Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Why Bother?"

A quick thought on the ever-shifting poll numbers of Ma Ying-jiu and Tsai Ying-wen...

What worries me is that four-ish years ago, when Ma swept into office, it was on a wave from what I could only describe as resignation. Ennui, almost. From my perspective, I could almost palpably feel the defeat-before-we've-even-fought-the-fight from the DPP side, a sort of quiet sigh as they, in droves, decided not to vote.

I don't say the above lightly - I have a lot of local friends, most of them green, and almost none of them voted. Some never vote. Some don't care. Some care, but don't vote. Some thought "why bother traveling home on election day when we're going to lose anyway?" And lose they did, but I have to ask if it really had to be that way, or if the DPP could have at least put up a better fight if it'd had any fight in it after A-bian.

And now, I see it again. A sort of why-even-bother harrumph from the green side - the side that I always thought of as more passionate and invested in their beliefs than all those "I vote blue because my parents are blue but I don't actually care/know anything/think about politics"young Taipei urbanite kids. A sort of self-prophecy of defeat that worries me anew.

I didn't actually think that Frank Hsieh would win back in the day - the A-bian scandals (if you could call them that compared to what the KMT has done to Taiwan) were too fresh, too new, and after 8 years of DPP rule the country seemed poised to return to the blue side - as much as I didn't like it, I couldn't deny it.

I think Tsai could actually have a shot, though. If - if - she can mobilize the base, the independents, the undecideds, the light blues who don't like Ma. She could do it, even if she does lack a certain charisma or spark: Ma, honestly, lacks the same spark. I mean, seriously. No. Put on a shirt, pasty-boy.

But despite this, I don't think she'll win, because although she could have the support, I see the same "why bother", the same "oh Ma will win it", the same lethargy and slow unraveling. I see thousands of folks who live in Taipei but are registered down south who won't bother making the trip. I see Taiwanese abroad who won't bother coming back. Why, when you are so sure your candidate is going to lose?


John S said...

I think the fact that there is no provision for absentee voting in Taiwan is a big factor in election outcomes. As you know, so many of the workers in the north are actually from the south. So it is, in effect, much more inconvenient for them to cast a vote than other residents of the north.

Also, it means that hundreds of thousands of southerners are not voting. I have made trips down south with southerners who are making the trip primarily to be able to vote, so I know that many do spend a day to drive down, and another day to drive back.

Why is there no procedure for them to mail in an absentee ballot to the precinct where they are registered, as is common everywhere in the USA? I have asked them, and they all tell me, "Oh, that would just provide more opportunities for fraud", etc.

But another question might be why so many do not want to register their residence in the north, so they could vote in the area where they live and work.

Ma just has a sort of default legitimacy in the eyes of many. Not only because middle-aged women think he's handsome, but because he officiates at the Confucius temple ceremonies, etc. He may be seen as Quisling-esque by many, but many feel that is what is necessary for peace and prosperity.

Maybe Tsai is simply too reasonable and too logical an orator to sufficiently light a fire under the pro-Taiwan section of the electorate. Maybe those people just respond better to the more bombastic politicians. I wonder how much sexism is an issue. Maybe there are too many people who just cannot yet visualize a woman taking the male roles of conducting the Confucius ceremony, reviewing the troops, "projecting a strong image of the nation", etc.

Jenna Cody said...

John - I agree completely.

It's too bad that when the DPP had power, that they didn't change this. Maybe they were afraid that too many pro-KMT overseas Taiwanese would tip the balance in favor of the KMT, without fully thinking through the implications for Taiwanese in Taiwan who don't make the long trip home to vote?

Vote-buying is a huge issue but in terms of actual outright ballot fraud, is that so much of a concern anymore?

Anonymous said...

With no legislative majority, I do not think the DPP was really in power, at least not in a position to change the voting system.

J said...

Good point on absentee ballots- it's usually assumed they would help the KMT, because of all those businessmen in China. May in fact be the other way around. What I find really curious is that no one seems to discuss implementing them.