The DPP Would Do Well to Listen to Different Voices
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 2, 2012
Summary: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen conceded defeat in the recent general election. Her concession statement was affirmed on Taiwan. It also had far-reaching repercussions on the Mainland. It symbolized democracy on Taiwan. The voters voted against the DPP. That does not mean they "pandered to Mainland China and sold out Taiwan." If the DPP wants to begin anew it would do well to listen to different voices.
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DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen conceded defeat in the recent general election. Her concession statement was affirmed on Taiwan. It also had far-reaching repercussions on the Mainland. It symbolized democracy on Taiwan. By doing so, Tsai Ing-wen behaved appropriately. Unfortunately this was soon followed by a vendetta against Taiwan entrepreneur Cher Wang and HTC brand mobile phones, by a DPP member of the Taipei City Council. It was followed also by Tsai Ing-wen's refusal to meet American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt. By refusing to meet with Burghardt, Tsai and the DPP have evinced a closed-minded, "pity poor me" attitude. This can only be detrimental to the political fortunes of the largest opposition party on Taiwan.
Following the election, the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan immediately began a second round of competition. The Ma administration announced a new cabinet. This new cabinet would begin implementing the administration's blueprint for a "Golden Decade." But the KMT government would not have the stage to itself. Sean Chen's cabinet must soon face the newly-elected legislature. The DPP will soon surface and play an important role in legislative oversight. When that happens, how will the ruling and opposition parties react to each other? What sort of sparks will fly? Will it be a case of the expert finessing the situation? Or will it be a case of "the scholar encounters the soldier?" The Chen cabinet cannot relax. It must begin work immediately. The same is true for the DPP leadership. It can no longer remain clueless. After all, thorough soul-searching by the DPP is also a priority.
This is why the "explanation" the DPP leadership offered for the DPP's defeat has left observers incredulous. According to reports, the DPP has offered two reasons for its defeat. Reason Number One. Former American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal publicly supported the 1992 Consensus prior to the election. This had a major impact on the general election. Reason Number Two. Rumors of voting irregularities on election day.
First, let us address the alleged voting irregularities. The quality of civil service personnel on Taiwan is high. So is the quality of civil service training. Allegations of large scale vote tampering, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of votes, are utterly nonsensical. The DPP's attitude is indistinguishable from an ostrich with its head in the sand.
The charges of voting irregularities are outrageous. That said, the list of reasons the DPP offered for its defeat put the U.S. government's attitude at the top of the list. This reveals an even more peculiar attitude. Dozens of entrepreneurial heavyweights came out in support of the 1992 Consensus. Yet the DPP singled out the United States for blame. Tsai Ing-wen even refused to meet with Raymond Burghardt, who was visiting at the time. What can one say? The DPP has long followed Uncle Sam's lead in diplomacy. Yet this was their reward. Their feelings can be summed up in the expression, "I gave my heart to the moon, but the moon cast its light in the gutter."
Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP blame the United States. But why don't they ask themselves whether their perceptions and expectations of the United States were mistaken? During the debate over ECFA Tsai Ing-wen castigated the Ma administration. She accused it of pandering to Mainland China. She accused it of changing the strategic balance in the Asian-Pacific region. She implied that the relationship between the United States and Mainland China was a zero sum game. She implied that Taiwan was getting too chummy with Mainland China, and that this was something the U.S. and Japan do not welcome. But the United States and even Japan made clear their attitudes during the general election. They made it clear that US-China relations were be both competitive and cooperative, that it was not a zero-sum game. They made it clear that the US did not welcome heightened cross-Strait tensions. In fact, WikiLeaks revealed that the AIT Director conveyed this message to the DPP, well in advance of the election. But the DPP failed to get the message, intentionally or otherwise. As a result, it misjudged the situation and it paid the price.
More importantly, it matters not how much the DPP values the United States. As Raymond Burghardt pointed out, the United States does not have that much influence. The final choice was made by the public on Taiwan. The DPP can blame the United States. It can can blame Cher Wang, Terry Gou, and other entrepreneurs. But Americans did not vote in the election. Entrepreneurs on Taiwan had only one vote apiece. The DPP casts blame left and right. Instead it should try to understand why those who championed the 1992 Consensus were able to sway other voters.
For politicians, a presidential election is a winner take all proposition. But for voters, it is a referendum on the nation's future. Therefore, any blueprint for the nation's future, drafted by any campaign committee, must understand the problems. Only then can it offer realistic solutions. The DPP has a major problem. It might not talk about reunification vs. independence during its election campaigns. But it never stops thinking about it. The DPP painted the Ma administration as "reunificationist." It insisted that the 1992 Consensus would undermine "Taiwan's sovereignty." By doing so, it moved further and further away from public opinion. Because for voters on Taiwan, reunification vs independence long ceased being an issue. The Republic of China's sovereignty is not in jeopardy. Voters on Taiwan are concerned about other matters. They are concerned about their fate amidst globalization and Asian-Pacific regional competition. They are afraid of being marginalized. They want to find a new economic niche for themselves. The DPP fails to understand the problem. Naturally it is unable to render a correct diagnosis.
Election defeat is a painful experience. Especially since the DPP had such high hopes for this particular election. But as the saying goes, a day of jubilation is plenty. By the same token, a day of mourning is also plenty. A pragmatic political party should be willing to engage in earnest soul-searching. Only that will ensure future victory. But soul-searching is merely the first step. The DPP must take a bold step forward. It must listen to different voices. During the the election, Tsai Ing-wen promised that in the event the DPP won, it would form a coalition government. She promised to listen to different voices. The DPP should not renege on its commitment because it has lost instead of won.
The voters voted against the DPP. That does not mean they "pandered to Mainland China and sold out Taiwan." If the DPP wants to begin anew, it would do well to listen to different voices.