The KMT Needs A Grand Campaign Strategy
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 11, 2014
Summary: The KMT has long enjoyed an advantage in northern Taiwan. It has long assumed that its status was secure and no effort was needed. But now the situation has changed. The KMT is no longer secure. If it cannot offer its own policy vision, the hemmoraging will continue, and it will meet with eventual defeat. The KMT must now summon up the courage to offer a grand policy and propose a grand strategy. This is the only chance the Kuomintang has of winning in the face of certain defeat.
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The year end election campaign presents the KMT with its most serious electoral crisis since its founding. Traditionally solid constituencies such as Keelung and Taipei are now at risk. The impact could even spread outward, like waves in a pond, and endanger neighboring New Taipei and Taoyuan. Take the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. The 2008 election involved smooth sailing. Ma Ying-jeou played his "Taiwan moves forward" card. He promised to end corruption and ensure cross-Strait peace. This led to a major victory. During the 2012 election Ma Ying-jeou's poll numbers fell. He campaigned on a lower keyed "Go Taiwan!" theme. He called for calm. By contrast, the DPP left many people uneasy about its ability to handle cross-Strait affairs. Eventually Ma won by a cliff-hanging 6.89 million votes.
But the KMT has not indicated any campaign theme or grand strategy for the year end county chiefs and city mayors election. Instead, it is mired in scandal. Central Taiwan is in danger. Even sorse, the danger is spreading to traditionally solid northern Taiwan.
Why has the situation gotten so far out of hand? For many reasons. The KMT lacks a clear strategy in its current campaign. Without a clear strategy, one cannot formulate clear tactics. What's worse, the candidates themselves are not up to the challenge.
Take Keelung for example. The Huang Ching-tai scandal has jeopardized the KMT's election prospects. Hau Lung-bin and Eric Chu have persuaded the KMT to revoke Huang Ching-tai's candidacy. But this has not reversed the party's fortunes in Keelung. To reverse an almost certain outcome, the KMT must totally rethink its election strategy.
First of all, the KMT must be willing to suffer a glorious defeat. Only then will it have a chance to enjoy a glorious victory. The Keelung situation requires more than a candidate change. It requires humility and a willingness to listen to the people of Keelung. It requires identifying what the people want done the most, and making that the heart of one's campaign strategy. It requires a fundamental change in attitude. To use KANO's classic line, the KMT should not think about how to make sure that the KMT wins. The KMT should think about how to make sure that Keelung does not lose.
Many people have been talking about a Keelung Taipei merger, or a Keelung New Taipei merger. They hope to rise above personalities in order to address the issues. Addressing the merger could lift the municipal elections above the level of personalities and muckraking, and instead direct it at public policy. The people of Keelung are apparently concerned about such issues. Such issues should be addressed comprehensively and debated appropriately, and could even include the strategic development of Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung and even Taoyuan.
Consider the matter from the Keelung perspective. Blue and green polls alike show that people in Keelung strongly support a Taipei Keelung merger. In October 2012, KMT Legislator Chiu Wen-yen and others announced their own poll results. Up to 82% of Keelung residents favor a merger with Taipei or New Taipei. In March last year, DPP candidate for Keelung Mayor Lin You-chang released his own poll results. Up to 47.1% of Keelung residents favor a merger with Taipei. Only 16.1% favored the status quo. Only 15.9% favored a merger with New Taipei. Only 2.1% favored a merger with both Taipei and New Taipei. Clearly Keelung residents strongly favor a merger. What is missing is the determination. Demonstrating this determination is the key to reversing public sentiment in Keelung.
Consider the matter from the Taipei or New Taipei perspective. People in Taipei and New Taipei are apparently indifferent to the Taipei Keelung merger. The issue apparently lacks appeal. But this not necessarily the case. Lien Sheng-wen proposed a "City Dream" and a "Taipei Harbor." He envisioned the transformation of the inland city of Taipei into a harbor within 10 years. This elevated his status as a candidate. It suggested a capacity for strategic thinking. This was especially true given Ko Wen-je's response to the proposed merger of Taipei and Keelung. Ko said "The bastard!" Essentially Lien's proposal nullified Ko's plans for a Taipei Keelung merger after he was elected mayor. Lien Sheng-wen has been relentless harassed by the Ko camp. The merger would elevate the race to a higher level. It would become more than a battle of personalities. It would become a battle over public policy. It would enable the KMT to present a unified front in the strategic battle against Ko Wen-je.
Consider the matter from Eric Chu's perspective. People in Keelung want a merger with Taipei rather than one with New Taipei. But Eric Chu also proposed a Keelung New Taipei merger, based on geographical considerations. The two cities are contiguous. He was open to the wishes of people in Keelung. He humbly explained that "We must respect the wishes of Keelung. Once the merger proposal is complete, New Taipei will strive to contribute."
Issues such as a rebirth for Keelung harbor and for Taoyuan Airport can become part of a larger vision. They can show the public that the KMT has both ambition and vision. Of course public policies never involve only upsides with no downsides. The Taipei Keelung merger has its shortcomings. Should it become the Kuomintang's grand strategy for northern Taiwan? The KMT must make a careful determination. The KMT does not need not to make the Taipei Keelung merger its grand strategy. But the KMT has to have a grand strategy.
The KMT has long enjoyed an advantage in northern Taiwan. It has long assumed that its status was secure and no effort was needed. But now the situation has changed. The KMT is no longer secure. If it cannot offer its own policy vision, the hemmoraging will continue, and it will meet with eventual defeat. The KMT must now summon up the courage to offer a grand policy and propose a grand strategy. This is the only chance the Kuomintang has of winning in the face of certain defeat.