Do Not Allow Spin Doctors to Steal Your Vote
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 29, 2011
Summary: Voters initially assumed that Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen had the same political manner and the same concern for professionalism. They initially assumed that the current presidential election would be different from past presidential elections. They initially assumed that the current presidential election could leave behind the demonization, smears, and attempts to incite "ethnic" hatred, Unfortunately as election day approaches, the presidential election has been tainted by smears and defamation. Worse still, the DPP's negative campaign is merely a smoke screen hiding its cross-Strait and industrial policy vacuum.
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Voters initially assumed that Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen had the same political manner and the same concern for professionalism. They initially assumed that the current presidential election would be different from past presidential elections. They initially assumed that the current presidential election could leave behind the demonization, smears, and attempts to incite "ethnic" hatred, Unfortunately as election day approaches, the presidential election has been tainted by smears and defamation. Worse still, the DPP's negative campaign is merely a smoke screen hiding its cross-Strait and industrial policy vacuum.
Phony issues dominate the campaign. Negative campaigning monopolizes the front pages. The problem is not that one candidate is the winner or the loser. The problem is the voters are the biggest losers of all. Elections are supposed to be opportunities for intensive debates about national policy. They are not supposed to be about irrelevancies such as Chen Ying-chu. President Ma Ying-jeou did not meet with Chen in September. Yet the ruling and opposition parties are arguing about whether Chen is good or evil. This is a meaningless debate that has squandered nearly three weeks of valuable time. For voters, it was a lost opportunity.
Every presidential election is in some way, a key battle. The current election is no exception. The global recession has cast a pall over the globe. The Euro may disintegrate at any moment. The U.S. economy cannot pull itself out of the doldrums. Leading economists predict a second economic downturn even more serious than the first, The world may experience a lost decade. Businesses on Taiwan are issuing unpaid leave notices. In January of next year, the president elect will face an even worse situation. He or she will first face an external crisis. Debts have come due for the EU countries, including Italy. Every one of these EU debts is a potential landmine. Handled improperly, they could send the global economy into recession.
In this crisis-ridden environment, how can people on Taiwan protect themselves? This was supposed to be the key issue in the presidential election. The U.S. and Europe are in recession. Cross-Strait relations have improved. Therefore Taiwan still enjoys an advantage. What are the prospects for improved cross-Strait relations? These are the issues we should be paying attention to. But they have been sidelined. Election rhetoric on Taiwan now revolves around Chen Ying-chu.
All this time, the DPP has been demagoguing non-issues such as the "Three Little Pigs," Chen Ying-chu, and the "Wasted Labor Calendar." These issues may help the DPP. They may hinder the rival KMT. But they are all phony. Past experience has shown us that the DPP is unqualified to govern the nation. But every election season shows us that the DPP is a world class illusionist. The DPP is an expert at playing the voters for fools, at pulling the wool over the voters' eyes, at sidelining the key issues.
Phony issues replace genuine issues. The DPP's Achilles Heel is cross-Strait policy. But these issues have vanished from the debate. The DPP has the KMT at a disadvantage in two ways. First, the DPP is adept at constantly raising phony issues and forcing the KMT to play catch up. It is adept at forcing the KMT to forget that a party seeking re-election must offer a positive program. Secondly, Taipei and Beijing have already signed 15 agreements. Cross-Strait exchanges are already routine. Yet the DPP is still able to lead the KMT around by the nose, merely by accusing it of "pandering to Beijing and selling out Taiwan." The KMT remains too afraid to defend its cross-Strait policy. This disadvantage is even more serious than the first.
The DPP uses these opportunities to escape blame for its mistakes or pretend nothing happened. Without a shred of evidence, it alleges that "[Mainland] China has eight different plans for intervening in the elections on Taiwan." Beginning with its victory in the 2004 presidential election, the DPP attempted to win over Taiwan businessmen based on the Mainland. Now however, the DPP has abruptly reclassified them as members of the "five black categories." It has suddenly reclassified them as fifth columnists for the CCP. The DPP knows the KMT lacks the courage to defy its negative campaign.
The DPP's cross-Strait policy contradictions do not end here. Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP presidential candidate, has long condemned ECFA as worthless. She says it failed to help farmers, that it decreased rather than increased their income, that fruit sales to the Mainland were "Wasted Labor," and that ECFA was responsible for the widening of the gap between rich and poor. Yet she recently told the British Broadcasting Corporation that if elected, she would not nullify ECFA. This was a policy that the DPP depicted as unmitigated evil during the election. Now however, it vows to perpetuate this policy in the event it wins the election. Presidential candidates in advanced democracies cannot get away with such flagrant self-contradictions. But on Taiwan, they can. On Taiwan, negative campaigns are ideal smoke screens. On Taiwan, they allow the DPP to easily gather the votes they need.
Cross-Strait issues are not the only issues being sidelined during the current election. Taiwan's agricultural future is another issue that has been sidelined. The DPP spread disinformation about the price of fruit. It falsely claimed that persimmons command only two dollars a kilo. It successfully shifted attention away from real issues. Have the voters forgotten that Tsai Ing-wen promised to become the voice of a new generation. The DPP is triumphant. It forced the KMT to jump on the DPP bandwagon, and increase the subsidy for elderly farmers to 1000 dollars. Tsai Ing-wen has forgotten that debts incurred by this generation must not be foisted on the next generation.
The Republic of China is a democratic nation. Voters are the final arbiter. Voters must not allow themselves to be dazzled by election gimmicks. Voters must remember that illusionists may have any number of tricks up their sleeves, but ultimately they cannot change reality. The election is less than two months away. Voters must confront the candidates. They must demand to know, "Where's the beef?"