One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
Tsai Ing-wen and the Post-Student Movement DPP
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 26, 2014
Summary: The DPP has a fatal flaw. It knows how to attack and destroy, but it has
no idea how to build. Tsai Ing-wen may be more sober than Su
Tseng-chang. But she remains capricious, superficial, and lacking in
seriousness. She has long sought office this way. She and the DPP must
take a hard look at the problem. In the wake of the student movement,
the DPP appears to have advanced, but has actually retreated. Worse, it
has taken one step forward and two steps back. Tsai Ing-wen is using
high minded rhetoric to lead the DPP. She is attempting to change
Taiwan. To do so however, she may first need to change her own thinking.
Full Text Below:
Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh withdrew from the DPP chairmanship election. Yesterday Tsai Ing-wen was elected party chairman by over 93% of the votes. This shows how invincible she is within the party. She has won the chairmanship and the right to lead the party. But does this mean Tsai Ing-wen will be able to complete the final mile in 2016? That remains as much in question as it did two years ago.
The question is twofold. One. The Sunflower Student Movement has changed the DPP's policy path. Its political foundations are actually undergoing retreat despite the outerward appearance of progress. Two. Tsai Ing-wen's own thinking appears hollow and wavering. It cannot withstand close scrutiny.
First consider the student movement. Tsai Ing-wen is undeniably the biggest beneficiary of the Sunflower Student Movement. The student movement dealt a serious blow to the image of the Ma administration. But it also put the screws to the DPP. Key elements within the student movement are close to the Tsai camp. They even forced Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh to withdraw from the three-way leadership race prematurely. As a result, Tsai Ing-wen became the voice of "generational change."
Now consider another perspective. Tsai Ing-wen has benefitted from the student movement. But the Democratic Progressive Party's image has been damaged, and its policy path undermined. In other words, Tsai may not be a beneficiary in the long term. First, the DPP has sought to reform its Mainland policy since last year. The student movement's anti-STA demands have created a serious setback, to the point where the DPP can no longer make corrections. This could be fatal. Second, a succession of social movements and student movements have left the DPP nearly impotent. It has been reduced to "me-tooing." DPP influence has been seriously weakened. Third, on the surface, the student movement and social movements appear to echo the DPP. They resemble a coordinated attack on the ruling KMT. But in fact, they divide public support for the DPP. The general public is dissatisfied with representative politics, with chaos in the streets, and withe chronic unrest. The DPP is taking much of the heat.
Tsai Ing-wen has inherited leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party from Su Tseng-chang. But she must also deal with these blows to the DPP's image. She must deal with conflicts over strategy, and reactionaries who would drag the party into the past. She must ensure that the DPP engages in rational political discourse. He must restore its strategic status as a political party. In particular, Tsai Ing-wen must use her authority as party chairman to win the presidency in 2016. Over the past two years she was able to use Su Tseng-chang as a shield. This enabled her to express different views and score numerous victories. Now that their positions are reversed, the situation is very different, and little room remains for evasion.
Over the past two years, Tsai Ing-wen has held no political office. Therefore she appears to be sitting and waiting with exceptional calm. Unlike her comrades,such as Su Tseng-chang, she has not been subject to criticism. Unlike Frank Hsieh, she has not had to wrack her brains seeking a political stage. She could laugh as Ma Ying-jeou became an arrow magnet. But look more closely. Has Tsai Ing-wen changed over the past two years? Is she better prepared to lead Taiwan? We see few if any such signs. This brings us to our second point. Tsai Ing-wen has apparently never shifted her political consciousness, from that of an opposition party leader, to that of a ruling party leader. This is perhaps the most serious obstacle she must overcome to complete the final mile, the same final mile she failed to complete during the previous election.
During the recent DPP party chairmanship debate, Kuo Tai-ling, a political nobody, repeatedly questioned Tsai Ing-wen, who repeatedly bobbed and weaved. She gave non-answers to real questions. She appeared calm, but her words contained no substance. Kuo Tai-ling repeated asked Tsai Ing-wen three questions. Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly flip-flopped and revealed her lack of consistency. When she was in office, she championed the completion of the NPP4. Now that she is out of office, she is demanding the abolition of nuclear power. She once unconditionally accepted ECFA. Now however she opposes the STA and MTA. She once demanded that President Ma refrain from simultanously serving as KMT party chairman. Now however, she is running for president in her capacity as party chairman. Every voter on Taiwan wants answers to these questions. But Tsai Ing-wen bobs and weaves, shines her questioners on, and never answers any of them.
One thing is particulary puzzling. Tsai Ing-wen proclaimed that the DPP must henceforth take the "path of the citizens." It must proceed from the "path of the masses" to the "path of parliament." It must establish think tanks as the framework by which the party can dialogue with civic groups. When street demonstrations were erupting everywhere, such rhetoric implied that protestors would be recruited into the party. But the party failed to provide the people any leadership. It merely hopped on the bandwagon and joined the parade. What is the raison d'etre for political parties? Besides, using the "path of the masses" to promote the "path of parliament" has never worked for the DPP ever. The Green Camp cannot improve its "path of parliament," yet it would flaunt its "path of the masses." Where is this about to take Taiwan's democracy?
The DPP has a fatal flaw. It knows how to attack and destroy, but it has no idea how to build. Tsai Ing-wen may be more sober than Su Tseng-chang. But she remains capricious, superficial, and lacking in seriousness. She has long sought office this way. She and the DPP must take a hard look at the problem. In the wake of the student movement, the DPP appears to have advanced, but has actually retreated. Worse, it has taken one step forward and two steps back. Tsai Ing-wen is using high minded rhetoric to lead the DPP. She is attempting to change Taiwan. To do so however, she may first need to change her own thinking.
2014.05.26 03:09 am