To Rescue the KMT Eric Chu Must Think Like a Player
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 28, 2015
Executive Summary: The groundswell of support for Professor Ko has swept the island. Ruling
and opposition party leaders are in danger of being marginalized. Eric
Chu is probably in a tougher spot than Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai's political
party after all, has just scored a major victory. She and the DPP may
well return to power in 2016. This gives her more room to maneuver. Eric
Chu's situation is different. The Kuomintang he inherited is
experiencing a leadership crisis. Morale at the grassroots is
non-existent. Chu has even made a tactical withdrawal. He has chosen not
to run in 2016. But who else among the party elite is qualified to
fight this battle?
Full Text Below:
The groundswell of support for Professor Ko has swept the island. Ruling and opposition party leaders are in danger of being marginalized. Eric Chu is probably in a tougher spot than Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai's political party after all, has just scored a major victory. She and the DPP may well return to power in 2016. This gives her more room to maneuver. Eric Chu's situation is different. The Kuomintang he inherited is experiencing a leadership crisis. Morale at the grassroots is non-existent. Chu has even made a tactical withdrawal. He has chosen not to run in 2016. But who else among the party elite is qualified to fight this battle?
The groundswell of support for Professor Ko may provide some indicators. Chu should pay attention to the finer points behind the phenomenon. Professor Ko does have charisma. But he is reckless. He is hostile toward the wealthy political elites. He reflects the society's collective discontent over six years of Kuomintang rule. The KMT's policy path may be correct. But its political style is timid and conservative. Its leaders are indecisive. They try too hard to please everyone. They only wind up pleasing no one and alienating everyone. They try to display moderation. But they only wind up taking one step forward and two steps back. They clearly enjoyed a ruling majority. Yet they allowed themselves to be hijacked by a radical minority.
The people probably could not countenance this style of governance. Professor Ko is outspoken. He lacks political calculation. He refuse to present a pleasing image. Suddenly many people who were unhappy with the status quo, who were depressed and could find no outlet for their frustration found their answer. Professor Ko's mythology is a product of the times. This is the same thing that happened six years ago. People were fed up with Ah-Bian's style of governance, with his incitement of hatred. Ma Ying-jeou's moderate image suited the times. There is no enduring rule that one can follow. What matters the most important is the ability to read the writing on the wall.
In other words, Eric Chu must think like a “player”. He must not perpetuate the Kuomintang's current style of governance. He must not be timid and indecisive. His “cabinet system” must not remain distant from the public. Otherwise, in this rapidly changing era, he will swiftly be marginalized, if not elbowed aside entirely.
In recent years political stars have been swiftly replaced one after another. Once the page has been turned, there is no going back. The new generation of voters has no patience. It will not wait for you to sort things out. You say you are aiming for 2020. But if you have nothing to offer in 2016, no one will care what you have to offer in 2020.
Eric Chu must get back to basics. He must honestly assess his situation. The nine in one election debacle put the KMT in the hospital. Today the party is a critically ill patient in the intensive care unit. President Ma has a full year left in his term. But in fact his era has ended. The party elders have all retired. This is the first time the KMT has been in this situation since retreating to Taiwan. Meanwhile, grassroots party members have deserted. Blue camp supporter morale has hit rock bottom. Put bluntly, this is the most unfavorable the KMT's circumstances have been in decades. Could this be an unprecedented opportunity for Chu to remake the KMT? That is of course not the real question. The real question is how can he remake the KMT?
Our suggestion is that he must first of all cast aside the image of timidity and indecisiveness. He must set aside those issues that ordinary people simply do not understand. They include such issues as a cabinet system constitutional amendment. He must appeal to the grassroots. He must discover what the public really thinks. He must not blindly parrot the populist rhetoric of the cyber army. He must proceed according to political party evolution. He must remember that the KMT's traditional ideology of peoples livelihood began at the grassroots. He must remember that the party's original ideal was a society in which wealth was distributed equitably. In recent years, the party's policy has favored wealthy consortia. This widened the gap between rich and poor. Accumulated grievances have run deep, and ultimately led to the collapse of its support base. Therefore Eric Chu must think clearly. He must not allow a handful of political stars to play power games and engage in internecine warfare. The public has long ago tired of these antics.
Eric Chu must clearly state where the party stands. The KMT and DPP represent different ideologies and policy paths. Between the two, there is no room for ambiguity. The KMT must stand by its principles. It must affirm the righteousness of its stance. It must wage a forthright battle with the opposition. It must not permit the opposition to set the agenda or seize the bully pulpit. It must not allow itself to be hijacked by populist sentiment, only to end up with nothing. This is how President Ma came to his end. If you replicate his path, your fate will be even more tragic than his.
Finally, you must stop dodging cross-Strait issues. Dodging these issues will not win you any green camp supporters. It will only weaken cohesion within the blue camp. Cross-Strait relations have always been an asset for the KMT, not a burden, especially at this moment, when the DPP is complacent and hesitant about cross-Strait relations. You must seize the initiative and establish a new model for dialogue between Washington and Beijing. You have much room to maneuver on this issue. But you cannot afford to miss the opportunity. If you allow the opposition to hijack the issue, then the game will already be over.