Sunday, January 17, 2016

How Will a Rootless KMT Revive Itself?

How Will a Rootless KMT Revive Itself?
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 18, 2016

Executive Summary: The KMT has suffered an unprecedented election defeat, for three main reasons. Reason One. The public was disappointed in Ma Ying-jeou's eight year record. Reason Two. Factional strife within the KMT drove supporters away. Reason Three. The party forgot the need to win over the grass roots. As a result, it became more and more alienated from the public on Taiwan.

Full Text Below:

The KMT has suffered an unprecedented election defeat, for three main reasons. Reason One. The public was disappointed in Ma Ying-jeou's eight year record. Reason Two. Factional strife within the KMT drove supporters away. Reason Three. The party forgot the need to win over the grass roots. As a result, it became more and more alienated from the public on Taiwan.

The KMT was at a total loss how to deal with the Sunflower Student Movement. It failed dismally to deal with the cabinet reshuffle following the nine in one election debacle. It was terrified to compete during last year's presidential and legislative elections. This was followed by Eric Chu's high-handed replacement of Hung Hsiu-chu. Never mind that she was the party's duly nominated presidential candidate. The KMT defied all logic in its legislator at large nominations. Every move made foretold the evaporation of blue camp support. The debacle was hardly a surprise. The turnout was 66%, a new low. This revealed utter and irreversible disillusionment among blue camp supporters. Many veteran legislators were handily defeated by young DPP and New Power Party (NPP) novices. This showed that the KMT is no longer the party it once was.

In 2014, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou left behind him a mess. In 2016, KMT Chairman Eric Chu resigned as party chairman, leaving behind him an ever bigger mess. The party "elites" were annihilated. Party member morale has hit rock bottom. Supporters are utterly demoralized. Regional support has been shattered. What will the KMT do next? It must be said that the KMT's current situation is even sorrier than it was in 2000, during the first change in ruling parties. Back then Lee Teng-hui sold out the party from within. This provided the party with an object of disdain. Today supporters have no one to blame for their sorrow and anger. On the night of the election debacle, how many tears were shed in front of KMT headquarters?

The irony is that Ma Ying-jeou has been preoccupied with his "personal legacy". Yet eight years later, this is how it ends. How sad is that? The answer to "Why?" lies in the words "personal legacy".

First. Ma valued his personal legacy more than the party's legacy. This has been common among KMT officials in recent recent years, and Ma Ying-jeou is no exception. He often sacrificed his party in pursuit of his personal goals. Local party factions and central party leadership often fought, no holds barred. Nothing was beneath them. Party faithful complained that Ma Ying-jeou felt little loyalty to the Kuomintang. The fact is during President Ma's concurrent term as party chairman, the KMT failed to cultivate a new generation of leaders. Nor did he establish a new manner of blue camp governance. He lacked fighting ability. Yes men became trusted confidants. This doomed the KMT to eventual decline and fall.

Secondly, President Ma eagerly anticipated a glowing evaluation of his "personal legacy". But he ignored changes in Taiwan society. No one questions Ma Ying-jeou's faith in the cross-Strait historical heritage. But generational change on Taiwan led to differing perceptions. Is Taiwan independence a "natural ingredient" for the younger generation? So-called "Taiwan-centrism" has undoubtedly become stronger. The Chou Chi-yi incident shows that the younger generation may embody "natural Taiwan independence", but it nevertheless recognizes the ROC national flag. This makes it very different from Lee Teng-hui's Taiwan independence. Under the circumstances, the KMT's use of old slogans and an old frame of reference to address cross-Strait issues, comes across as out of touch to the younger generation. The younger generation has never experienced war or separation. To them the world has always been flat. How can they be persuaded about the value of cross-Strait peace?

For some time now, reunification vs. independence has been the line of demarcation between the blue and green parties. This made the KMT more focused on historical legacy and the maintenance of cross-Strait relations. Unfortunately this also led to comparative neglect when winning hearts and minds at the grass roots. This led to the incremental erosion of public support. In recent years, Cabinet ministers have come and gone, leaving behind them no trace. Academics for whom politics was not their career became "guest stars". They contributed nothing to long-term grass roots support for the KMT. Early immigrants to New England integrated themselves into the New World. The Puritans settled in Massachusetts. Their evangelistic spirit developed the American continent. The Quakers settled in Pennsylvania. The rigid constraints of their pacifist ideology was unable to cope with harsh reality, and they were eventually forced to retreat from politics. Country squires settled in Virginia. They became the backbone of the Continental Congress. If the KMT wants to avoid being swept into the dustbin of history, it must not follow in the footsteps of the Quakers.

Faced with this avalanche like defeat, the KMT's sole choice is a return to the grassroots. Serve the public. Show concern for society. Cultivate talent. Only this can enable the KMT to resusciate itself. Only this can enable it to move peoples' hearts. Only then will it not be impotent when confronted with mobs in the streets. Only then will it not be speechless when confronted by Cyber Army attacks. Only then will it not be tone deaf and color blind when challenged by the younger generation. Over the past eight years, the DPP has been in Chen Shui-bian's shadow. Yet today it has re-emerged into the light. The Kuomintang may wish to learn from the DPP's experience.

A political party without a vision is an embarrassment. Over the past two years, Ma government ineptitude and KMT internal collapse has left supporters embarrassed or alienated. The situation will not improve merely because someone withdraws or someone else seizes the opportunity to become party chairperson. What matters is that more people must cultivate grass-roots support. The KMT must sink its roots into territory captured by the green camp. It must allow people to see blue camp idealism in action.

Cynics have predicted that once the DPP demonstrates its inability to govern, the KMT will rise once again from the ashes. But if both parties are counting on being the lesser of two evils, that will be Taiwan's misfortune.

2016-01-18 聯合報











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