Yesterday afternoon, we walked from our apartment in Nangang across the little river to Xizhi to see a campaign event for Eric Chu. The event was billed as an “evening rally” even though it ran from about 4:00 to 5:00.
There were probably 300 to 400 people at the event. It didn’t look to me like the crowd was mobilized, though perhaps a fourth of them were working for one of the campaigns. In addition to Chu’s campaign, two of the four KMT city council candidates showed up, and a third was represented by his wife. I would assume that the fourth, Huang Jianqing 黃建清, is incompetent, but he is the incumbent mayor. So I guess I’ll assume that he is overconfident.
There was a lot of fluff to the event. One city council candidate would speak for a few minutes, and then they had a celebrity sing a song or two. Both the hosts were (minor) celebrities, rather than the (minor) politicians you usually see in that role at DPP rallies. This is not unusual. The KMT has a very different rally culture from the DPP. I think this must go back to the martial law era. Opposition rallies were exciting, fun, and potentially dangerous. You might see violence, and at the very least you got to hear someone daring to call the government nasty names. KMT rallies must have been a lot less interesting. During the democratic transition, the KMT often had to mobilize a crowd with free food and travel money or they simply wouldn’t have an audience. To keep these crowds awake, they had to put on a show. Fortuitously, most of the entertainment world is in the KMT camp, so they had a nice pool of celebrities to draw on.
Probably for a similar reason, there aren’t quite as many young men chewing betelnut and smoking cigarettes at KMT rallies. (You know the type I’m talking about: the type that allowed the KMT to paint the DPP as a party full of thugs and always ready to turn any march violent.) Young men looking for excitement would not have gone to KMT rallies.
But I digress.
Eric Chu is a pretty low key guy, as far as politicians go. He showed up, we had a few “dong suan” cheers, and he spoke for about ten minutes. His main message was that he wanted to work for the people. If he had wanted to make money, he would have gone to Wall Street after college. If he had wanted to be a famous professor (is there such a thing??), he would have stayed at National Taiwan University where he was already a full professor over a decade ago. If he had wanted to be a powerful official, he would have stayed in his post as Vice-Premier. But he wanted to serve the people, so he is running for mayor. And this is an important election, being the first Xinbei City mayoral election. So it’s important to vote for him.
I would note that he didn’t really mention much concrete that he wants to do. The only thing he said was something very local. Since this neighborhood is right next to Taipei City, he had convinced Mayor Hau to promise that Xizhi residents would be able to use Nangang facilities, such as the sports center. If I put on my sarcastic hat, I would rephrase this as, “if I am elected, Mayor Hau will work for you.”
Actually, the most policy oriented speech came from the local legislator, Lee Ching-hua 李慶華, who spoke for 10-15 minutes on things such as building a new on and off ramp to the freeway and closing down a dangerous factory in the neighborhood. This was unexpected. Every time I’ve seen Lee speak before (and we’re not just talking about once or twice), he played the role of the clown. Lee previously belonged to both the New Party and PFP, and he specialized in zingers about Lee Teng-hui. In other words, he was the guy who threw red meat to the lions. So it was strange to see him as the serious policy guy. To be fair, he was reading from a piece of paper, and it seemed that he didn’t know these policy points very well.
Chu ended the rally before 5:00, mentioning that he still had five more events to go to. (This was his tenth event of the day.) He walked out into the crowd, shook everyone’s hands, gave a quick TV interview, and left. As we left, a magician had taken the stage and was doing tricks with ropes to entertain the rapidly diminishing crowd.
All in all, I would say it wasn’t a bad event, though I wasn’t overwhelmed either.