Friday, March 5, 2010

Outsiders Have Never Won: A Phony Proposition

Outsiders Have Never Won: A Phony Proposition
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 5, 2010

Following the KMT's defeat at the polls, some strange arguments have emerged from within the party. Blue camp legislators from Taipei County have argued that "Outsiders never win." They have used this as a pretext to poormouth Chu Li-lun's bid for Xinbei City mayor. In fact, this is a phony proposition. By the same token, the Kuomintang leadership has been taken hostage by local factions, yet boasts that it "remains committed to reforms." The Blue camp has repeatedly tripped over this huge stumbling block.
Blue camp legislator Luo Lie is a five time KMT candidate for Taipei County Executive. He said outsiders never win. He said Blue camp outsiders Li Hsi-kuen, Tsai Sheng-bang, Hsieh Sheng-shan, Wang Chien-hsuan and others all lost to Yu Ching and Su Tseng-chang. Only when the Blue camp nominated native son Chou Hsi-wei did it prevail over Luo Wen-chia. The biggest fallacy in this argument is its mischaracterization of Blue camp candidates as outsiders. It forgets completely that Yu Ching and Su Tseng-chang were themselves outsiders. If local leaders propagate such an ignorant argument merely because they are tired of losing that is one thing. But if they are doing it merely to undermine a fellow party member's election bid, that is simply pathetic.

The problem is phony propositions such as this do in fact influence the political situation. We all pretend to carry on serious political discussions. But many people are unaware of the facts, and accept such myths at face value. The Blue camp is rife with defeatism. It is also rife with selfishness. It lacks fighting spirit. Such specious arguments, phony issues, and false conclusions, are the KMT's biggest enemy.

Take the recent by-election for example. The Blue camp's defeat was due in part to ineffectual central government rule. The defeat should not be attributed to the candidates' "outsider" status. It should be attributed to the candidates' poor qualifications. Add to this sabotage by local leaders. Outsider Chen Hsueh-sheng entered the race for Taoyuan. If local leaders had made a concerted effort, how could Chen have lost by a mere 2000 votes? Lin Te-jui, after losing in Chiayi, lamented that she had only 47 days of political experience, how could she prevail over Chen Ming-wen, who had over 33 years years of experience? Lin Te-jui was indeed defeated because she lacked the qualifications and the experience, Ma Ying-jeou even got her name wrong while stumping for her. Suppose she had been a local? How could a political novice like her triumph against such odds? By contrast, Hsiao Bi-khim may have been an outsider in the Hualien race. But she had a high degree of name recognition. She had an outstanding political record. She, by contrast, posed a major threat to her opponent.

From this we can see that being an outsider is not the decisive factor in victory or defeat. The key is whether the candidates have won the hearts and minds of the local electorate. Take Jason Hu for example. He had no experience in local politics. Yet he reconquered Taichung City for the Blue camp in one fell swoop. This is an example of what an outsider can accomplish. Chen Shui-bian could be elected mayor of Taipei City. Frank Hsieh could be elected mayor of Kaohsiung. They too were outsiders. Their individual qualifications, together with the right political climate, broke down geographical barriers, and enable them to emerge victorious.

During an era of one-party government, the KMT and local factions established a peculiar symbiotic relationship. Several decades of political evolution have forced the two to reexamine their relationship. It is now time to clean house. Local political forces have taken shape. Local human and economic factors have changed. Each of them has its own peculiar nature. They cannot be lumped together and view negatively. Democracy has evolved, and society has liberalized. Monopoly interests, political alliances, and illegal favoritism must be changed or brought to an end. This is an irresistible trend. The Democratic Progressive Party continues to recruit deserters and collaborate with local bosses. But the trend should be clear even to them.

This does not mean the KMT must sever all relations with local factions. It can use both the carrot and the stick to pressure local factions. It can encourage them to respect democracy and the rule of law, and play by the rules of the game. Self-important troublemakers should be immediately be given a sharp rap on the head. They must not be treated the way the Cheng Yung-chin clan in Hsinchu County has been treated -- alternately punished and rewarded. Without firm principles, the party will lose both party discipline and the people's hearts. Based on the past several elections, a two-party political system is clearly taking form. Candidates who are neither True Blue nor True Green will be unelectable. This should be a clear warning to deluded local politicians who would blackmail the central party leadership. Members of modern political parties must abide by the norms of modern politics. Only then can political parties answer to society.

Consider the recent county council chief and city council chief elections. The Blue camp lost only four seats. But some county or city council chiefs may be using the county or city council merely to line their pockets or aggrandize themselves. If the Blue camp loses county or city council seats, it will be weakened. For the KMT this may be a good thing. This may enable other outside forces to check and balance local factions. The central party leadership may encounter less resistance in its effort to clean up local politics. From a broader perspective, this could be a blessing in disguise,

The KMT loudly promises reform. But in practice it makes all sorts of compromises. It takes two steps forward and one step back. This encourages local factions to stonewall and to blackmail the central party leadership. Is is really true that outsiders never win? Suppose outsider Su Tseng-chang wins in Taipei City? Suppose Chu Li-lun wins in Xinbei City? Will that be chalked up as "outsiders always win?"

2010.03.05 02:24 am










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