We are thinking of running the following classified ad: "Missing: two policy platforms, one blue one green, last seen ...". That's the problem, because it's been so long since there's been any serious policy debate that we can't remember when it was last seen.
We are well aware that President Chen Shui-bian (
You have to go back a month to hear the kind of policy pledge familiar in legislative elections elsewhere -- implementation of a senior citizens' pension plan. All the rest is fluff; rousing fluff for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faithful, but fluff all the same. Because while this newspaper agrees with and has long advocated most of what Chen has proposed, we also note that these are mostly symbolic issues. They have a lot to do with national identity, but have little to do with the day-to-day business of making Taiwan a better place to live.
Elsewhere in this newspaper, we report on the frustration felt by both environmental and women's groups. Issues close to their heart are not being addressed, and we share that frustration. Taiwan has one of the most degraded environments of any newly industrialized country, thanks to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) shortsightedness. What can be done to rectify this? Gender equality in the workplace, too, is still far from being a reality here, despite numerous laws mandating it. There's been no talk of solving Taiwan's dire fiscal problems, no mention of industrial hollowing out, no discussion of the possibility that the "Taiwan model" of economic growth is exhausted and urgently needs a rethink.
Compared with the pan-blues, however, the DPP look like policy wonks. The only thing we have heard at any time from the blues is that a blue majority is needed in the legislature to prevent the greens from doing anything. Perhaps that is not exactly what they say, but it is certainly what their message means: "Elect us so we can prevent Chen's hotheads from getting anything done." Of course we know the blues have more pressing concerns than policy, such as how to cope with KMT Chairman Lien Chan's (
So the election campaign runs on, in a total vacuum of real policies. Perhaps that is simply because there is a broad consensus on the way the big things -- the economy, for example -- should be handled, so that all that is left to quibble about is the symbols.
There's certainly room for debate. Does Taiwan want a small government, low-tax, low-benefit kind of society, as it traditionally has had? Or does it want a high-tax, high-benefit, European-style welfare state? This cleavage is not reflected in the two camps at the moment, and more's the pity. Perhaps we simply have to wait for the defeated KMT to reinvent itself before the body politic becomes more sensible. Hopefully that day will not be too long delayed.