Posts Tagged ‘rally’

campaign trail: Chu in Yonghe

November 26, 2010

Last night, I went to see Su Tseng-chang in Wanhua, right next to the Longshan Temple.  There was not too much available space, but it was all completely packed.  It is hard to estimate crowds in irregular spaces; my best guess is 3000, give or take 500.  The crowd was pretty enthusiastic, which was not terribly surprising.  There wasn’t a lot of speaking; most of the evening was filled by musical performances.  Su Tseng-chang was the only person to give a full-fledged speech.  He didn’t say much new, so I won’t bother to report on it.

Tonight I went to Yonghe to see Eric Chu.  Well, technically I think we were in Zhonghe.  The event was in the 823 Park, which is right on the border between the two cities.  The site was extremely small, but it was filled to capacity.  Since President Ma was coming, they established a security perimeter.  I think there were probably 1000 people inside the perimeter and 500 outside.  Again, I couldn’t see the whole crowd from one single angle, so this estimate is not very precise.

The crowd was equal to DPP crowds in its level of enthusiasm.  This is the first time I have seen that from a KMT crowd this year.  Also, I really like events held in Yonghe for one simple reason: everything is in Mandarin!

The speakers were really slamming Tsai for her divided attention.  As one speaker put it, she wants to be mayor, party chair, and run for president.  Chu spent several minutes stressing how important the first mayor of Xinbei will be in establishing all the precedents.  He concluded: a mayor has to focus all his attention on these problems, and he can’t afford to divide his attention.  It’s a good point; I think Chu could have made it much more forcefully.  At any rate, Wu Nai-ren 吳乃仁 didn’t do Su or Tsai any favors by suggesting that they could still run for president.

Ma Ying-jeou was the most interesting speaker tonight.  He spent about 80% of his speech talking about national issues.  First, he talked about the KMT’s record on economics.  He gave the economic growth stats again (GDP growth of 9.98%, unemployment rate of 4.92%), but he also talked about the KMT’s record in managing the economic crisis.  He was particularly proud of the fact that not one bank failed.  Next, he spoke about diplomacy, concentrating on the EU’s recent decision to allow Taiwanese enter without a visa.  Taiwanese can now visit 96 countries visa-free, and this is a big improvement over the Chen era.  Finally, he spoke about his record in national security.  Ma said that there are two powderkegs in East Asia: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait.  The Korean Peninsula is as volatile as ever, as we have seen in the past few days.  However, Ma stressed that he has successfully lowered tensions across the Taiwan Strait so that a similar event is highly unlikely here.  (There were other points, but those are the three that I remember most clearly.)  He ended this by asking the crowd which political party had performed better.  “I can’t hear you.  Louder!!”

He eventually said a few things about Chu, but he never talked about local issues for Taipei County.  I was a bit surprised by this focus on national and party issues.  I’ve heard Ma speak several times this year, and he has never been so focused on national issues.  I’m really not sure why he shifted gears tonight or whether that will help or hurt Chu.  But it clearly is a different message.

The event ended at 8:20.  They had another event, but that is still quite early to end.

When a campaign thinks they are going to win, they give off a different vibe than when they think they are going to lose and are just putting on a brave act.  Right now, it looks to me like the Su, Tsai, and Chu camps all think they are going to win.  The Hau camp isn’t so sure, though I don’t think he thinks he is clearly going to lose.  But he doesn’t exude the confidence that the other three do right now.  (Don’t ask me to justify this feeling; it’s just a feeling I have.)

Campaign trail: Tsai in Wugu

November 23, 2010

Last night I went to a rally for Tsai Ing-wen in Wugu Township.  This was a much smaller event than the ones I went to over the weekend, which was not surprising.  It was Monday night, after all.  The rally was outside a parking garage, and the irregular space made it much harder than usual to estimate the crowd.  The area on the ground was not rectangular.  The parking garage had three overhang levels, all with some people in them.  And there were even people standing on the other side of the street.  It wasn’t a really big space, but it was extremely full.  I would estimate around 1500 people, give or take 500.  The crowd was not mobilized, and it was quite enthusiastic.

I haven’t written a lot about Tsai in this blog, given the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about her campaign.  Everyone else is much easier to grasp, but I never seem to be able to reach a clear thought about Tsai.  She is terrible at public speaking and bores crowds to death, yet people seem to genuinely like her.  She spends an inordinate amount of time shaking hands for that personal touch, yet when she gets around to making a speech, it is full of policy details and short on emotion.  Everything about her campaign is a mess, her opponent is quite good, the partisan terrain is disadvantageous to her, and yet I wouldn’t be shocked if she won the race.  She just isn’t like any other candidate I’ve seen.  (Maybe that’s exactly the appeal.)

Having said that, last night highlighted the lousy-on-the-campaign-trail aspect.  When Tsai got to the stage, she was incoherent, uninteresting, spoke in platitudes, and couldn’t manage much Taiwanese.  She even apologized for her worse than normal speaking.  As we say, her brain was completely fried.  Apparently she had been in a motorcade all day, which is extremely tiring.  You have to stand and wave on a moving car, which is tiring enough, but in addition there are fireworks constantly going off right near you.  Six hours of that would be exhausting.  When she entered our event, she worked her way from the back, through the middle of the crowd, all the way to the front.  Candidates like to do this because the crowd loves it.  However, as she passed by me, I stood a few feet back and got up on a stool to watch her.  She was being pushed and pulled by the mob, and she was not enjoying it.  She was not at all happy, or shaking hands.  Instead, she was covering her head with her hands to try to protect herself a bit.  When she finally got to the stage, she held up a few sheets of paper that were all crushed and dirty and sheepishly told the audience, this is my speech.  After that, it just isn’t surprising that she gave a terrible speech.

This all reflects poor planning and inexperience.  When they were planning out the schedule two weeks ago, no one asked if Tsai was going to be too brain dead after six hours in a motorcade to give a speech.  Since Tsai has never been a candidate before, she probably couldn’t have answered that question herself.  It takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina to campaign, and very few people appreciate this until they have been through the process.  Even if they decided that both the motorcade and the rally were necessary, they should have thought about ways to reduce the physical toll on Tsai.  Being unmarried, she is at a disadvantage.  Married candidates can take a break for a half an hour and put their spouse in their place in the motorcade.  But there are other things she could have done.  They could have given her a chair for at least part of the route.  They could have used fewer fireworks or quieter fireworks or shot them off further away from her.  They could have shortened the route.  And when they got to the rally, she didn’t have to go through the middle of the crowd.  If they really wanted to do that, they needed to have a group of big, strong young men clearing a path and holding back the crowds so that she could reach through the human wall and shake hands but wouldn’t feel physically threatened.  These are all things that experienced campaigns and candidates know how to do.

The miracle of it all was that, as bad as she was on stage, her crowd stayed with her.  The beginning of her speech was awful as she stumbled around, improvising and then going into really dry (and vague) policy ideas.  This would have alienated most crowds.  However, whenever she suddenly asked them a question, they immediately roared back the answer.  Usually when you have lost a crowd, there is no answer the first time.  You have to ask it a second time before they realize they are expected to respond.  This crowd wanted badly to support Tsai, even if she wasn’t helping them at all.

In the midst of all this lousy political communication, both last night and over the past few weeks Tsai has somehow communicated a few very important messages.  One of them has to do with her vision for the DPP’s future.  Currently, as everyone knows, partisan competition revolves around the question of Taiwan’s relationship with China.  Tsai is trying to reorient politics around a new axis of competition (or at least add another axis to the current single dimension).  Tsai is trying to add a left-right cleavage.  She is talking about creating a welfare state.  She is not just pushing one policy, such as old-age pensions, but a whole range of policies from public housing to childhood welfare.  She is also attacking the KMT’s economic policy as focused entirely on the aggregate numbers, such as GDP.  These numbers don’t distinguish between additional wealth that goes to already rich people and wealth that goes to poorer people.  In short, I think she is trying to reorient the DPP as something more like a European social democratic party.  (Lots of candidates make these sorts of promises, but Tsai is the party chair and might be defining the DPP’s path for the next few years.)

Dafydd Fell has studied the attempts by different parties to add new issues to the dominant unification-independence cleavage.  He concludes that these attempts to reorient politics have always failed.  You might talk about environmental politics or anti-corruption for a while, but when push comes to shove, you always line up with your allies on the UI cleavage.  Eventually something will replace the UI cleavage, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.  The question of Taiwan’s future is just too basic to ignore.  However, there might be room for a left-right cleavage to supplement the dominant UI cleavage, especially as the gap between rich and poor grows.

Coming back to the immediate campaign, we see the paradox of Tsai Ing-wen.  The DPP will probably do very well in this year’s election.  Even if they only win two of the mayoral seats, they will almost certainly get more votes this year than they have in the past.  Tsai is person most responsible for this surge in DPP support.  Her ability to convince people to put the Chen era behind them and focus on the performance of the Ma government and her vision for the future have been instrumental in the DPP’s recovery from the disasters of 2008.  Yet, it is conceivable that she herself will be the candidate who benefits the least from this surge.

campaign trail: Su rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday night, I went to Su Tseng-chang’s rally, held in the courtyard of a junior high school across the street from Da-an Park.  This rally was by far the best rally I have been to this year.

About 6000 packed the courtyard.  In absolute numeric terms, the crowd was only about half the size of the crowd at Hau’s rally, which I had just come from.  However, if I were a candidate, I would prefer this 6000 people to Hau’s 13000.  Su’s crowd was completely unmobilized, or perhaps I should say they were all self-mobilized.  (This is the first big event I have been to this year that had no large-scale mobilization.  I’ve written about events for Chu and Hau.  A couple of weeks ago, I also went to a very disorienting large scale indoor event for Tsai in which perhaps 80% of the audience was mobilized.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or the clarity in my thoughts to write about it at the time.)  Candidates don’t mind having mobilized people show up their events, but people who show up on their own are better.  Su might have had as many self-mobilized people at his event as Hau did at his.  Moreover, whereas Hau’s campaign had been building up for the parade for weeks, this was just another event for Su.  There was no special advertising saying that, if you only come out for one event this year, it should be this one.  Of course Sunday night before the election is a big deal, but for Su’s campaign, it probably ranks behind Saturday night and this coming Friday night (election eve), and there might be others as well.  So even though Hau “won” the numbers game on Sunday, Su has to be happier about the number of people who showed up for his event than Hau is about the turnout for his.

However, the most important difference between Su’s crowd and Hau’s crowd was energy.  There was more energy in this crowd than in the (much larger) Chu and Hau crowds combined.  Before the rally started, they showed a video about Su’s childhood and early adulthood.  When the video ended, the crowd applauded.  That was my first clue that this rally would be different.

The high point of the evening was when Su took the stage and led the audience in singing his campaign song.  They turned off the music, so that it was just Su (with a microphone) and the audience unplugged.  Most people were singing (I paid particular attention to that), and they were singing loudly enough that it reverberated off the school walls.  It was really cool.

It took a lot of guts for Su to do this.  Crowds are not nearly as enthusiastic as they were ten years ago, and it is hard to get audience to respond.  Most rallies don’t take this chance.  You almost always have two people with a microphone, and when the main speaker asks the crowd if the opponent has done well, should apologize, or whatever, the second person is always ready to jump in and give the “yes!,” “no!,” “they should!,” or whatever the appropriate response is.  They almost never leave it up to the audience to respond these days, because they aren’t sure that they won’t be met with a sickening dead silence of indifference.  So when Su asked the audience to sing with him, he was taking a big chance and it paid off handsomely.  I don’t know if the news programs chose to show this moment, but they certainly might have and it would have looked very good for the Su campaign.

I’m dwelling on this little moment because it didn’t happen by accident.  Right before Su took the stage, the musical group that wrote the campaign song performed.  They did a couple of rousing songs, and then they performed the campaign song.  They started by teaching the audience: this song only has four simple lines in the chorus, let’s try them.  So they went line by line, a capella but with the words on the video screen, and got the audience to practice or just hear the lyrics.  Then they performed the song, which had those simple four lines again and again.  Many people joined in and sang the chorus with them.  So before Su took the stage, the audience had already learned and practiced this chorus.  But, of course, this moment started long before Sunday night.  Six months ago, someone in the Su campaign had this vision and laid the groundwork by producing an appropriate song.  I can imagine them saying, we need a simple song with only a few lyrics, make it about change, and make it easy to sing.  In short, there was an immense amount of preparation that went into this one very cool moment.  Well-run campaigns like Su’s seem to have these moments all the time.


Su gave a very long speech, at least 30 minutes.  After the singing, he turned to more substantial content which inevitably sapped some of the energy from the crowd.  We never got back to the height of the singing.  However, I wouldn’t say that Su put the audience to sleep; they were still paying attention.  Su spoke on several themes.  He attacked Hau’s record as mayor, accusing him of poor planning and wasteful spending.  (When he talked about the very expensive and seldom used bus lane on Zhongxiao W. Rd., he flashed a bird’s eye picture of the other lanes jammed up and the bus lane completely empty up on the video board.  The video team, which is led by his son-in-law, is doing a fabulous job.)  He talked about some of the things he would do as mayor.  (One of these had to do with children’s welfare policies, and he spoke very movingly about how difficult it was for him and his family when his granddaughter was born three months premature.)  He spoke for quite a while about his philosophy of using talent, emphasizing that as Pingdong County executive, he had given the job of executive secretary (the #2 job) to a mainlander who was a lifelong KMT member.  They had already shown a video on this story, and the old man (now more than 80) spoke of how surprised he was that Su didn’t care about anything but ability.  (Frozen Garlic takes all of this with a grain of salt, but it was very well presented.)  Su also spoke about this as an election to improve the governance of Taipei City, asking voters to make their decisions based on their evaluation of the Hau administration’s performance rather than on some blue-green ideological divide.  Most of his speech was in Mandarin, not Taiwanese.  This was a very, very good message for Taipei City.


Let me try to put this rally into historical perspective.  It was far and away the best rally I have been to this year, but it was nowhere near some of the rallies from previous years, either in numbers or in enthusiasm.  Just off the top of my head, the Chen and Chao 趙少康 campaigns of 1994 easily outdid it, as did both the Chen and Ma campaigns in 1998.  I missed the 2002 and 2006 campaigns, so I can’t compare those.  However, I was at the election eve event for Su in 1997 (when Lu Hsiu-yi 盧修一 knelt down), and that was far, far more electric than last night.  We haven’t even started talking about the 2000 or 2004 presidential races.  In short, it was nice, but don’t let my praise make you think that Su’s campaign is white hot.  Su certainly has a chance to win this race, but the chill on Hau’s side is much more important than the warmth on Su’s side.


campaign trail: Hau parade and rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Hau Long-bin’s parade and rally.  I didn’t start with the marchers or join them on their trip from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial to the Presidential building.  Instead, I showed up to the former new KMT party headquarters by the East Gate at about 4:00.  Probably about a third of the marchers had already arrived.  I watched as the remaining marchers went passed and entered Kaidagelan Ave., where they had a stage erected.

The parade started out as an election mobilization parade, and then morphed into a protest against “corruption” (read: Chen Shui-bian) when Chen was found not guilty.  After Chen was found guilty in another case, the KMT was left without a theme, so they decided the parade would be a festive carnival.  And then a few days ago, in the wake of the Yang Shujun incident at the Asian Games, they decided that this should be a demonstration in support of Yang Shujun. (Or maybe it was against unfair treatment by international sporting authorities.  I’m confused).  As you might expect from this mishmash, all of these ideas showed up a little.  There was a signature petition against Chen and a truck supporting judicial reform.  Several legislators showed up in Tai Kwon Do uniforms.  And they had big balloon floats and people dressed up in lots of fun costumes.  It was all quite fun.

I must dedicate an entire paragraph to the single most spectacular participant, who I encountered about 10 minutes after the battery in my camera died.  There was a man on stilts.  The stilts were the least interesting thing.  He was wearing a clown wig, a halter top (like a bikini top), and bright green Sinbad the Sailor pantaloons.  Colorful, yes?  Did I mention that he was about 75 years old, with wrinkly, saggy old person’s skin?  Don’t forget, he was wearing a bikini top.  Actually, I’m not completely sure it was man.  And he was missing a few teeth, so he had a snaggly smile.  The best part was that whenever someone saw him and stared in disbelief (which was everyone), he would shake his booty like a sexy go-go dancer at them.  New Orleans would have been proud to have this character prowling Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras.  All I can say is, well done sir.  This was far above and beyond the call of duty.

However, somewhere about 15 minutes after I started watching, I became aware that I was missing an important aspect of the march.  There weren’t that many people.  There were big gaps in the line of marchers.  Sometimes you had 50 meters with only one or two people.  And after those first few groups, I started paying more attention to the expressions on people’s faces.  They weren’t happy or angry.  They were mostly just tired.  Now this could have been from walking for two hours.  But this isn’t my first parade.  Usually, people rely on each other to keep their energy up.  They yell slogans, cheer for each other, and have a good time.  There wasn’t much of that at all.  There were very, very few spontaneous chants.  Every once in a while, someone (usually working for a city council candidate) would try a frozen garlic cheer, but they faded out pretty quickly.  Mostly, the marchers just quietly (grimly?) finished their task of marching to the rally site.

The crowd at the rally stretched back to the front of the East Gate (though not behind it).  That sounds like a lot of people, right?  Well, Kaidagelan runs from the presidential building to the East Gate.  Halfway between them, it is crossed by Guanqian Rd.  Normally, the stage is right in front of the presidential building, but today it was placed after Guanqian Rd. (on the side closer to the East Gate).  In other words, they only choose to use about 40% of the available space, and they just barely filled even that.

13000 people is a lot, but the KMT has been building to this event for weeks.  A very large percentage of those 13000 people were working (holding signs for a city council candidate, in charge of carrying balloons, and so on) or otherwise mobilized.  My guess is that about half of the crowd was completely unmobilized.  That is not very good for something with this much buildup.  And remember, the people who did show up were not very energetic.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this event was a disaster.  So what?  Well, no one quite knows what this means for the hundreds of thousands of usually blue voters who didn’t show up.  My guess is that there is something like a ladder, and everyone is one step below their normal position.  These people who showed up today with no energy would normally be enthused.  The people who would normally show up but not necessarily cheer wildly stayed home.  The people who would normally stay at home but pay close attention on TV might not be so concerned this year.  At the end of this ladder, the people who might normally vote without much enthusiasm just might not bother to turn out this year.

The part of my brain that pays attention to past election results says it is almost impossible for Hau to lose this election.  The part of my brain watching the campaign keeps insisting that he is in real trouble.

I’m not a great photographer, so I apologize for the quality of these pictures.

Floats!  Isn’t this fun!

A whole battalion of superheroes.

City Council candidate Wang Xinyi 王欣儀 dressed as a fairy.

City Council candidate Zhong Xiaoping 鍾小平 ready to kick ass!

They were filling this hot air balloon when I arrived at 4:00.  It looks fantastic.  One of Hau’s slogans is “Taipei taking off” 台北起飛 and they had a lot of airplanes ready to take flight.  This fit the theme perfectly.  When I left the rally nearly two hours later, the balloon was still in the same place.  The rally wasn’t quite over, so they might have been saving it for a grand finale, but it was already dark and it wouldn’t have had much effect.  If Hau loses the election, this balloon that didn’t take off while there was still daylight (if at all) might be a good metaphor for his campaign.

This sign announces a petition drive to protest the corruption of Chen Shui-bian and the judge who protected him.  It is sponsored by city council candidate Li Qingyuan 李慶元。

This guy is warning us about pink wolves (Chen and Su) who will betray the country.  Pink is a reference to all the pink Su has been wearing in this campaign in an effort to de-emphasize his green affiliation.

Not many marchers.  There were lots of gaps like this one.

These marchers just look tired.  I saw this again and again.

campaign trail: Chu rally in Zhonghe

November 22, 2010

On Saturday night, a friend and I went to a rally for Eric Chu in Zhonghe City.  We were a bit late because the traffic on the freeway was horribly backed up.  He joked that it was probably all the people going to the rally.  Of course, that would be ludicrous; no rally has that many people.  However, after our normal 30 minute trip took 90 minutes and all the other roads leading away from the rally were completely clear, it became apparent that it really was the rally.  I think they were unloading all their busses in the slow lane, so that the slow lane backed up to the freeway exit, which eventually backed up to Xindian.  Wow.

There were quite a few people at the rally.  The site was big enough for 12000-15000, but it wasn’t quite full.  There were large gaps of seats that were completely empty, while other blocks were completely full.  Well, that’s what happens when most of your crowd is mobilized.  Of course, mobilized people are still people, and there were a lot of them.  I estimated about 9000, give or take a thousand.  (My estimates tend to be a lot lower than most people’s.  This is because I count people rather than simply pick a big number out of the air.)  It wasn’t a bad crowd.  There was a reasonable amount of energy.  If the speaker was boring, the crowd wouldn’t pay much attention.  However, if the speaker got them involved, the crowd did respond.

Some of the speakers included legislators Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇 and Hung Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱, county executive Chou Hsi-wei 周錫瑋, and party elder Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄.  After my description of Hung’s speech in the Da-an Park rally (which I did NOT, in fact, call the “garden of hatred”) made such a stir on the internet, I feel obliged to comment on her speech this time.  Huang repeated some of her speech about Chen Shui-bian, who she still refused to call by name.  She still said that they had felt dissatisfied 悶 while waiting for a court ruling on Chen’s cases.  However, this time she did not use the word “hate.”  I repeat, she did not use the word “hate.”  Actually, her whole speech had a lot less passion in it this time.  Maybe she decided to tone it down, but I think the most important thing is probably simply that another week has gone by.  Time moderates most passions.  The crowd in Da-an Park didn’t react too strongly, and this crowd had even less reaction.  I wouldn’t call it boredom, but perhaps it was mild interest.

The best speaker of the night was County Executive Chou Hsi-wei.  When they introduced him, he got a very warm reception.  You are reading correctly: the guy who was not popular enough to be re-nominated was the star of the night.  Chou launched into a passionate speech that really grabbed the crowd.  I think he got a little carried away by the moment and went a little overboard.  Near the end of his speech, he screamed “Down with the DPP” 打倒民進黨, a line that sounds like it comes from the Cultural Revolution.  But the crowd was with him, and he was probably letting off a year of pent up frustration.

Neither Chu nor Ma was at their best.  Ma inherited a riled-up crowd (from Chou) and proceeded to put them to sleep.  It was the KMT’s 116th birthday, and he talked for 5 minutes about the origins of the KMT.  He tried to sell us on the idea that the loss of Taiwan to the Japanese was instrumental in Sun Yat-sen’s dissatisfaction with the Qing court.  In other words, the KMT’s establishment was closely linked to Taiwan.  A) I don’t remember Taiwan being a critical factor in any of the accounts I’ve read, and B) this very dry topic sucked all the energy out of the crowd.  The rest of the rally wasn’t very memorable.

Overall, it was a reasonably good rally.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster.  (This seems to be my judgment about everything associated with the Chu campaign.)


campaign trail: Hau rally

November 13, 2010

[author’s note June 16, 2015: Now that Hung Hsiu-chu seems likely to become the 2016 KMT presidential nominee, I suspect the internet will rediscover this post. For my current thoughts about this post, please read this.]

I went to a rally for Hau Long-bin last night that was a bit surprising to me in several respects.

For one thing, I was starting to wonder if he was ever going to bother running a race.  In the 1976 American presidential election, Gerald Ford famously followed the rose garden strategy.  He eschewed the campaign trail and instead stayed in the White House and tried to look presidential and above petty politics.  At the beginning of the race, he trailed Jimmy Carter by a whopping 33%.  He ended up losing by only 2%.  Hau has been following a somewhat similar tact in the past couple weeks, spending nearly all his time and energy opening the Flora Expo.  We’ll call it his rose (and other flowers) strategy.  So far, it doesn’t seem to have worked as well as Ford’s strategy did.

Hau had an event last night at the Da-an Park.  Over the years, I’ve been to dozens of rallies in this venue, and I had high hopes for this one.  The park is surrounded by neighborhoods that tend to vote solidly blue, have lots of mainlanders, and have the highest education levels in Taiwan.  During its heyday in the mid-1990s, the New Party had a series of spectacular events in this park.  They had huge, enthusiastic, self-mobilized crowds, and these were the most participatory audiences I have seen in Taiwanese politics.  As a result, I expected last night to be a lot of fun.

It was not at all what I expected.  The theme of the event was military veterans and their families.  There were about 2000-2500 people, and probably at least three-fourths had been mobilized.  It wasn’t hard to tell; you only had to look at all the identical red caps that most of the crowd was wearing.  So they weren’t the usually neighborhood crowd, and, not coincidentally, they weren’t very enthusiastic or spontaneous either.  They weren’t bored, but they weren’t fully involved either.

The first speaker I saw was legislator Hong Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱.  She gave a stunningly radical speech.  It went something like this:

In 2000, we lost governing power, and it was painful.  We had eight years of hate.  Hate.  Then in 2008, we won back governing power, and we were very happy about it, but we were still unhappy about some things.  These two years, we have been dissatisfied.  You know why.  But we finally got some relief yesterday.  Even though many of us still aren’t satisfied, and we think the penalty should be heavier, I guess we can accept it.

She never once called Chen Shui-bian by name; instead, she called him “that person.”  (It was as if by refusing to say his name, she could more deeply convey her disgust.)  She repeated the word for hate (恨) several times, just to make sure we all got the point.  To put it simply, it was just a vengeful speech.  Lots of politicians like to talk about “love.”  I still don’t have any idea what love means, but I’m pretty sure that this speech was just about as far from love as you can get.  She wanted pain, not simple punishment.  You got the idea that if it were up to her, she might settle on some medieval torture (flaying the skin, burning flesh, breaking bones, all while the victim is still alive) as an appropriate sentence.

Frankly, I was a bit stunned that the KMT would let her on the stage with that message.  Even for people who want to see Chen convicted, this was too harsh.  It is one thing to think that punishment needs to occur to prevent future corruption.  It is another to take glee in seeing that punishment administered.

Interestingly, the audience didn’t seem too enthused by her message.  It wasn’t an overly energetic crowd, but it seemed much more interested in cheering for Hau than in jeering Chen.  I didn’t expect that either.

There were a couple of musical performances, including a trumpet performance.  As a very, very lousy former trombonist, I feel the need to comment on anything brass.  It didn’t go very well.  The guy fracked a note in the opening lines of Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky), and you could tell it wasn’t going to be his night.  He had a very nice full tone, but technically, he made several mistakes.  After the first blip, you could sense his throat tightening and his nerves jingling.  Most of Rocky (which, by the way, isn’t the hardest piece in the world) was played in a lower register, and the glamour for all brass performers, especially trumpeters, is in the high notes.  He was going to go up an octave, and it wasn’t going to work.  I kept telling him not to do it, knowing full well that the lure of the upper register would be irresistible.  He tried, his throat constricted, and he got a mouthful of frack.  Thankfully, he went back down to the easier range and finished the song with some dignity.  The second song he played was extremely easy and went by uneventfully.  I wonder if the crowd realized that his performance was so rough.  Maybe I’m just an unrealistic critic.  I’m sure there is a metaphor in all this, but I don’t know what it might be.

Hau Long-bin’s speech wasn’t as good as the trumpeter’s performance.  From a technical perspective, he doesn’t seem to know when to raise his voice and when to lower it.  He isn’t very good at building a point to a climax, and he never gives the audience any hints that he is about to ask them to answer his rhetorical questions.  But these weren’t the real problems.

Hau’s content was atrocious.  His main message seemed to be that people don’t appreciate all his hard work.  At one point, he just repeated a few times that he was doing things.  He neglected to give any specifics though, which made me think that he hadn’t done anything and was trying to cover with empty yelling.  And his logic was awful.  At one point he complained about the DPP/Su campaigns attacks on the Flora Expo.  He cited two or three very specific charges (ie: wasting money on a certain type of vegetable).  Then he “refuted” these charges by saying that what they had forgotten was that the Flora Expo was not his or Taipei City’s, but all of Taiwan’s Flora Expo.  Great, but it could be that without wasting money.

In general, Hau never seems to have grasped that the Flora Expo is not, in fact, the equivalent of the Olympics, or even the World Expo.  At one point, he said we have waited for decades for the Flora Expo.  We’re 40 years behind Japan, 24 years behind Korea, 12 years behind the Mainland, and 4 years behind Thailand.  Hmm.  I guess I never thought of it that way.  All those years when I had never even heard of the International Flora Expo, I should have been pining away for the Flora Expo to bring its glory to Taiwan.  Apparently the head of the international flower association is thrilled with the Flora Expo and is going to hold this event up as a model for all future hosts to copy.  It doesn’t surprise me that he is happy that Taipei spent half a billion USD on his association’s event and that he would like future hosts to lavish similar budgets on them.  (Note: As you might guess, I’m not a big fan of the Flora Expo.  Perhaps this is because I don’t particularly like flowers.  Maybe I’d feel differently if it were the International Election Campaign Exposition.  Sorry, I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked.)

To me, Hau’s tone was reminiscent of Huang Dazhou and Chou Hsi-wei.  You don’t appreciate all my hard work, you aren’t giving me enough credit, can’t you see that my opponent is just a good talker.  (Barack Obama was projecting a bit of this tone in the recent campaign.)  This tone is the hallmark of someone losing a campaign that they don’t think they should be losing.  I think Hau thinks he is in trouble.

The last speaker was President Ma.  He was fantastic.  Granted, he still isn’t technically very good.  He still doesn’t control his volume appropriately, he doesn’t do a good job of getting the crowd involved, and he doesn’t speak very smoothly.  However, his content was fabulous, and he almost undid all of the damage from Hau’s speech and convinced me that Hau has been a good mayor.

Ma spoke for about 20 minutes and went into quite a bit of detail about the things that Hau has done.  Several times, Ma discussed a program that he had started, and that Hau had continued and improved dramatically.  Some examples include connecting homes to the sewerage system, leveling sidewalks, the Flora Expo, the MRT smart card, and so on.  Ma spouted statistics showing how much better Hau had been than Su (in Taipei County) or himself.  In sum, Ma painted Hau as a hard-working and extremely effective executive.

I wonder if Ma is finding himself as a politician.  Hau is flailing about wildly under the pressure of losing.  In one of my favorite novels, Primary Colors, one of the characters asks why it took them two weeks to figure out how to deal with a problem in their campaign.  His answer is that it’s nearly impossible to think straight when your campaign is going down the tubes.  Well, Ma is under pressure, too.  He might not be a candidate in this race, but he is the party leader and it won’t be good for him if Hau loses.  Yet, in contrast to Hau’s verbal lashing out, Ma was confident enough to talk about the things he hadn’t done very well as mayor.  He messed up a Taiwanese phrase (Hau jumped in and corrected him), but instead of acting nervous or defensive, he laughed it off easily.  Maybe I simply haven’t appreciated Ma’s strengths sufficiently, but since the ECFA debate, Ma’s stock as a political leader has risen quite a bit in my personal accounting.

campaign trail: Liang Wenjie rally

November 8, 2010

On Saturday night, I went to see a rally for Liang Wenjie 梁文傑, a DPP nominee for Taipei City Council in District 4 (Zhongshan, Datong).  This was the opening of his campaign headquarters, so this was his big event.  It was held at the Ningxia night market, right near the old traffic circle/snack bizarre.  They put up a stage in a small street going off the main street and had seating for about 200-300 people.  When we got there, they had a nice crowd, with all the seats full and a lot of people hanging around the outer perimeter.  I think that was the plan: for night market customers to walk by and linger a bit.  Unfortunately, it started drizzling about 30 minutes after the event started.  The seated area was covered, and so people either sat there or left.  If you were a passerby, you saw a clear demarcation between the political event and the night market.  Instead of attracting people from the night market, I saw a small event that couldn’t get anyone from the night market throngs to stop to listen.  It didn’t look good, even if it was just lousy luck.  (On the other hand, you have to plan on it raining in Taipei.  So it’s not entirely luck.)

Liang started his event at 6:30, which was probably too early.  I thought it was because he wanted to have an event going all evening to take advantage of the night market crowds.  There was a lot more entertainment than usual at a DPP event.  He had at least four musical performances, plus the obligatory drumming/lion dance to open the campaign.  I figured that he had so many performances because he was trying to stretch the event to fill all the time.  Most events start at 7:30 or so and go until nearly 10:00.  An extra hour is a lot of time to fill.  As it turned out, his event ended just after 9:00.  So I’m not sure why he didn’t just start an hour later.  It’s not as if the night market slows down that early.  Again, not great planning.

Liang is a member of the New Tide faction, so he had lots of New Tide figures speaking.  He also had a video message from Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, his boss for the last few years.  Liang’s biography is not the typical DPP background.  He is a “mainlander,” though in this case the Chinese term “person from other province” is perhaps more appropriate.  His family is from the Dachen islands, a little island chain along the Zhejiang coast.  Chiang Kai-shek withdrew from these islands in the 1950s, and Liang’s family was among the refugees.  Liang grew up in a military village, and his family members were (and apparently still are) loyal KMT supporters.  Liang, however, joined the DPP in 1990 while he was still a student.  He has been groomed by the New Tide faction; someone told me that they even funded his graduate program at LSE (he didn’t graduate).  In recent years, he has worked in the DPP central party office and in the Kaohsiung City government.

A few things from his speech stood out for me.  First, I’ve heard what a bright guy he is, but he isn’t a great public speaker.  He wasn’t boring, but whatever “it” is, he doesn’t seem to have much of it.  Second, he was pretty effective in contrasting the Flora Expo with the Kaohsiung World Games (which he helped plan), emphasizing the differences in costs and in long term benefits.  Third, while talking about his background, he pulled out the old line that Taiwanese are not prejudiced, it is the Mainlanders who are prejudiced.  It is a standard line among the DPP fundamentalists, but you don’t usually expect to hear it from someone as young as Liang.  Fourth, while talking about Hau’s corruption and choices in using people, Liang said something to the effect of: every government has corruption, heck, the DPP government had lots of corruption.  Ok, I didn’t expect to hear that.

As you might be gathering, I didn’t think the event was very successful.  Liang is a marginal candidate, and his inability to hold a nice event or to rally more than 300 or so core supporters does not impress me.  However, Liang is doing one thing very well, and that one thing might be enough for him to win the race.  Liang is playing the strategic voting angle very well.  There are five DPP nominees, and he is the fifth.  (In the primary, he beat out the 6th place candidate by a miniscule margin.)  So his strategy is to tell DPP supporters that if they want to elect all five DPP candidates, he is the critical fifth one.  But he is going one step further.  He is also making the argument that there are enough votes to go around, citing polls and past voting results in this city council district.  So the argument is thus: 1) the DPP should have a majority of votes in this district, 2) so the DPP should be able to win five seats (of eight total), and 3) Liang is the fifth candidate, so be sure to send votes his way.  Everything about this argument is sound, and candidates who make this argument convincingly typically end up closer to the first winner than to the last winner.

One other interesting think about this rally was that I picked up a flyer for Yao Wenzhi 姚文智, who is not a candidate in any of this year’s elections.  Rather, he is angling for the legislature.  Yao has targeted the Datong-Shilin district, which the DPP should win.  Yao is part of Frank Hseih’s 謝長廷 faction, and it is not surprising that Hsieh wants to take control of his old bailiwick.  Four years ago, Wang Shijian 王世堅, also in Hsieh’s faction, beat out Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 for the nomination.  Wang then proceeded to lose the general election to a mediocre KMT candidate, not an easy task in this district.

I don’t think Yao will have an uncontested path to the nomination.  This seat is too much of a prize for that.  For now, I just wanted to note that the jockeying for the legislature has already started.

from the campaign trail: a small event for Chu

November 8, 2010

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.

A Tale of Two Rallies

November 2, 2010

Mrs. Garlic and I went to two DPP rallies this past weekend, one in Taipei City and one in Xinbei City, and the differences between the two were quite interesting.

On Friday night, we went to the opening of Li Jianchang’s 李建昌 campaign headquarters.  (The opening of campaign headquarters is the traditional way to formally launch the final stage of your campaign.)  Li is a four-term city council member running in District 2 (Nangang, Neihu), so you might expect that he knows what he’s doing.  He is also a member of the DPP’s New Tide faction, as was quite clear through the evening.  There were New Tide figures all over.  The host was a New Tide city council member from another district (Wu Siyao 吳思瑤).  Some of the speakers included former legislators Lin Zhuoshui 林濁水, Hong Qichang 洪奇昌, and Duan Yikang 段宜康, as well as former Taoyuan County executive candidate Zheng Wencan 鄭文燦 (who is supposed to be spending all his time in Xinbei City on Cai Yingwen’s campaign).

The event was held in a park right outside one of the exits on the Mucha-Neihu MRT line.  It was drizzly, but there were perhaps 1000 people.  That is a pretty successful crowd for this type of event.  (They also had the best cultural event I have ever seen at one of these rallies.  They had an all-girl group of music students playing traditional Chinese instruments.  You don’t expect to hear traditional Chinese instruments at a DPP event, but it didn’t take long for them to win over the audience.  They were spectacular.  For once, I would have preferred a (second) encore to more political speeches.)

Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 was the main speaker of the night.  He showed up at about nine and spoke for about an hour.  Two things were notable to me: the content and his speaking style.  Substantively, Su’s speech was notable for what was missing.  He did not say anything about the KMT, President Ma, China, Taiwan independence, ECFA, or anything else dealing with national politics.  Instead, his speech was entirely on local matters.  He spoke at length about the Mucha-Neihu MRT line and the Xinsheng Elevated Expressway scandal.

Stylistically, Su had the crowd involved the whole time.  He constantly wove humor into his stump speech, and he made the audience laugh every two or three minutes.  For example, when he was talking about the MRT line, he criticized the city government for putting lousy seats in the trains.  The seats slope forward a bit, and he described how he had to constantly fight to keep from sliding off and bumping his knees into the young woman standing in front of him.  As he described the awkward social situation (which was, of course, entirely the fault of the city government), we were rolling with laughter.

To hammer home the point that Mayor Hau should be responsible for his underling’s behavior in the Xinsheng Expressway case, Su told a story about drinking in the provincial government.  Back in the early 1980s, the governor was Lin Yang-gang 林洋港, a man famous for his ability to drink.  Lin loved to drink, and heavy drinking was common among the top officials in the provincial government.  When Lee Teng-hui replaced Lin as governor, there was a marked change in culture.  Lee could also hold his liquor, but he had stopped drinking because his son had recently passed away.  Since Lee didn’t drink, the entire drinking culture among the top officials disappeared.  As Su put it, whatever kind of leader you have, that’s the kind of subordinates you will have.  By implication, Hau is guilty as hell.

Maybe the most impressive thing to me was Su’s ability to get the audience physically involved.  As any teacher can tell you, an audience will retain content much more effectively if they are physically involved.  Su talked about how it was time to change the mayor before things got too bad just as you need to flip over a fish in the frying pan before it gets burned.  Then he had everyone hold out their hands, as if they were a spatula with a fish on them, and everyone flipped their hands over together.  Now this sounds hokey, and it is.  It is also a lot easier to ask people to do something like this than to get them to do it.  And even if they do it, they usually do it begrudgingly or sheepishly.  However, I watched the audience as he did this, and probably 90% of the people were flipping their hands and smiling.  They were involved.

Su was, of course, preaching to the choir.  And he was effective.  Those thousand people were almost certainly already his votes, but they left the event energized.  Because of this rally, they will expend more effort in trying to get Su elected.

The next night, we went to a Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 rally in Banqiao.  The rally was in a park near the Shulin train station, and I think it might have been organized by the local DPP party branch.  From 6:30 to 7:00, a few lizhang candidates spoke.  From 7:00 to about 7:45, each of the five city council candidates spoke, and from 8:00 to 8:20, Cai spoke.  The only political celebrity to speak was Zhuang Shuohan 莊碩漢, a former legislator from Banqiao.

The speakers were a lot less polished that those in Taipei City.  While Xinbei is being elevated to an equal rank as Taipei City and Taipei City Councilors have traditionally had fairly high profiles, it was clear to me that we shouldn’t expect to see many political stars emerging from the Xinbei City Council.

There was quite a good crowd.  It was a bit bigger than the one the previous evening.  I would estimate the Taipei City crowd at about 1000 people, and the Xinbei City crowd at about 1500.  One of the speakers claimed they had never been able to attract such a big crowd in this area in previous years.

Cai Yingwen’s speech was on a mixture of national and local issues.  She talked at length about President Ma’s failures, the significance of this election as a referendum on Ma, and how the DPP party image was better than the KMT party image (which was to her credit as party chair).  She also talked about housing prices and policies for senior citizens and young people.  And she criticized the United Daily News surveys that show her trailing by a lot.  (She seems overly sensitive about UDN surveys.  This makes me wonder if she doesn’t have a strain of Nixon-like paranoia.)

However, the strongest contrast between her and Su was in style.  Cai was calm, rational, quiet, logical, and boring.  A rally is not the time for a clinical lecture.  Everyone there already agrees with you; you don’t need to convince them.  What you need to do is fire them up so that they will go out and work for you as effective shock-troops.  The crowd was desperate to chant, cheer, and participate.  At one point, someone broke into her speech for a “Frozen Garlic” cheer (Cai Yingwen, Dong Suan!!).  The crowd momentarily erupted.  Then she cut them off and put them back to sleep.

At the ludicrously early hour of 8:20, she finished and the event ended.  She didn’t even stay around to shake hands.  (Most candidates shake a few hands as they leave the arena.  I wouldn’t think much of this except that Cai’s campaign seems to be founded on the notion that she should shake as many hands as possible.  Perhaps this only applies to scheduled events in traditional markets.)  I was stunned.

I wouldn’t call myself conservative, but I do have a healthy respect for tried-and-true methods.  In Su and Cai, we have a stark contrast.  This is Cai’s first time running for office, and she seems to be infatuated with the idea that she should do things differently.  Su is running in his eighth campaign (ninth if you count the 2008 vice presidential campaign), and he won seven of those campaigns (the winner of the eighth was eventually convicted of slandering Su during the campaign).  To me, Su looked like a master of his craft, while Cai looked downright amateurish.