Transform the KMT, Broaden the Blue Camp Path
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 1, 2014
Executive Summary: The nine in one elections inflicted the worst defeat on the KMT since it relocated to Taiwan in 1949. but the KMT need not be too discouraged. Falling into the valley of the shadow of death is an opportunity to finally see its own blind spots. The KMT should consider expanding the concept of a blue camp. The KMT path should become a blue camp path. This would regain it the support of mainstream public opinion, and once again make it the leader of the “peoples path.”
Full Text Below:
The nine in one elections inflicted the worst defeat on the KMT since it relocated to Taiwan in 1949. Sean Lien lost to Wen-Je Ko by 240,000 votes in the capital city of Taipei, a blue camp stronghold. Island wide, the number of counties and municipalities headed by the KMT plummeted from four cities and 11 counties to one city and five counties. The blame has fallen on Ma Ying-jeou. Political reality will probably force him to resign as party chairman during the Wednesday Central Standing Committee meeting. A new election will probably be held within three months.
Support for the Kuomintang collapsed for many reasons. It did not occur overnight. Put simply, the KMT failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. Ma failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. The party’s nominees failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. The party’s political path failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. The situation was irremediable.
President Ma must begin by acknowledging his failings. Specifically, he must bear responsibility for the defeat. The public has spoken. President Ma failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. That was the main reason for the KMT’s debacle. Before the election Eric Chu estimated that he would receive 300,000 votes. When it was all over, he squeaked by with a 20,000 vote margin. Wu Chi-yang’s defeat was even more unexpected. Neither candidate had a poor record or lacked charisma. Many voters considered voting for Chu or Wu. But they chose to punish the Kuomintang instead. They punished KMT candidates not just in New Taipei City and Taoyuan, but in every voting district across the island.
Ma Ying-jeou has decided to resign the party chairmanship. But that is hardly enough to atone for his failings. He let the KMT down. He must now reinvigorate the party. The party must now hold a party chairmanship election and nominate a presidential candidate. Ma should use the vestiges of his political influence to help KMT party leaders resolve the problems in its nomination process. KMT support for peaceful development in cross-Strait relations will win the most public support.
The second reason for the KMT’s defeat, was that its nominees failed to win peoples’ hearts and minds. This was evident from the resistance Sean Lien encountered in Taipei. In recent years, young people have become increasingly unhappy with political dynasties. This has led to intense resentment against “political elites.” Nevertheless the KMT nominated Sean Lien as its candidate for capital city mayorship. The KMT was oblivious to public sentiment. The KMT's nomination process was also dysfunctional. Wen-Je Ko’s wave of populist approval was due in part to his personal charm. But the main reason for his popularity was the contrast between him and his opponent Sean Lien. During the nomination process, when Sean Lien and Ting Shou-chung were rivals, Wen-Je Ko publicly acknowledged that Sean Lien would be easier to defeat. Yet the KMT nomination process, either by intent or by default, set Sean Lien up for defeat.
The situation was similar in Keelung. Keelung is a diehard blue camp stronghold. But every KMT nominee for Keelung mayor over the past 20 years has been worse than the last one. Yet the KMT nominated yet another dubious city council speaker. The KMT treated loyal supporters in Keelung with contempt. The eventual result was an unprecedented KMT defeat in Keelung.
The nomination process must be reformed. KMT party primaries should be conducted by registered party members. Anyone who professes to be member of the Kuomintang or agrees with KMT ideology, should be allowed to become a registered KMT member and participate in the nomination and election of the party’s chairman and presidential candidate.
The KMT changed from an authoritarian style political party. It underwent democratization. Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui, Lien Chan, and Ma Ying-jeou were all political “stars." The 2014 election defeat has significantly shrunk the territory headed up by the KMT. It also marks the beginning of a new era, during which the KMT is no longer blessed with political stars. The KMT must expand its base and seek new supporters. Members of the KMT, the New Party, the People First Party, and independents who identify with Kuomintang premises should be allowed to register as candidates for KMT party chairman or KMT presidential nominee. Upon registration, aspiring candidates should be allowed to participate in debates about the party’s political direction. This would make the KMT more inclusive and appealing. Only the deconstruction to the KMT will allow it to appeal to more people. The KMT’s political path can be divided along two lines. Left vs. right, and reunification vs. independence. These two lines are not parallel. They are wavy lines that often intersect. A major debate over the KMT’s political path would be more than merely an internal Kuomintang party line debate. It would be a debate over the KMT’s leadership and survival as a political party. Such a debate over reunification vs. independence could take many forms. It would enrich the KMT. It would guide collective thinking on Taiwan.
For example, should the KMT take a right wing path and promote economic growth, or take a left wing path and promote economic redistribution? The nine in one elections were local elections. But KMT strategy was to underscore FTAs. The KMT was defeated in the nine in one elections. Does that mean that it must now oppose free trade, and instead stress domestic markets? Must it cease fighting for FTAs and instead stress “the little things that make us happy?” The KMT championed "no [immediate] reunification, no Taiwan independence, and no use of force." and the "1992 consensus, one China, two interpretations." It vigorously promoted peaceful development. During this election the KMT was defeated by the Democratic Progressive Party, which demands Taiwan independence. What does that mean? Can the KMT transcend the "three noes" and the "1992 consensus?" Can it establish a mutually unsatisfactory but mutually acceptable cross-Strait framework? Can it redraw its road map for cross-Strait peace? These issues must be debated by blue camp voters.
The KMT need not be too discouraged. Falling into the valley of the shadow of death is an opportunity to finally see its own blind spots. The KMT should consider expanding the concept of a blue camp. The KMT path should become a blue camp path. This would regain it the support of mainstream public opinion, and once again make it the leader of the “peoples path.”