Ko Wen-je's personal qualifications. He has certain specific political attributes. But when commenting on politics, he is not overly dogmatic. He supports Ah-Bian, but criticizes him as well. He criticizes the Blue Camp, but not to the extent of blasting Ma at every available opportunity. He is a doctor and a politician, but more doctor than politician. This is the source of his appeal as a political outsider. Ko Wen-je is reportedly an Asperger's Syndrome sufferer. Perhaps because of this, Ko Wen-je differs from most DPP politicians, and comes across as somewhat exotic.
Consider the DPP's own characteristics. Two ruling party changes have taken place. During its time in office, the DPP wallowed in corruption. In the eyes of the public, the DPP's image is fixed. DPP obstructionism worsens by the day. DPP opportunism leaves the impression that it has no principles whatsoever. DPP populism may still give it some influence at the local level. But Taipei is a major metropolis. Its voters are more rational. To them the DPP long ago lost any charm it might have had. This is why the DPP did not field any strong candidates for Taipei City and Xinbei City. This is why Ko Wen-je is so popular. He has yet to be tested in the field. In any event, his speeches and his responses, unlike those of DPP insiders, defy stereotyping. For moderate voters weary of Blue vs. Green political struggles, this offers considerable appeal.
In short, Ko Wen-je has the appeal of a political outsider. He is an atypical candidate. He could have been an inspiration for DPP reform. He could have been an "improved model" for the Green Camp as it moves toward the political center. Unfortunately the monolithic DPP refused to have anything to do with "exotic." It refused to accept the notion that it must reform itself. Instead, Ko Wen-je has been forced to join the Green Camp, to wear the same uniform, to march to the same drummer. Only by doing so, was he able to win the blessing of the Green Camp. Now consider Ko Wen-je. The more he campaigns, the more he becomes assimilated by the DPP, the more he adopts the outmoded habits of the Green Camp. As a result, his personal charisma, his uncensored declarations, his onstage performance are likely to suffer.
For the DPP, Ko Wen-je did not represent a chance to win, but a model for reform. Alas, the DPP has missed the mark. Ko Wen-je had an opportunity to throw open the DPP's cages. Instead he chose to walk into them, shattering his "Ko Wen-je as lion" myth. for Taipei voters, Ko had an opportunity to rise above stereotypical Blue vs. Green conflict, to wage a different kind of election campaign. Now alas, everything has reverted to the same tired old form.
2013.12.20 01:57 am