So, lots of articles since the election on the resounding defeat of the KMT, not only in elected office but as the clear loser in the current cultural zeitgeist. The KMT doesn't understand Taiwan, hasn't sufficiently 'Taiwanized', is trying and failing to imitate the Sunflower movement, is looking to rebrand itself to the youth...but what's to become of it? Why is it holding onto an anti-Taiwanese culture rhetoric that isn't working and is deeply out of touch with Taiwanese civil society? Can it reform itself? Is it or isn't it a 'monolith'?
(It isn't - no political party is, with very few exceptions. But I don't see how it matters if its various non-monolithic elements are still mostly either crappy or ridiculous).
At the heart of some, but not all, of these narratives is a worry that the KMT is doomed, that they will not successfully navigate the changed political and cultural landscape of Taiwan, in which their fusty old 'we are all Chinese / Three Principles of the People / we are the ones qualified to run Taiwan, not you provincials' values no longer have traction. Many - again, not all - of these articles seem to take it as a given that it would be a fundamentally good thing for the KMT to reform, to "Taiwanize", to finally divest itself of its authoritarian past.
I would like to make the argument, however, that it might not necessarily be a good thing - or at least, that it wouldn't be a bad thing - if the KMT really did sputter and die, and that perhaps Taiwan would be better off with an erstwhile, rather than active, Chinese Nationalist party.
Here's the thing - I do understand that it would be a political mess for most countries to rid themselves of every political party with an unsavory past. The US would have to shut down the Democratic and Republican parties. (Though again I'm not so sure it would be a bad idea to do so in the long run. An America free of these two entrenched establishment powerhouse parties might end up in a better place). I do understand the impulse to hope for the KMT to atone for its past crimes, as for the time being it's not going anywhere. Better an atoned party in the system than one that can't quite move on from its dictatorial past, I guess.
But wouldn't it be better yet if a party that was the core leadership of a mass-murdering dictatorship in living memory, that people don't call genocidal on what I would say is a semantic technicality (though let's not get into that argument again), did cease to exist? Why is the best case scenario for a reformed KMT, rather than a non-existent KMT?
I do take a very hard line view on this, because my family survived the Armenian genocide in Turkey. I view such crimes - the mass murder of the KMT among them - to be unforgivable. People ask "what does the KMT need to do to be treated as a legitimate party in today's political system? When will people stop bringing up the past and look at who they are today? What do they need to do to prove they are not the same party that they once were?"
(Not kidding, I've seen several people ask this in more or less these words).
I would say - there is nothing they can do. There is no forgiveness. There is no way to absolve yourself of mass murder. There is no way to absolve yourself of dictatorship. If a party engaged in these crimes, why should they be forgiven? Why should they be given another chance in a democratic nation? What have they done to deserve it? The government recognizes the crimes committed against the people and even has a holiday and two museums to commemorate it (though they are trying to shut one down), but the KMT as a party has never adequately apologized for its actions - nor am I sure the KMT ever could adequately apologize. They have not adequately released records from that era, they have not adequately made reparations to families, they have not adequately owned up to what they've done. Transitional justice in this regard has not been done. They still have the same old attitude of "well that was in the past, you'd best forget it and by the way, don't forget to vote for us, also please don't take away all of the assets we stole from you".
There simply is no forgiveness for something like the White Terror, so I don't see any reason why one should heed the "the past is the past, the KMT is different now" calls for tolerance. I am not tolerant of Armenian genocide apologists or deniers, so I see no reason to be tolerant of the party that in living memory committed mass murder among other crimes against the people in Taiwan. There is quite literally nothing they can do to remove that stain, nor should there be. As far as I'm concerned, if you perpetrate a crime against society on that scale, there is no going back, you do not deserve to exist or be any sort of political or ruling force.
What's more, why should we hope that they reform themselves from being the party of stolen assets which they fight against returning?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of compulsory party education and attempted brainwashing?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party that had the chance to keep Taiwan in the UN as a non-security council participant, and screwed the country by not doing so?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of trying to wipe out Taiwanese language and culture and replace it, in great cultural imperialist fashion, with Chinese nationalism and Mandarin?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of unapologetic and continued revisionist history?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of destroying and then ignoring Taiwan's economy until they couldn't anymore, rebuilding what they wrecked and then claiming credit for the "Taiwan miracle"?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of the 'we are the only true qualified rulers of Taiwan' attitude and all the condescension it implies?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of the rich, pro-China, powerful and nepotistic?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party of eventual unification?
Why should we hope they reform themselves from being the party that blocks transitional justice at every turn?
Why does it matter if they "reform themselves" successfully? They are a stained party with a stained past. Why would it be such a bad thing if they simply ceased to exist? Why does one need to even consider forgiveness? Why do we need to let them 'move on' from their 'authoritarian past'? They are their authoritarian past, there is no divorcing the two.
In short, fuck the KMT.
I don't hope they reform themselves. I hope they die (as a party, obviously I don't want individual people to die). I was not affected by the White Terror, but as an Armenian I can feel quite clearly how insulting it is to imply that those who were terrorized or who had loved ones terrorized by the KMT should now accept the 'new', 'improved' party. There is no reason why they should have to do so. There is no reason why they should be told by others that they are no longer allowed to have their views colored by the past. In the words of a friend, it is deeply offensive to tell a victim when they must stop being a victim, if they feel atonement has not been made, or can never be made.
Obviously, an outright ban on the KMT wouldn't go over well. People do, for some reason, vote for them. There are some good people in their ranks (I suppose). While I wouldn't be opposed to banning a party that literally committed mass murder, I'm not sure it's a politically viable solution. They do have a (shrinking) support base, still.
Instead, let's just stop wringing our hands over "what's to be done about the KMT? Can they bounce back from this"? They probably will, someday, anyway, despite the wishful thinking I'm about to unleash below. Let's forget about making the KMT viable and see if maybe that support base continues to shrink, and if the KMT disappears because it just can't keep up with the rapid cultural and political changes in modern Taiwan.
Maybe the KMT won't have to be banned - maybe it will fracture and dissolve and eventually off itself.
Why on earth would we need to be upset about that? If people stop voting for a party and the party therefore ceases to exist, why is that necessarily a bad thing?
I don't mean to imply, by the way, that the DPP should be left as the sole major party in Taiwan. That would also be a terrible way forward. I don't even like the DPP very much! Instead, why not let a new party step in - not People First (James Soong has also done unforgivable things) but something like it - and fill the needs of broadly 'conservative' voters. I may not be a conservative but I recognize some people are, and they need people to represent them, after all. A party without a murderous, brutally dictatorial past, perhaps?
Hell, why not let Taiwan evolve into a KMT-less multi-party democracy? Would that really be so bad?
In short, who cares what's best for the KMT? We should be asking what's best for Taiwan, and would it not potentially be best for Taiwan not to have a KMT at all, and to evolve into a non-binary democracy where the political views of all voters can potentially, broadly, be met in a variety of candidates?
tl;dr - I just don't care if the KMT crashes and burns. I don't mean that I want a one-party DPP-run state, just that I want more non-KMT party options to fill that void. So let's stop worrying, 'k?
It's time to send the nationalists to a nice farm upstate. Don't do it with bans. Do it with votes.