A message to the losing side

[Note: I wrote this before the votes were counted. I don’t know who lost yet.]


One of my favorite definitions of democracy is that democracy is a system in which political parties lose elections.

Congratulations.  Today the responsibility and honor of shouldering the burden of losing and of making Taiwan a democracy falls to you.

It is easy to be a democrat when you win.  Everyone likes to win.  But democracy is not a system that allows you to win every time.  It only gives you an opportunity to try to win each time.  Sometimes you will lose.  When that happens, you have to accept the loss.

You didn’t expect to lose this year.  You knew there was a possibility, but, deep down, you thought this year your side would win.  So the result was surprising and harder to accept.  However, democracy demands that you accept this result.

Sure, the other side used all kinds of dirty tricks.  They cynically lied when they made campaign promises they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep.  They shamelessly used every method to mobilize every last possible vote.  They brazenly threatened the voters that if they lost, Taiwan’s future would be jeopardized.

None of that matters.  The only people who voted in this election were the 18 million eligible Taiwanese citizens.  Each one of them had as much right to vote as you, and each one got to make his or her own choice.  Some of them made choices based on misinformation, values that you detest, or blatant self-interest, but that is their right.  In the end, everyone freely made a decision, and the other side got more support.

Of course, this outcome is a disaster for Taiwan.  The other side is going to make a lot of terrible policy choices.  Your side will do its best to stop the worst ones and water down some of the others, but, because of today’s election result, your side will lose most of these fights.  Their policies are going to make real changes and they will have real impacts.  Unfortunately, the poor and weak people in society will probably be hurt the most.  Their term in power is going to be a disaster for Taiwan.

And that is the way it should be.  In a democracy, elections have consequences.  The citizens get to vote on who will make the decisions, and then society has to live with the results of those choices.  This is far better than the alternative, in which there is no way for dissatisfied citizens to affect the government’s choices.

One of the great things about democracy is that it is ok to lose.  The losers don’t all get beheaded; instead they take up their positions as opposition leaders.  The new government can make some decisions, but it isn’t going to be powerful enough to unilaterally and irrevocably determine Taiwan’s future status.  The stakes are low enough that it is ok to wait until 2016 and try again then.

For today, you’ll probably feel miserable.  Just remember that today, your commitment to democracy is being tested, and this is a test you must pass.  I’m not sure those jerks on the other side could shoulder this burden, so, in a way, it’s Taiwan’s good fortune that the responsibility of losing has fallen to you this year.  Next time, maybe they’ll have to prove that they are as strongly committed to democracy as you are.

8 Responses to “A message to the losing side”

  1. Sophie Chu Says:

    excuse me
    may I share a link via FB of this article ?
    maybe I will translate some line myself ?
    is it okay?

  2. Lihan Chen Says:

    I happen to be on the loser side, unfortunately. You are very right in the spirit of democracy, and I hope the convergence will emerge as a normal way of politics in Taiwan.

    I also like to share your words on fb. Now I just need to heal my wounds.

  3. Mike Says:

    Well written. Could not agree more.

  4. A thought for the losing side | Frozen Garlic Says:

    […] A message to the losing side. […]

  5. A thought for the losing side | Frozen Garlic Says:

    […] A message to the losing side. […]

  6. Dan Stevenson Says:

    Is it next time yet?

  7. Alexandre Says:

    Beautiful piece. I had never thought of it this way.

    Now I wish I had read it back then, so it wouldn’t have hurt so much.

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