Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - Page 8 News List

DPP’s Cho has months to reform the party

By Mike Chang 張昭仁

Much is being made of whether new Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), who is counted among the party’s “middle generation,” will be loyal to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

However, loyalty to the president is beside the point, as is the preoccupation of certain self-proclaimed representatives of the party’s pro-independence elements on who will be the party’s 2020 presidential candidate.

If the party cannot win voters’ approval in the short space of the next 12 months, it hardly matters who will be the candidate, for it will lose.

In the same way, if the DPP fails to acknowledge its faults and does not transform itself quickly, the chairman will be similarly doomed.

The DPP’s problems are evident.

First is its responsiveness to current issues. When Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) took up the post, he proposed ideas such as a Kaohsiung-Pingtung international airport and Chinese-style tour packages. DPP legislators and Kaohsiung city councilors disregarded his ideas out of hand.

Meanwhile, independent Pingtung County Councilor Chiang Yueh-hui (蔣月惠) and Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) of the Green Party Taiwan responded quickly.

Wang, armed with statistics, asked Han’s supporters what they want for Taiwan, while Chiang cautioned that the people who need increased tourism most would not benefit from Chinese-style tour packages.

That Chiang and Wang engaged in this discussion was laudable; but what of the DPP’s elected representatives? Did they not deem these issues worthy of their attention? Or were they off otherwise entertaining themselves? What future do elected representatives have when they cannot be bothered with engaging in a debate over issues concerning the public?

The party’s second Achilles’ heel was its command — or lack thereof — of social media.

Social media platforms can define the debate, but they also allow candidates to engage with the public.

Popular apps such as Line and Facebook have transformed election campaigns, completely changing the way that people communicate, how messages are spread and how groups are swayed.

DPP headquarters and the party’s mayoral candidates were unprepared compared with the vastly more media-savvy campaigns of their opponents, with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) trouncing his opponent in clickrates and Han having his daughter managing his online messaging apps for him.

The DPP candidates, by comparison, still relied on traditional media, using outdated channels to interact with voters.

It was a non-starter for communicating with younger voters right from the get-go. The DPP was fighting an uphill battle and it is no surprise that it lost.

The DPP’s problems in setting the debate and communicating with voters are exacerbated by its organizational shortcomings.

The party lost to a controversial candidate in Yilan County, generally regarded a DPP stronghold, and was in complete disarray in Tainan, another city traditionally a dead cert for the party.

These problems were symptomatic of an aging, inflexible and inadequate organization. DPP supporters are more fickle than those of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT): The public owes the party nothing and once it feels let down, it can rescind its support at any time.

None of this is rocket science.

If Cho fails to face up to these challenges, he will be swept away by the tide of history before he has a chance to settle in to his new position.

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