Campaign Trail: KMT event in New Taipei

I haven’t written anything about campaign events this cycle. I keep thinking I’m going to do a full writeup of an event, and I keep not finishing them. So instead, I’m going to try to give one or two quick reactions, talking about the one or two things that I found most interesting, unique, or unexpected.

This weekend, there was a big KMT event. It was in New Taipei City hosted by the Hou campaign, but all six KMT candidates for the six big municipalities were featured.

I was stunned by how vacuous this event was. In general, the KMT seems to place quite a bit of importance on the ritual of slogans/cheers. Every featured speaker makes a point of doing the Frozen Garlic cheer for every candidate on the stage. Now, my blog is titled “Frozen Garlic” and I love the pep rally nature of political rallies, but even I have some limits. I assume rallies are supposed to be primarily about telling voters why they should vote for you, and the enthusiasm about winning is secondary. But that wasn’t how this rally went.

They made a big show of each person entering the arena, spending quite a lot of time playing the same music six times. It took more than ten minutes for this. Well ok, the heroic entrance can be a great show. This one was repetitive, but it was still a show. Then Eric Chu got to speak for about ten minutes, which he used to repeatedly say in very vague terms, “our nominee is really good.” [Eg: Hsih Lung-chieh is capable and loves Tainan very much. He’s the best choice for Tainan mayor. It’s important to choose the best ones. Don’t you all agree?]

Each of the six candidates only got about minutes, which wasn’t enough time to make many serious points. The organizers were pretty aggressive about enforcing the time limits. [They seemed to think there was plenty of time between speakers for them to do lots of Frozen Garlic cheers, though.] Chang Shan-cheng was starting to talk about public policy proposals for Taoyuan, and the emcees broke in with a cheer to try to cut him off. He let them do the cheer, and then continued talking. They finally said, “the mayor has lots of ideas, but we don’t have enough time for all of them.” It’s pretty unusual to cut a speaker short, and this was a mayoral candidate. He was supposed to be one of the focuses of the event. But they didn’t have time for him to explain why he should be mayor. Surely they wouldn’t treat Wayne Chiang that way, right? He’s a star, after all. Wrong. He was making a quite substantive speech, talking about urban renewal and traffic problems when the emcee suddenly jumped in with a cheer, cutting Chiang off in the middle of a thought. [We don’t got no time fer that high-falutin stuff.] Lu Hsiu-yen spent all her time talking about how great the other five candidates are, and they threatened to cut her off, too. I’ve never seen anything like this.

Hou Yu-ih was the host, so they didn’t cut him off even though he spoke for ten minutes. They should have, though. He managed to speak for ten minutes without saying anything remotely substantive. He didn’t discuss his achievements in office, proposals for the next term, national politics, and he certainly didn’t mention anything about China. It was utterly vapid.

I think they might have devoted more time to cheers in this event than they allotted to all six candidates put together. Is this what Hou thinks an effective political campaign looks like – no message at all? I’m all for balloons and fireworks, but there eventually has to be some substance underneath everything. He’ll win this year, but this just won’t work if he runs in 2024.

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