Reason vs. Emotion: The Two Yings
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 15, 2011
Summary: President Ma Ying-jeou must feel deeply frustrated. He has an impressive list of political accomplishments. But it apparently has no effect on his poll numbers, He watches helplessly as the opposition DPP's "Three Little Pigs" campaign gains momentum. Blue Camp momentum always seems to lag. Ma has probably repeatedly asked himself, "Why?"
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President Ma Ying-jeou must feel deeply frustrated. He has an impressive list of political accomplishments. But it apparently has no effect on his poll numbers, He watches helplessly as the opposition DPP's "Three Little Pigs" campaign gains momentum. Blue Camp momentum always seems to lag. Ma has probably repeatedly asked himself, "Why?"
Economic issues and the international climate may be beyond his control. But at least they are part and parcel of his cross-Strait policy, Ma Ying-jeou has methodically fulfilled his campaign promises, He continues to produce wonderful results, Even the international community is uniformly singing his praises.
For example, cross-Strait reconciliation has led to a diplomatic truce and expanded Taipei's international breathing space. Former Vice President Lien Chan was able to attend the APEC leaders summit. The "Northeast Asian Golden Triangle," comprising Taipei's Sungshan Airport, Tokyo's Narita Airport, Seoul's Gimpo Airport, and Shanghai's Pudong Airport, has begun operations, We have been invited to the World Health Assembly. We hve even signed a free trade agreement with Singapore and New Zealand, We have signed an open skies agreement with Japan. ROC citizens now enjoy visa-free treatment with many more countries. ECFA, through cross-Strait exchanges, has presented us with all sorts of opportunities. Look at the profits Mainland tourists have brought the tourism industry. Ma Ying-jeou has racked up a fine political record. At the very least, he has succeeded in his cross-Strait policy. Recently, when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended APEC, she praised the progress made in cross-Strait relations over the past three years.
So why have these achievements not translated into popular support? The milkfish industry has benefitted from Ma's policy. So why do most fishermen persist in voting for Tsai Ing-wen?
There are two reasons. One is that although these achievements may be solid, they appeal only to reason. Voters may consider over them one by one. They may ask themselves whether these policies are to their benefit. But beneath it all, their feelings may be in turmoil.
By contrast, Tsai Ing-wen is riding a wave of grass-roots sentiment over the Three Little Pigs. This has generated a wave of emotions. This has fostered a feeling of comradeship, of fighting shoulder to shoulder in the trenches. This feeling of solidarity among "Little Pigs resisting the Big Bad Wolf" has moved Tsai and others. This is why Tsai's political momentum is so palpable.
Green Camp supporters have traditionally been united by feelings rather than reason. They may share the same historical grievances and communal traumas. They may come from the same underprivileged social classes. They may feel that treated unjustly by the monied elites. They may feel let down by the Ma administration. They may feel mistrustful. Once every four years their election ballots give them the unprecedented opportunity to force their rulers to kowtow. An increasingly intense wave of mob sentiment is providing zealous supporters the opportunity to vent their spleen. Everywhere Tsai Ing-wen's rallies are intense beyond expectation. Everywhere the piggy bank souvenirs are sold out.
The second reason is that Ma Ying-jeou's star power, which swept Taiwan's four years ago, has evaporated. The Chen regime was cast aside for its corruption. Ma Ying-jeou, with his squeaky clean image, became a star. The public invested its hopes for the future on him. But after three years in office, he has lost his charisma. Everyone still believes he is a good man. But he no longer inspires much enthusiasm among the public.
During the last election, Ma Ying-jeou's personal charisma papered over many of the Kuomintang's shortcomings. Now however, the veneer has been stripped away, The KMT has never been particularly adept at propaganda or mass movements, Now that its old familiar face is again visible, it finds itself alienated from grass roots voters, particularly the underprivileged. Under the leadership of Ma Ying-jeou, who operates strictly by the book, Ma's reelection campaign has been predictably lackluster. Add to this blunders committed by various ministries, and the enemy camp has had no shortage of campaign issues.
Reason vs. emotion. One uses his head. The other uses her heart. The impact of the former has clearly been inferior to the latter. But each side has its strengths and weaknesses. The final outcome will not be decided by any single factor.
Ma Ying-jeou's political achievements inspire little excitement. But at the same time, the emotions Tsai Ing-wen has stirred up provide no answers for cross-Strait policy. Public enthusiasm for the Three Little Pigs is impressive. But examine Tsia Ing-wen's campaign platform with a cool head, especially her cross-Strait policy prescriptions. How will she deal with Mainland China? How will she proceed with cross-Strait talks? How will she avoid interrupting existing exchanges and cooperation? How will she deal with the one China issue? She lacks concrete answers. She even lacks a clear policy direction. She has painted a bright future, by indulging in wishful thinking. Everything is smoke and mirrors.
This election is a tug of war between reason and emotion, Many people think with their heads, or their wallets. Ma Ying-jeou's policy prescriptions ought to be continued. If cross-Strait exchanges are interrupted, it will be a shame. But the political momentum achieved by tens of thousands of pigs is now sky high. When crowds shout in unison, when their blood boils, rational calculation is cast aside.
Actually, when Ma Ying-jeou was elected during the previous election, it was also due to emotions. Many people were fed up with Chen Shui-bian's corruption. They projected their hopes and dreams onto Ma Ying-jeou. Doing so enabled Ma Ying-jeou, a member of a social minority, to be elected. But this mass enthusiasm has faded. Ma's political achievements may win people's minds, but they cannot win peoples hearts. As a result, Ma's political momentum is trailing. On the other hand, voters who vote their heads may be silent, but they are not necessarily less numerous than those who vote their hearts. In the end will feelings prevail over reason? Or vice versa? The people await the outcome with bated breath.