Turkey season

In the political science literature on elections, we have a term for candidates who have no chance of winning.  We call them “turkeys.”  This year’s brood of turkeys is starting to gobble.  (Is that the appropriate verb for turkeys making noise?)

Taipei City has a whole family of turkeys.  It is 99% certain that the KMT nominee will be incumbent Hao Longbin 郝龍斌, and the DPP nominee will be Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌.  However, city council member Yang Shiqiu 楊實秋 is still running hard for the KMT nomination.  Legislator Ding Shouzhong 丁守中 was a little more realistic.  He announced a couple of days ago that he would agree not to run this time and to support Hao, but he would certainly run four years from now.  On the DPP side, city council member Zhou Boya 周柏雅 has announced his intention to run.  Even more fun, Chen Shui-bian’s 陳水扁 former deputy mayor Chen Shimeng 陳師孟 has announced that he will be contesting the nomination.  At the press conference, Chen explained himself thusly: Su Zhenchang has lots of connections and resources in Xinbei City, so Su should run there.  Also, Chen thought that, unlike Su, his chances of winning the election were pretty good, since he actually has experience in governing Taipei City.  Of course, Chen doesn’t have any survey data to support his contention that he has a good chance of winning because, as he happily admitted, he doesn’t have enough money to commission polls.  Hmm.  Low levels of funding are usually a pretty good hint that one is a turkey.

In Taichung City, the KMT is going to nominate Jason Hu 胡志強.  However, there are a lot of turkeys challenging him for the nomination.  The common thread here is that Hu is the incumbent mayor of Taichung City, and all of the challengers are from Taichung County.  Former Taichung County executive and Red Faction honcho Liao Liaoyi 廖了以 is still trying to win.  Legislator Ji Guodong 紀國棟 (of the Black Faction) showed up at a KMT meeting to discuss how the party would unify behind one candidate and announced that he wasn’t interested in discussing or negotiating.  Instead, he announced that he is running.  Then there is Taichung County deputy executive Zhang Zhuangxi 張壯熙.  To my knowledge, Zhang has never won any election at any level.  The current county executive is from the Black Faction, so I assume Zhang is also from the Black Faction.  However, now that a real politician (Ji) from the Black Faction is in the race, I don’t know if Zhang even has that to lean on.  On the other hand, today he got an endorsement from three-term former Taichung City mayor Lin Borong 林柏榕.  Either way, he’s not going to get the nomination.

There are a couple of others.  In Xinbei City, former DPP county executive You Qing 尤清 has declared that he wants to return to his former position.  I’m pretty sure no one cares very much what he wants.  Former legislator Zhuang Shuohan 莊碩漢 has also expressed interest.  In Tainan City, legislator Ye Yijin 葉宜津 has announced her candidacy.  I thought she quit a few months ago.  The only polls I’ve seen show her with almost no support.

Why do turkeys run?  There are a few reasons.  First, they can be trying to make the leader into a loser.  If the turkey hates the leader strongly enough and they have some overlapping support, even though the turkey might not win, he might take enough votes away to cause the leader to lose.  Second, they can be trying to blackmail the leader.  In the first scenario, they actually run the race all the way to the bitter end.  In the second scenario, they threaten the leader with the first scenario but are willing to withdraw in return for some side-payment.  (Note: Side-payments can include anything of value, such as a job, a contract, support for my nephew’s political career, instructing the fire department not to enforce the building code in my KMT, and so on.  Cash is also an option, but not the only one.)  Third, they can be trying to build support for a future campaign, as Ding Shouzhong seems to have been trying to do in Taipei City.  In return for withdrawing this year, he will expect support four years from now from Hao and from the KMT.  (I doubt he’ll get it, but it’s worth a try.)  Fourth, they can be trying to win.  Politicians are often great at self-deception, convincing themselves that they have a chance when no one else thinks they do.  They also have the Bill Clinton model as inspiration.  In 1991, George Bush had a 90% approval rating, and most people assumed he would be re-elected easily.  Several leading Democrats, the A-team if you will, declined to run.  So instead of Al Gore and Richard Gephart, the Democrats only had Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerry, and a few other uninspiring choices.  In 1991, they were clearly the B team.  The unimpressed media nicknamed them “the seven dwarves.”  However, Bush’s popularity nosedived in late 1991 and the first half of 1992, and the Democratic nominee was left as the only realistic alternative.  Bill Clinton started out as a turkey, but this was actually the key to his victory.  If Bush hadn’t been such an overwhelming favorite, some other Democrat would have gotten the nomination.  That said, I think most of this year’s turkeys are either blackmailing or delusional.

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