Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Legislative defeat was a winner for Chen

By Liu Kuan-teh劉冠德

In their masterpiece on political campaign strategy, James Carville and Paul Begala provide politicians with a dozen winning secrets. Among them, the key is to "buck up, suck up, and come back when you foul up."

As political consultants for former US president Bill Clinton, Carville and Begala remind politicians of what to do next when they win and how to recover when you really screw up.

The philosophy is simple but frequently neglected: Once you've won, the goal is not to gloat, it's to win again. Do everything you can to set yourself up for another victory. Do nothing that will make your next effort more difficult. But if you mess up, take responsibility, thereby demonstrating that even when you fouled up, you're responsible. Accepting responsibility is better than taking blame.

The pan-blue camp's complacent attitude about its victory in last month's legislative elections -- as well as its leaders' moves to take advantage of the de facto majority to attempt to blackmail the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration into changing the composition of the Cabinet and several policy arenas -- were illustrations of arrogance and a lack of political awareness.

The political wrestling among the blue camp also signified their incoherence, especially when it comes to past campaign rivalries and future cooperation.

Not only did the People First Party (PFP) pour cold water on the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) proposal to merge quickly and instead "walk on its own road," their under-the-table dealings with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have opened the possibility of party cooperation that cross blue and green lines.

While Chen resigned the DPP chairmanship to take responsibility for the party's failure to secure a majority in the legislature, it revealed a timely and skillful adjustment of Chen's leadership strategy to clear the battlefield and move to the next one.

Clearly Chen has a well-calculated agenda in mind. Chen not only took responsibility for his party's poor performance in an unprecedented and modest way, he also urged party members to engage in self-examination.

Later, in his New Year's address to the nation, Chen stressed the need for reconciliation and dialogue between the opposing camps and took steps toward reconciliation and cooperation needed to power the country toward reinvigorating the economy and upgrading its national competitiveness. Chen also left room for party-to-party negotiations on key personnel arrangements and policy decisions by emphasizing that "politics is an art of possibilities."

In order to rebuild his leadership, Chen successfully minimized the "lame-duck effect" by appointing Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang(蘇貞昌) as the acting DPP chairman and began to groom senior DPP official and Kaohsiung City mayor Frank Hsieh.

In terms of regaining control of political agenda, Chen also offered an olive branch to the opposition party leaders by opening chances of policy dialogue and negotiation. Most importantly, Chen echoed the pubic by generating an urgent need for the nation to put aside political finger-pointing and partisan disputes.

While Lien and his followers are still obsessed with the presidential election results and put all their hopes on what they call "the new legitimacy," their chances might have slipped away as the DPP reorients its strategy to meet the new political climate.

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