Fri, Dec 03, 2004 - Page 8 News List

DPP going down same blind alley as Clinton

By Chang Tieh-chih張鐵志

This year's US presidential election proved that the Republican Party had successfully launched a conservative movement. This movement has advanced radical conservative rhetoric to mobilize the public through conservative think tanks and media. And at the grassroots level, it has effectively run get-out-the-vote drives and maintained good organization through churches and community groups between elections.

Many members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party think the failure of the party to win this year's presidential election was due to the lack of a clearly defined world view and consistent rhetoric. Senator John Kerry might have proposed many different policies, but they did not add up to a complete picture that could tell voters in which direction he would lead the country. In their grassroots organization and policy think tanks, the Democrats virtually conceded the battlefield to the Republican Party.

Nevertheless, the Democratic mobilization of its grassroots supporters and strong criticism of US President George W. Bush have given Democrats some momentum. The next important step is to harness and direct that energy. In fact, the importance of organization can be seen from the fact that although a majority of blue-collar workers in the south supported the Republican Party, most members of labor unions backed the Democratic Party.

Some Democrats believe that they must rejuvenate the progressive movement of the early 20th century, mobilizing farmers and laborers to fight against unrestrained capitalism. The conservative and centrist groups of the party, however, believe that former president Bill Clinton won two presidential elections because he ran from the center, and so they forsook the mobilization of different social classes.

But as Robert Reich, secretary of labor under Clinton, has pointed out, Clinton's administrative agenda did not proceed smoothly. For example, his failure to implement health care reform was a result in part of an absence of extensive social-based movements supporting it. After two terms of the Clinton administration, we can see more clearly the lack of ideas and organizations that caused the failure of Democratic Party to truly expand its overall grassroots support.

After all, wining an election is not the only objective. More importantly, we must be able to effectively push for a reform agenda. In order to realize that, there must be solid support from society. To establish this support, a president must make his beliefs clear, rather than blur issues.

Members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party believe the best method to defeat Bush is to firmly maintain Democrats' left-wing stance, and propose long-term social and economic policies in line with the concepts of social justice.

Looking at Taiwan's political parties, the political party closest to minority groups and grassroots movements was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) when it was still in opposition. Although the DPP has actively operated within the electoral system since the 1990s, its ideology and organization remained similar to that of a civic movement. It championed democracy and localization and fought corruption in order to draw public support.

Since the DPP became the ruling party, localization and nationalism are the only two movements that remain.

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