When I heard about the shooting, I only had two predictions.
1) As soon as the results were out, a lot of people would say, “As soon as I heard about the shooting, I knew it would mean disaster for the XX Party.” (I had no prediction about whether XX was the KMT or DPP.)
2) Almost everyone would insist that the incident had a major effect on the election result.
Many of my expectations for the election were wrong (no big surprise), but not these two. It may not shock you to hear that I think both of these arguments are a bunch of baloney.
Before the votes were counted, I had no idea what the effect would be. On the one hand, the story that most people are telling now is that the incident was very advantageous to the KMT. The shooting inspired sympathy for Lien, and mobilized lots of otherwise lethargic blue camp sympathizers to come out and vote. Maybe it reminded them of the 2004 shooting incident and aroused their sense of partisan indignation. Also, the news completely wiped away all the media coverage of the DPP’s big events on the last night, so any atmosphere of a huge DPP wave was destroyed.
On the other hand, who would be sympathetic to Lien Sheng-wen? When he bandied about the idea of running for a seat in the legislature a few years ago, the DPP salivated at the thought. They thought that Lien Sheng-wen might be their best (only) hope for winning the Da-an District seat. The KMT nominated an uncontroversial party footsoldier instead. Also, it seemed pretty clear within a few hours that the incident had something to do with organized crime. If the incident shifted voters’ focus to organized crime, that would be a big help to the DPP.
On the third hand, did this thing really change anyone’s behavior at all? Apparently this only had an effect in Taipei and Xinbei, but not in Taichung or the south. (Well, those people in the south are more rational and less emotional. What?) Uh, the media is national; it should have an effect everywhere. As Jason Hu said through tears to his rally in Taichung, “We condemn all violence and hope no party will use this incident for political advantage. Now let’s all have a moment of silence for Sheng-wen.”
Even if it did change a few people’s behavior, was it enough to influence the outcome? Hau won by 13%. Did all (or even most) of that margin come from this? No way! I can’t believe this would even be important enough to swing the Taichung election, which Hu won by 2.2%. (If everything had turned out like the Taichung election — with the DPP doing better than expected, we would be hearing the other story.)
There are always people who will tell you that something affects “those people.” Until I hear someone tell me it affects their own behavior, I’m not going to believe it. Believing that other people are unreasonable or irrational sheep is usually a sign of lazy thinking, and it tells you more about the speaker than about the people he is talking about.
There is one other reason that the DPP loves this narrative: it absolves them of responsibility for their losses. They can say, we were going to win until the last moment. We were just unlucky. (Or, Damn KMT and their dirty tricks.) The DPP did quite well in the elections, but the expectations were extremely high. The shooting gives Tsai one more reason not to resign as party chair and makes both Su and Tsai look a bit better as they reposition themselves for 2012.