Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators on Wednesday accused Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of being untruthful about his image, following allegations that he and his wife had bought expensive properties.
They accused Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, of deceptively portraying himself as an “everyman,” and encouraged him not to incite class conflict.
Focusing on Han’s personality campaign will not help the DPP in the elections for a number of reasons. First, whether Han and his wife are wealthy is irrelevant, because that alone should not disqualify a candidate, and educated voters know that. If he is deceitful on this point, that would be an issue that reflects on his character. However, his supporters are unlikely to be influenced or put off by the extent of his wealth.
Second, there is no conflict between a person’s wealth and whether they do “everyday” things, such as using a gas station washroom or doing their own laundry — all things Han’s campaign team depicted him doing earlier this week. He may be appealing to populist sentiment, but arguably this is just a reflection of a trend in global politics.
Third, there is no way to definitively say whether a person is an “everyman.” A Nov. 5, 2010, post on the Web site The Silver Tongue called the “everyday people” concept “a vague, poorly defined idea that is nevertheless used to legitimize and justify all manners of behaviors, ideologies and political viewpoints.”
One way people tend to think of “everyday people” is that they are the opposite of the elite, which includes politicians, royalty and celebrities. Populist politicians are the convergence of two categories of elite: politician and celebrity. Through their adoption of social media, their use of unrefined mannerisms and their seemingly “spontaneous” — but well-planned — actions, these politicians come to be perceived by many as “everyday” people.
The way politicians become popularized in modern society and its relationship to human nature means that the DPP would be doing itself a disservice if it tried to engage Han in a personality contest.
A better approach for the DPP in the remaining time before the elections would be to ensure that the public is educated on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) policies, and challenging Han to give specifics about his often vague policies.
For example, Han’s national policy advisory group leader Simon Chang (張善政) said on Aug. 18 that Han’s campaign platform is to make “Taiwan safe and its people wealthy.”
However, the KMT has attempted to obstruct amendments to national security laws since they were announced by Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) in July.
Han has also said he would scrap plans to extend the High-Speed Rail network to Pingtung County, despite previous support from the KMT and that the plans have already undergone extensive scrutiny.
Han has also made unclear promises to improve foreign relations, especially with China, while also resolutely opposing unification, a sticking point with China and which Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said in a January speech was inevitable.
There is no need to engage with Han on his level. The DPP must instead focus on what matters most — policies.
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