Tsai in Tainan

Tonight Mrs. Garlic and I drove to Tainan to see Tsai’s big rally.  For the entire campaign, I’ve been hearing about how passionate crowds are for her.  However, none of the rallies I’ve been to in northern Taiwan seemed particularly big or enthusiastic to me.  They weren’t bad, but they were also nothing special.  If anything, I would rate them slightly below average in terms of the average DPP rally.  So I wanted to see if the south was different.

The south is different.  The crowd here was much more active and responsive.  In historical terms, it was still a far cry from the standards of 1994 or 2000, but it was far better than the north.

By the way, media reports and the people onstage claimed there were 100,000 people at the event tonight.  The usual rule is to cut those claims in half, but I don’t think that would be sufficient for tonight.  My wife estimated 33,000, but I think there might have been 25,000 max.  (Remember, I’m a hard grader.  25,000 is a LOT of people.  Also, this was a particularly hard crowd to estimate because of the shape of the space.  It was a long narrow street, and I couldn’t see the whole thing from any single angle.  Also, there were people in alleys and intersections.  So if you feel my estimate is too low, it might be.)

The strangest thing happened again.  At every DPP rally I’ve been to this year, people are excited to see Tsai take the stage.  They are genuinely supportive and want to be part of the fun “frozen garlic” cheers.  However, once she starts speaking, people start leaving.  By the end of every speech, about a third of the audience has left.  This happens regardless of whether there is heavy mobilization (like tonight) or zero mobilization.  A large percentage of the crowd simply doesn’t want to bother to listen to her speech.  Even weirder, tonight while she was speaking and people were filing out past me, they were excited and happy, not tired and bored.  They like her, they passionately support her, but they just don’t want to listen to her speak.

11 Responses to “Tsai in Tainan”

  1. Raj Says:

    Interesting. But then again she’s not a tub-thumper. My guess is that she is trusted simply to do the job. People want to see and turn up to support her. After that some think there’s no reason to stay.

  2. Echo Says:

    【while she was speaking and people were filing out past me, they were excited and happy, not tired and bored. They like her, they passionately support her, but they just don’t want to listen to her speak.】

    Many participants come from more remote locations where the way of going home is not as easy as taking on a bus or walking to a nearby hotel. It’s something people living in a city with convenient transportation can’t understand.

    Besides, many of them are probably “returning customers” who have listened to what she said and, like Raj said, trusted her already.

  3. tommyinasia Says:

    I concur with Echo. I saw her speak at AEI in DC. During her prepared comments she was a bit boring to listen to. During the Q&A she was much more interesting. It was during the Q&A that you could see her intelligence and clarity of mind. In the end, the Q&A is what sold me on her. I suspect that those who already like her do not like her because of her public speaking skills. Unfortunately, it is charisma that sells people who are not good listeners on candidates. If she had the charisma too, she would be unstoppable.

  4. CCLu Says:

    A smaller town hall meeting might suit Tsai better. She is not good at giving a speech in a big rally.

    When it comes to speaking in a big event, none of the candidates this year can hold a candle to Chen Shui-Bian. KMT and DPP don’t have that kind of candidate, but they still use the same old strategy. I guess this is political version of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.

  5. oolongtea Says:

    Hi, tommyinasia,

    I agree that Tsai is at her best when it comes to Q&A. Tsai may not be the best speaker, but I wouldn’t say she lacks charisma. A charismatic person arouses enthusiasm and/or loyalty. Public speaking may be one way to stir up emotions, but I find Tsai exudes her charisma in other, more subtle, ways.

  6. Kole Says:

    Actually I don’t think that is strange at all. The same things happened in Ma and Chen’s rallies before and now too.

    The main reason I think is that as presidential candidates they are always the last on stage. Many people simply just want to avoid crowds in the end and this may have not much to do with how strong their support is.

    After all those are not music concerts. Heck, but if I have to say, even some crazy parytgoers leave spring scream early to avoid crowds.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      This is not the same as previous KMT or DPP rallies. Far fewer people left DPP rallies back when Chen, Peng, Chen Ting-nan, or a myriad of other speakers were the last speaker. In fact, they would often have several other speakers after the main speaker (who would go to another event), and most people would stay around to listen to the lesser lights. KMT rallies traditionally had people leaving early because they were so heavily mobilized. Once they handed out whatever it was that enticed the people to show up, they left. The difference is that those people always looked utterly bored and indifferent. Tsai’s supporters are happy and crazy as they are leaving while she is onstage.

      It sounds funny to say that people leave Spring Scream early to avoid the crowds. I went to the first one back in 1995, and I don’t remember any traffic jams. I hear it has grown a bit since then.

      • Kole Says:

        FG, actually I think back in 2008 Ma’s crowds were quite crazy about him. And this is very hard to have a scientific count, but people did leave Chen’s rallies early in 2004 in my memory–or maybe that’s because I was the one leaving early.

        As for spring scream I wish I could be there in 1995. (That was its first year? Or it started in 1991? It seems there were different records. Hope Jimi is also reading this blog and willing to shed some light.) In 2000-2001 around, when I was there, it took more than five hours to drive from Kenting to Kaohsiung. I heard in the latter part of last decade the crowd was actually getting smaller, though, as congestion got serious (also issues like different hosts, etc.).

    • frozengarlic Says:

      In 1995, there were no big traffic problems. The organizers arranged for people to rent tents and camp in an open field. There were two stages, and the acts were all unknown. Some were terrible, and some were quite good. About half of the people there, both onstage and in the crowds, were foreigners. I remember reading afterward that it was a critical moment for many young Taiwanese since it was the first time they had seen so many people like themselves. At the time, long hair and hard rock was very rare.

  7. J B Says:

    I got the same feeling when I heard her in Wanhua. The crowd was excited, but seemed uninterested in her speech.
    This may be because most of my time in Taiwan has been during the Ma-Tsai era, but my impression is that Taiwanese people look for something different in candidates than the typical sort of charisma people want in the US. They seem to find Tsai’s more scholarly, even awkward style attractive. Westerners often seem to think Wu Dunyi, Ma Yingjiu and Tsai are wooden but maybe that’s what people like here. Of course, I might be overgeneralizing from my relatively short time living in Taiwan, or perhaps Taiwanese people are reacting against the more rally-centered style of the past.

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