On the importance of embracing defeat

The China Post news staff

Acting Kuomintang (KMT) Chairwoman Huang Min-hui urged members to roll up their sleeves and begin the daunting task of reforming the party after it was soundly defeated by the DPP in last Saturday’s election. Huang said that the party was thankful for the strong message sent by voters, giving it the opportunity to reflect upon how far it had moved away from the public in recent years. Unlike its previous tragedies, including the year 2000 when the party was in denial after it lost power for first time in 50 years, the KMT has seemingly (at least publicly) catapulted itself to the fifth and final stage of grief: “acceptance” — moving swiftly past denial, anger, bargaining and depression (perhaps with the majority of these stages falling upon its supporters instead). However, the currently brewing debates over party reform and the run-up to the election of a new party leader will reveal that much more bargaining may be in the works before the party is able to move forward and accede to growing demands toward internal democratization and youth participation. Much of this bargaining was pushed down for the sake of presenting a united front following Eric Chu’s candidacy; there are no reasons now for these conflicts to remain hidden under the niceties of unity if the party is incapable of functioning. The party’s core ideology has seen fissures that manifested itself not only in Hung Hsiu-chu’s ouster as the party’s democratically (or at least, procedurally) legitimate presidential candidate, but also a willingness to prioritize the winning of votes rather than deep reflections upon the party’s credo and strengths. So unless something has really changed, past calls by the leadership for unity can only signal the underlying division, and current calls for reform portend a continuation of the status quo. The greatest indication toward real change is whether the party can find a swift and proactive solution to its more dubiously obtained party assets before it goes under the scalpel following the passage of the proposed Political Party Act. These assets, whether they have been truly placed under trusteeship, haunt party innovation just as severely as addicts to their poisonous substances: the high is temporary, and the necessary upkeep a destruction of true assets: individual talent. An organization that rewards innovative ideas not through backroom handshakes, bloodlines and patronage but through merit is what gave the KMT its initial power as a revolutionary political force during a decaying Qing Dynasty in the first place. Later, the DPP shrugged off defeat following its darkest times by exactly the same process: it swallowed a bitter pill by accepting much needed reforms to its ideological stances, moving itself into the mainstream.

While leadership and experience are important if the KMT is to become a viable opposition in the Legislative Yuan, a new chairman or chairwoman who is unable to hold the party’s excesses to the knife and hides behind hollow concepts of “party unity” will only give rise to factions led by personas. Therefore, a fundamental retrospection and discussion led by interim party leader Huang needs to take immediate precedence over the selection of the party’s next leader. Otherwise, old systems of power will continue to rule supreme, bringing only superficial changes to an already wobbling party foundation. Only by truly accepting the reasons behind its defeat, can the KMT actively reform itself. Only by truly implementing reforms, can the KMT actively become a responsible opposition party to win back popular trust through its actions to consolidate and strengthen Taiwan’s democratic institutions. This would be the true win-win situation for the party and for Taiwan.