The Final Mile on the Road to the Presidency
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 27, 2014
Summary: The movie "KANO" includes a classic line. "Do not think about
winning. Think about not losing." Tsai Ing-wen and other presidential
hopefuls may wish to consider the relevance of this to the 2016
presidential race. Elections are of course important for political
parties and politicians. But Taiwan's future is more important. "Do
not think about winning the presidency. Think about not losing Taiwan."
If politicians were to think this way, and showed voters on Taiwan they
were in earnest, voters would sit up and take note
Full Text Below:
The results of the Democratic Progressive Party chairmanship election are out. Not surprisingly, Tsai Ing-wen won. The election was a prelude to the 2016 presidential election. Over the coming two years can Tsai Ing-wen achieve what she failed to achieve during the 2012 presidential election? Can she complete the final mile to her destination? Tsai Ing-wen has taken over as party chairman. How much will change? We may wish to consider the following points.
First, can Tsai Ing-wen make the transition from cotton candy to ginseng fruit? In other words, from fluff to substance?
Politicians often suffer a peculiar fate. Over time, their greatest strengths become their geatest weaknesses, and the cause of their downfall.
When Tsai Ing-wen rose to prominence on the political stage, her image as an expert and scholar won plaudits. Tsai Ing-wen had a unique way of making her points. This enabled her to avoid political damage on key issues. She made skillful use of ambiguity, making it impossible for others to find anything to attack. As long as she avoided any major blunders, her continued popularity was assured.
As a result, Tsai Ing-wen's policy proposals were often like cotton candy. They had just a touch of sweetness. People assumed they had tasted something rich in flavor. But upon closer scrutiny they found that her arguments were often nothing more than hot air. They had no core, and lacked any constructive solutions to problems.
At first, her unique style was highly appealing. But as time went by, people felt starved and undernourished. That was why during the 2012 elections, critics described Tsai Ing-wen as "kong xin cai," aka "water spinach," a leafy green vegetable hollow at the center. This image significantly undermined Tsai's election prospects.
Nothing frightens politicians more than the prospect that their political tricks have become outdated. Will Tsai Ing-wen cling to her cotton candy strategy over the next two years? Will she remain ambiguous on important issues? Will she bob and weave to avoid political damage? If so, her "kong xin cai" reputation is likely to return. It is likely to become her Achilles heel and prevent her from completing the final mile.
Tsai Ing-wen is clearly aware of the problem. During the party chairmanship election she advocated "constitutional reform." She advocated lowering the threshold for public referenda and changing the election system. These two ideas provoked political backlash and some debate over their pros and cons. But leave aside the details for the moment. This time Tsai Ing-wen has advocated some relatively concrete policy proposals. Concrete policy proposals are the beginning of policy debate. If Tsai Ing-wen is willing to subject herself to public scrutiny, this will help ensure rational debate.
Does that mean that henceforth Tsai Ing-wen's policy proposals will all be substance instead of fluff? Ginseng fruit instead of cotton candy? Will she confront controversy head on? Or is party chair Tsai Ing-wen merely putting on a show? We will have to wait and see.
Second, can Tsai Ing-wen stop criticizing Ma Ying-jeou, and instead surpass Ma Ying-jeou?
We are not saying she must not criticize. We are merely saying she should not criticize merely to criticize, She can criticize Ma Ying-jeou, but her criticism should be fair. We are saying that she should attempt to surpass him. She should focus on what is beneficial to Taiwan, rather than stubbornly oppose everything. She should transcend politics by helping Ma Ying-jeou. If she did that she would do more than merely help Ma Ying-jeou. She would help Taiwan.
Consider the Sunflower Student Movement. The DPP launched a one-sided attack against the government. It ignored a fundamental problem. The Sunflower Student Movement's street violence harmed more than just the Ma administration. It paralyzed the Legislative Yuan, disrupted the Executive Yuan, and thumbed its nose at representative democracy. As the largest opposition party, the DPP must remember that it too is a link in the chain of representative democracy. One day the DPP could return to power. Today the DPP is applying a certain standard for the Sunflower Student Movement. When it encounters a similar situation in the future, its integrity will be put to the test. We have a simple question for the DPP. If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, and 200 students occupy the Executive Yuan, will the DPP expel them?
Consider policy. Tsai Ing-wen has taken over as party chair. Major policy battles are raging in the legislature over the STA, the "Draft Law for Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight" and Free Trade Zones. Does Tsai Ing-wen intend to deal with these as party factional disputes? Or as matters affecting Taiwan's larger interests? Will Tsai Ing-wen repeat the mistakes of the 2012 presidential election? Will she admit being mistaken about ECFA, and switch from vehement opposition to unconditional acceptance? That remains to be seen.
The movie "KANO" includes a classic line. "Do not think about winning. Think about not losing." Tsai Ing-wen and other presidential hopefuls may wish to consider the relevance of this to the 2016 presidential race. Elections are of course important for political parties and politicians. But Taiwan's future is more important.
"Do not think about winning the presidency. Think about not losing Taiwan." If politicians were to think this way, and showed voters on Taiwan they were in earnest, voters would sit up and take note.