Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Lai Ching-te vs. the Frankenticket

Yeah yeah yeah I know this is literary or whatever, but the Ko-Hou Frankenticket really does feel like a monkey riding a lobster

I didn't want to say it yesterday, but I knew -- I knew -- the moment Emperor Ma Ying-jeou stuck his sticky dirty fingers into the Taiwanese election, that the Ko/Hou team-up was more likely than not. That's how it always goes. The KMT halfheartedly tries to be a party for the 2020s, kind of, but then Ma asserts his kingship and things just typically go his way. 

I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's something particularly enigmatic about him that makes the KMT want to fawn all over him like he is their ancient god-king? After all, he is exactly the sort of mottled old authority figure they love to bow to and he's spent years consolidating his power.

Maybe it's nostalgia for a time when the KMT was the ruling party. Ma was exactly the sort of stiff-suited guy who looked and acted like Authority, embodying everything the KMT wishes it could consistently be. (If that sounds awful to you, well, what the KMT wants to be -- the eternally ruling party of The Real China -- is actually awful. So that tracks.) 

Quite possibly, what the KMT miss is a time when they had a presidential candidate who could actually win. They do seem to have had such bad buyer's remorse over the past two out of three races that they replaced one candidate and are on their way to replacing another. I'm not convinced they didn't have buyer's remorse over Han, too, considering how badly he lost, but at least they didn't kick him down or off the ticket. 

Regardless, once the Ko/Hou dance became a ménage à trois, it was clear that Ma would end up on top. 

I didn't always think the Ko/Hou match-up was inevitable. If you'd asked me a week ago (and a few people did), I would've said that it was unlikely. The train had left the station, as the Taiwanese press has loved saying. 

But now here we are. Ko and Hou are officially an item, with Ma as matchmaker. A throuple, really. 

It's still unclear who will lead the ticket, but the decision will be made in the most transparently absurd method I can imagine. By poll, but not really. Ko and the TPP will choose a poll, and Hou and the KMT will do the same. A third poll will be chosen by the (barf) Ma Ying-jeou Foundation. Which is to say, Ma Ying-jeou himself.

Here's the wrinkled A4 printout they all signed to that effect: 


I don't know the precise calculus that will determine how the polls are combined, but the ruse is so obvious that I doubt I need to. Ko will pick a poll that favors himself. Hou will do the same. Ma will pick whomever the hell he wants, and being the tie-breaker, that guy will get the presidential slot. 

In other words, the opposition "unity ticket" presidential candidate will be chosen by Ma Ying-jeou, a move that he's clearly planned all along. The man is a snake, and not even a particularly deceptive one, though I imagine he believes himself to be cunning and deft. 

Ma Ying-jeou really is the human embodiment of a glass wastebin. Full of trash, and I see right through him. 

Since Hou lacks backbone, the rest of the KMT mostly simps for Ma (maybe not all of them, but enough) and Ko and Ma are both either CCP assets or CCP asset-adjacent, the real winner today isn't whoever leads the ticket. I think the winner is China.

Yes, I know I'm echoing Lai Ching-te himself. He called the "blue-white alliance" the CCP's "most hoped-for" outcome. But you know what? Lai is likely correct.

Even Ma has only somewhat won, because it won't be a straight KMT ticket. And if I had to put my money on Ma's pick, it would be Ko. Ko seems to mostly be leading Hou, and I think their CCP masters want the guy who is more likely to win. Ma will do whatever his Chinese handlers tell him, so if they say it's Ko, it's Ko. 

I could be wrong. As of yesterday, there were indications that a Hou-led ticket was more likely to win. This is just what my gut says.

Update: here's a solid reason why Ma might not necessarily think having Ko lead the ticket is a bad thing. I saw this on the timeline of Taipei city councilor and all-around awesome person Miao Poya. Miao is amazing (I've met her, and she made a lasting impression), and you should listen to everything she has to say.

Look closely at the last few lines of that document. This is the arrangement: 

部會原則上依立委席次分配 = ministries and committees will be allocated according to the number of seats (each party has) in the legislature. 

The KMT will certainly win more seats than the TPP, so the government will be run by the KMT, no matter who leads the ticket. Ko might not be the pawn Ma thinks he will, but it also might not matter. 

民眾黨主責監督制衡,國民黨主責建設發展 = the TPP will be in charge of "supervision and checks and balances", and the KMT will be in charge of "construction and development."

"Supervision and checks and balances" are vague responsibilities. They can mean whatever you want them to mean. Miao says this basically means that the TPP will be in charge of checking Ko, whereas the KMT gets to do the concrete work (pun intended). That is, the KMT gets to actually govern. 

Miao rightly asks if this is really what the youth want. After all, pan-greens (not all of them are DPP) have begun their own youth campaign of candidates, called 這個時代 or "This Generation", who are actually young, and who were actually Sunflowers or allied with that cause. They include Huang Jie, Miao herself, Wu Zhen, Lin Liang-chun and more. 

Why vote for Ko when you can vote for voices that actually represent the youth, and aren't necessarily from the DPP?

Ugh. Anyway.

Yes, this would make 2024 the first election since democratization in which the KMT has not run a presidential candidate. I guess that's interesting, but I won't be particularly surprised. They desperately want China's favor, and the CCP has been tiring of their lack of popularity for awhile and would rather back whomever they can cultivate as an asset, who might defeat the DPP nationally. 

Because previous polls showed a Ko/Hou unity ticket could beat Lai, plenty of commentators are going to treat these two turds as the probable winners of the 2024 election. And you know what? Maybe they will be. It's certainly possible, and polls do indicate as much. 

I'm more optimistic, however. 

First, the polls that say they can beat Lai together seem to approximately equal their total combined support. This indicates that most people who intended to vote for one or the other have said they'd vote for both. I suspect these respondents assume their preferred candidate will be at the top of the ticket, and might be unpleasantly surprised to find their guy now taking the vice presidential slot. The vice president doesn't have many specific duties, and both sides might be unhappy with sloppy seconds. 

There's also a fair chance that supporters of one simply haven't heard enough of what the other has to say. Will KMT voters who hadn't previously paid much attention to Ko be surprised when he says something outright rude or misogynist? (Not that there aren't misogynists in the KMT, but they never quite say it the way Ko does). 

Will tried-and-true "the ROC will rise again" types be put off by how easily Ko let himself be co-opted by China? Will Ko fans be bored by Hou's pointless, establishment rambling? Will they find he lacks dynamism, or perhaps feel isn't enough of a Chinese asset? Will they be annoyed that he doesn't openly hate women as much as their Favorite Guy? 

Ko's head-scratching youth support (I'm still looking for an issue where he actually represents their interests beyond simply not being KMT or DPP) will likely vanish if he's Hou's vice presidential running mate, and some Ko youth might abandon him simply for working with the KMT. Although they mostly seem to be men I'd never want to be friends with (and would tell my female friends to break up with), how many of these annoying young men want Ma Ying-jeou to pick their candidate? 

I didn't cover this in the last post, so you might be wondering why I said that Ko "screwed the Sunflowers". Well, apparently he apologized for his initial stance toward the Sunflowers, whose political wave helped propel him to the Taipei mayoralty, to former legislator and man generally hated by the Sunflower generation Alex Tsai (蔡正元). I really don't understand why he's the "youth candidate" after something like that.

Even if one doesn't care about what the Sunflowers stood for, how is an old sexist who turned into a CCP stooge someone who represents the youth?

And that's not even getting into Ko support among unificationists and one guy convicted for election bribery

Hou fans -- all 19 of them -- might feel betrayed by their Grand Old KMT gutting itself, letting an outsider top their man. A Ko ticket might keep some of the youth vote, but it might not keep the oldsters. Even '49er descended dark blues who are lukewarm on Hou because he's a local might run away in disgust, once they've seen what this ticket actually looks like.

I can only hope that voters see that the real backer of this unity ticket is the CCP, and run away fast. I hope they'll realize this isn't a chance to knock out the KMT as the main opposition so much as it's voting for stooges. But, as my Taiwanese teacher pointed out, democracy means stupid votes are worth the same as smart ones, so we'll see. 

On that topic, I don't actually think the KMT is willingly ending its reign as the main opposition to the DPP. I've never been impressed with Ma's brainpower, but he's not stupid. He wouldn't do this if he thought it would be letting the TPP co-opt the KMT, and not the other way around (as Donovan noted in Taiwan News, the KMT has a history of co-opting third parties). 

In other words, this frankenticket looks good now. The polls say it's good. The polls might even continue to say it's good for awhile. I can only hope I'm right, and that it will eventually blow up in their faces. 

There's also the question of the Lai campaign's response. I haven't even checked yet to see if they've officially nominated Hsiao Bi-khim as his running mate. We all know it's going to happen -- it's hardly even a prediction at this point -- but if they do, it might help.  She's popular, competent and international. 

Otherwise, Lai has been running an almost comically boring campaign. His domestic policies haven't impressed me so far, and on foreign policy he seems to be trying to project an image of staid continuity, a Tsai Ing-wen 2.0 who won't say anything rash, but also won't give in to China. This is probably wise, as his critics' biggest accusation is that he's a pro-independence firebrand.

Make no mistake, he is pro-independence. So is Tsai, in her way. Most of the DPP are (a few of the older ones have gone off the rails and started working against those ends...don't get me started). But he's got a reputation for hot-bloodedness that Tsai, who is more of an even-tempered professor type, does not. It makes sense to downplay that. When it looked like victory would be easy, I can understand running a boring, understated campaign. You know, don't give your enemies too much to say about you. 

The problem is, Lai also hasn't given his allies much to say about him. While I'm not as green as you'd think -- I just hate the KMT and CCP and consider Taiwan independent, period -- I suppose you could call me Lai-supporter-adjacent. And I just don't have a lot to say about him! 

(And what I could say, I won't, for various personal reasons.) 

The K'Hou Frankenticket will certainly force the Lai campaign to kick into a higher gear, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm now more worried about the election being won by CCP assets than I was a week ago, but also have to hope that the DPP has a response strategy prepared and ready to go. It's unclear that this development will drive DPP supporters to the voting booth in greater numbers, but I certainly hope the Lai campaign realizes this and has some ideas. 

I'm not entirely confident that the DPP's response will astound. They've been caught flat-footed before.  But it doesn't have to astound -- all it has to do is win. 

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