A basketball game is not a contest if both teams decide to play defense and do not attack. It is even worse when both sides play not to win, but to not lose. Unfortunately, it appears that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are just doing that.
Perhaps this explains why in a recent opinion poll conducted by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research, the KMT garnered the support of only 18.9 percent of those polled, with the DPP not faring much better at 30.7 percent, with 57 percent of respondents saying they were not satisfied with the DPP’s performance.
In other words, people are as indifferent to both parties as basketball fans who find that two teams playing defense against each other are hard to cheer.
The KMT’s passivity is perhaps more understandable. The approval rating of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who also serves as KMT chairman, has plummeted to as low as 13 percent. Almost all of Ma’s policies, among them fuel and electricity price increases and healthcare reform, have been highly unpopular and questionable.
The party always talks about reform, but rarely takes action to uphold fairness and justice. It failed to ensure social justice in the design of the capital gains tax on securities transactions and protected poorly managed state-owned enterprises, missing a golden opportunity to address the widening wealth gap and a divided society.
Ma and his party talk a good game, but fail to execute and deliver time and again. These failures are perhaps why they no longer go into “attack mode” to lay out substantial plans to benefit the nation, because the more they do, the more they fail.
They neither listen to the public nor seem ready to reconcile with the opposition to work together in the national interest, as Ma stated in his New Year’s address.
The KMT no longer appears to be functioning as a well-oiled machine, with many members reportedly unhappy with Ma’s leadership and communication skills. The only reason they have not yet challenged Ma is that they are biding their time.
While the KMT seems to have good reason to play defense, the DPP’s passivity, which has earned the party the label of being soft, has made people scratch their heads in bewilderment.
The DPP has been criticized for its inaction as well as for its failure to present substantial countermeasures to Ma’s failing policies. The criticism may be unfair, in particular for the DPP caucus, because almost all of its proposals have been blocked by the KMT in the legislature.
Nevertheless, despite presenting an economic policy to counter Ma’s pro-China economic policies, DPP headquarters could have done a better job by making the vague plan for a sensible economy more comprehensive and by explaining it in layman’s terms.
While provoking conflict is never to be encouraged, the DPP should perhaps be thinking about adopting tougher strategies against Ma’s inaction and refusal to listen and communicate. After all, the DPP needs to convince people that it deserves another opportunity to take power.
The most serious concern about the “both-sides-playing-defense” phenomenon is that it indicates that both parties are motivated by political gain, not the needs of the people.
When cynical political calculation rules the day, it is irrelevant which party is in power.