Su/Tsai Unity vs. Su/Tsai Rivalry
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 26, 2011
The DPP reached an agreement on the conduct of its presidential primaries. Immediately afterwards, speculation about "Su/Tsai unity" vs. "Su/Tsai rivalry" emerged. The DPP will decide who will be its presidential candidate, and who will be his or her running mate. The public however, is more concerned about the process, about how the presidential and vice presidential candidates will be determined. It is more concerned about whether the DPP will fully debate the party's policy path, and subject it to internal and external scrutiny.
Those calling for Su/Tsai unity are attempting to avoid such debate. They think Su and Tsai should not be subject to either a nationwide poll or participate in county and municipal level policy debates. They think the two should "engage in dialog, and nominate the candidates jointly." Doing so may allow them to sidestep "internecine warfare" and "Su/Tsai rivalry." But doing so will also undermine the DPP's campaign platform and policy path. The primary process enables a party to refine its campaign platform and policy path. Eliminating the process deprives a party of this opportunity. When the time comes, the presidential and vice presidential candidates will mouth a few platitudes. This will determine the party's campaign platform and even the nation's policy path. But such a policy path would have no support within the DPP. Nor is it likely to meet with approval of the larger society.
Annette Lu proposed a "three part primary." She wanted a thorough policy debate and full participation by party members. Frank Hsieh floated his "One Constitution, Two Interpretations." He too wanted the party primaries to include a debate over policy direction. The decision was made to hold a nationwide poll. Annette Lu lost her leverage. She may withdraw from the primaries. The shrewd but ill-fated Frank Hsieh trapped himself with his comment about "withdrawing from the public forum." Su and Tsai suggested "engaging in dialog, and nominating the candidates jointly." But the party has been deprived of the opportunity to refine its campaign platform and policy path.
Su Tseng-chang acted very differently recently than he did in 2008. In 2007, word spread that Su Tseng-chang opposed any Su/Hsieh ticket arranged by Chen Shui-bian. Su then declared he would turn down the vice presidential spot. He denounced Frank Hsieh, calling him "devious." He asked, "Who really betrayed the core values of the Democratic Progressive Party?" He said "Changing the subject will not change the facts." He blasted Frank Hsieh mercilessly. Su lost the primaries and retreated to the United States to lick his wounds. Then he said he would "campaign full force, but seek no office." He said he would "wait for the next tropical storm, and ride its currents." As we all know, Su expressed "respect for the big picture" and accepted the "Hsieh/Su ticket." Frank Hsieh became his "tropical storm."
Su Tseng-chang's situation today is very different from what it was in 2008. Rumors are the Su camp is not ruling out either a "Tsai/Su ticket" or a "Su/Tsai ticket." Su Tseng-chang said "The DPP must unite in order to nominate the strongest candidate," leading to speculation about what he really meant. Several opinion polls show Su Tseng-chang slightly ahead of Tsai Ing-wen. Given Su Tseng-chang's current situation, he could win a nationwide poll. But a deal could also put him in the position of running mate. In 2008 he immediately tried to deal Frank Hsieh a knockout punch. He left himself no room for retreat, and said he would refuse to be anyone's running mate. Today he behaved very differently. Su Tseng-chang has effectively put the ball in Tsai Ing-wen's court.
Some in the DPP are not optimistic about either a "Su/Tsai ticket" or a "Tsai/Su ticket." They consider such a "shotgun marriage" unlikely. Tsai Ing-wen's supporters believe that "Even a Chen Shui-bian/Annette Lu ticket could win." What they mean is that Tsai Ing-wen could choose anyone as her running mate and win. Why bother choosing Su Tseng-chang?
Consider the current situation. Su and Tsai are running neck and neck in the polls. This makes it difficult for either to eliminate the other. Tsai Ing-wen wants to dump Su Tseng-chang. But Su Tseng-chang is stuck to her like a tar baby. If Su Tseng-chang wins the nationwide poll, he could become Tsai Ing-wen's running mate. If Su Tseng-chang loses the nationwide poll, a victorious Tsai will still be subject to pressure from within the party. She may still be stuck with Su. That is, unless she can offer a more attractive candidate for the vice presidential spot.
We once pointed out that Tsai Ing-wen faces a "three part challenge." She faces "generational change, the presidential election, and a change in policy path. Among them, generational change is fundamental to the other two. Over the past two and and a half years, Tsai Ing-wen has negotiated several major hurdles. These include Chen Shui-bian, Annette Lu, and Frank Hsieh. She defeated Taiwan independence elements during the recent debate over the primary process. Now however, she is stuck with Su Tseng-chang. Will she be forced to compromise with Su on her "Platform for the Coming Decade?"
Will Su and Tsai reach an agreement prior to any nationwide poll? Or will they await the results of a nationwide poll before making separate plans? This question concerns who will be the presidential candidate, and who will be the running mate. It also concerns whether Su and Tsai can conduct a primary debate within the party and the larger community. Can they arrive at a new policy path with the participation of the larger public?