Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RE: China Post "Taipei voters forced to choose between bad and worse"

The author of this piece couldn't be more off-base. In fact, he (or she, but I will continue to use "he" for the sake of simplicity) is buying exactly in to what the hardened politicians of the KMT want him to: the mud-slinging, nonsensical babble that does nothing to teach voters about the candidates or their positions, and does everything to make sure voters stop caring enough to actually get out and vote.

You see, voters are not stupid; they vote relatability, trust, and of course - policy. If the author of this editorial compared the policy platforms of these two candidates he would have written an entirely different story. You can and should examine a candidate's background to get a sense of how much we relate to them and how much we trust them, but to do so at the expense of all context and political issues is irresponsible.

Notably, in looking at Ko's background, the author has left out some key information. For example, did the author mention that Ko Wen-je has been diagnosed with the syndrome formerly known as Asperger's, and said many times that he regrets that his filter is not always at 100%, and that he is trying his hardest to improve his own views on the things people have criticized him for? No, of course not, because this article is about mud throwing. As long as the mud isn't thrown at Sean Lien.

The author of this piece is clearly a very deep blue supporter who tries to maintain an air of "impartiality." Well I can tell you right now, that's a facade and it's quite easy to see through if you know anything about Taiwanese politics and these two candidates. Here's some key points:

Ko's party (well, the party he would be in were he not an independent) supports him only "halfheartedly," while Lien has "possibly the most solid backing any election has ever seen" from his party. This is very far from the truth, as Lien has been unable to secure support from a number of KMT bigwigs, while Ko, on the other hand, is well liked by the DPP and the DPP folks tried to recruit him to run as their candidate - hardly "halfhearted."

The third to last paragraph is really telling (emphasis mine):
It is not news that Lien has been serving as the butt of too many campaign jokes since the announcement of his mayoral bid. His website was hacked, words twisted and campaign commercials lampooned; all his campaign team did was succeed in making him look like a puppet, confused and annoyed at his tangled strings.
So there you have it folks. Sean Lien is actually a very intelligent, well-spoken candidate with a solid platform and it's would be well liked by the people of Taipei, if only his campaign team didn't go around screwing everything up! I think the more intelligent readers among us will be able to surmise: perhaps it isn't just his campaign team that's screwing everything up.

However, the biggest errors in this piece are actually the errors of omission. First, in the Lien camp, Lien's policies have from day one been unable rouse the crowds. He started out with some ideas for expanding Easycard (of which he's the former CEO - go figure) into nightmarkets - a sure loss with vendors who don't want to pay for the machines or hand over a cut of their slim profits to Easycard. Later, Lien decided it would be good move the city government into the area around Taipei Main Station to encourage redevelopment in that area. In other words, Lien is totally out of touch with the needs of his constituency (he has admitted this implicitly through his "working stay" campaign strategy; Ko has even pointed out - "isn't it strange that Mr. Lien is struggling with learning how to be a normal, everyday, working man while I'm struggling to learn how to be mayor?")

On the other hand, let's look at Ko's policy positions: Ko wants to make Infant Care more accessible by training more professional nannies. He wants to make sure there are high quality bicycle lanes throughout the city that let bikes ride without being in the way of both pedestrians and cars. He wants to add more government housing at below-market rates to help push down the enormous Taipei real estate bubble. He wants to turn the website of the mayor's office into a forum for voters to share their opinions and ideas openly with one another, make formal proposals, and discuss how to improve the city, so that "everyone can be the mayor" (one of his campaign slogans). These are the reasons why Ko is polling ahead.

I, for one, refuse to buy into the mud slinging "spitting war" as it's called in Chinese. The vitriol that comes from the KMT and their cronies against Ko Wen-je is beyond ridiculous, and luckily, the voters are not playing into their design. Sure, let's look at the background of these candidates, so we know who we're getting into bed with; but that doesn't give us leave to neglect looking at their policy platforms - because that's what we'll have to live with the morning after. So for the author of that China Post editorial who can't seem to figure out why Ko is pulling ahead in the polls - I've got some news for you - it's because voters can relate to him as a normal guy with normal flaws, but one who is serious about keeping their best interests at heart. What's that old saying between candidates? May the best man win.


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