On Wednesday, Liao Shu-hsin (廖述炘), the director of a pro-independence underground radio station in Taipei, allegedly immolated himself in his grief over the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) loss in the presidential election. Liao reportedly felt that his dream of seeing a “Republic of Taiwan” established was no longer possible.
While Liao’s love for Taiwan should be honored and respected, no one should throw away the gift of life, no matter how bleak the future may seem.
Liao’s death was a wake-up call for the DPP, which, in the wake of its loss to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the March 22 presidential election, seems to have forgotten its supporters and become obsessed with infighting and jockeying for power.
Politics is a subject that inspires the deepest passion, and many of pan-green supporters are understandably saddened by the DPP’s disastrous electoral performance, which started with the devastating legislative elections in January. Then, as the KMT gathered strength from its newly won two-third majority in the legislature, it thrashed the DPP again last month, when its presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) garnered 2.2. million votes more than the DPP’s Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).
What many senior DPP leaders may not realize, however, is that the election losses are not in themselves what disappointed supporters the most. Rather, the inappropriate behavior of certain DPP figures during the campaigns that was most disturbing.
With calls from inside and out of the party for reflection and renewal, the public has been treated to a sad show as some DPP members eagerly take advantage of the situation to play the blame game. Constructive reflection and changes are needed, but these are far more difficult than self-righteous finger-pointing.
Senior DPP leaders have shirked responsibility in the name of being humble. A notable exception was Vice President Annette Lu’s (呂秀蓮) gift of “charcoal in snowy weather” (雪中送炭) two days after the presidential election, when she led some 100 new members to join the DPP as internal morale was at a nadir.
Other than that, the DPP appears to be in a great mess with no one seems willing to step up to the plate.
Traditionally, candidates make rounds after the election, regardless of whether they won or lost, to visit and thank supporters. Only after 10 days did Hsieh emerge from his post-election hibernation to thank his supporters on Wednesday.
Although Hsieh, who continues to serve as DPP chairman, may have been bogged down with post-election party matters, or he may simply have needed time to reflect along with other senior party officials on the significance of the defeat and party’s future, the DPP will certainly go nowhere without its grass roots. Reaching out to a disappointed and grieving support base should have been one of Hsieh’s top priorities.
Leadership is more than making decisions and standing at the helm when things are going well. It entails boosting party morale after crushing defeats, inspiring hope and creating visions of a renewed party at a time when everything looks bleak.
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