The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) celebrated its 20th anniversary last Saturday, with a much weaker power base compared with six years ago and its reformist image has been dealt a serious blow by the corruption scandal surrounding the first family. Worst of all, the DPP, which purports to uphold democracy and progress, has debased itself by going all out to protect President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
In response to the campaign against the president, the DPP has urged the public to wait patiently for a judicial ruling. While this sounds reasonable, one should not rule out the possibility of Chen or his family being found guilty once all judicial proceedings are completed. That being the case, why is the party aggressively attacking the president's enemies, linking his struggle to the protection of democracy, the localized regime and even Taiwan, instead of patiently waiting for a judicial ruling?
The DPP belongs to all party members, not just the president. Its primary task is to strengthen itself and pursue reforms to support the country's drive for normalization. If it abandons this and puts all its efforts into supporting Chen, won't its foundation collapse overnight when the political situation reverses and the country has a new president?
Factions were originally considered a key element of the DPP's structure because the balance among major factions prevented dominance by a single person. However, the DPP has chosen to dissolve the factions as a "cure-all" solution to improve its image. Without these strong dissenting voices within the party, it has sunk into a obedient tool to keep Chen in power.
Today, neither the president nor the party is concerned with the growing anti-Chen movement outside the DPP, because the Constitution gives him presidential immunity, allowing him shamelessly to stay in power. As for those who dare oppose him inside the party, his guardians can eliminate them without mercy. Unfortunately, the more the DPP consolidates its leadership, the lower its support ratings drop.
With Chen's second term ending in less than two years and his family and aides allegedly involved in high-profile corruption scandals, even if he were innocent, his leadership has already been hurt severely. Over the next 20 months, he will have to devote most of his energy to resisting the anti-Chen forces, leaving him powerless to resolve the political deadlock, implement major defense, diplomatic and cross-strait policies, or save the economy and the public livelihood. Taiwan's hands will be tied in the face of Beijing's united-front tactics and diplomatic siege.
Chen has greatly contributed to the DPP by realizing its dream of becoming the ruling party, but his administrative failure has also hurt the party. Today, its members should be pragmatic and recognize that loving Taiwan is more important than loving Chen, and that the post-Chen era has arrived. What it really shouldn't do is support him blindly. Rather, it should acknowledge his failings and ignore personal feelings to contain further political damage and rebuild the party's core values to attract voters. In other words, it should redeem itself.
What virtues and abilities do Chen and the DPP still have? Actually, the phenomenon of Chen's incredible popularity during the 2000 power transfer occurred only because he was entrusted with the sorrows and dreams of the Taiwanese. For the countless volunteers who have sacrificed themselves for the party, the DPP has a responsibility to repay them with a better administration. If it does not consider its long-term progress and vainly sacrifices itself for one person, it will betray the public's trust and lose its authority to represent localization forces.