US Democrats, local KMT stuck in quicksand
I’ve been back in Taiwan now for three weeks after a recent visit to the United States. Although my stay over there was only for two months, several impressions I picked up are still nagging at me.
I believe those impressions are relevant for our local scene.
First, a caveat about my views on American politics: with the exception of a sibling who, like me, is rather much a political junkie, and a few sweet cousins in the Twin Cities, my friends and loved ones tend to be more conservative than I am. I think that’s cool. It’s great to be able to enjoy a dash of civility and mutual respect in relationships. We need not let politics interfere with our affection for each other.
Impression # 1 — For various reasons, attitudes of tolerance and acceptance of those who are perceived as “different” are taking dramatic hits these days. Much of the conversation about current American society and its problems is not a conversation at all. It is a monologue. There is little stomach among many for listening, analysis, or pondering together. Few with whom I spoke seem at all interested in seeking common ground with those they regard as “adversaries.” People’s minds are made up. People want agreement or a change of topic, meaning silence.
Impression # 2 — Perhaps politics in the United States has always been personal. Views of prospective candidates for the major parties hardly center at all on issues. The focus is almost all on personalities.
Impression # 3 — Partly because of the points above, raw emotion, not logic or reasoning, tends to rule the day. In the blink of an eye, political discussions degenerate to words of condemnation. Categorization of others and name-calling result. “You liberals,” “people who watch Fox News,” “gays and lesbians and those others,” “the liberal media,” “you Obama-people.” All of these ineffective generalities are obvious examples that reek with stereotypical thinking and put a stop to the simplest of efforts to see “the other” as human or vulnerable to pain or injustice. Among an entire swath of the population, there appears to be outright disdain for a rational, step by step assessment of situations affecting millions, whether the topic is foreign policy, immigration reform, health-care, or solutions for problems in the economy.
Impression # 4 — Neither of the two large parties is at present able to offer attractive candidates for the highest offices in the land. This is so, despite the impressive records of more than a few longestablished public servants.
In the context of that seemingly distant arena in the USA, it is interesting to consider dilemmas both our local Kuomintang Party (KMT) and (the American) Democratic Party are facing. In different lands, both parties appear to be stuck in the grip of quicksand. Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu of the KMT has a technical hold on her party’s nomination. She has fought the good fight, hasn’t she, and run the good race? Why then all the talk of smoke and mirrors and of a possible new flagbearer for the KMT?
Hillary Clinton long ago solidified the starting base she requires for her nomination, over 20 per cent of pledged delegate votes at the Democratic convention next summer. Until the scandal about her personal email server exploded in her face last spring, her nomination looked as tightly locked up as the front doors of Fort Knox. Polls have shown for months that public confidence in her integrity and judgment, however, have plummeted. Things have gotten so bad that foregone conclusions about the unavailability (not to say unacceptability) of Vice President Joe Biden and, amazingly, former Vice President Al Gore, have flown to the wind.
KMT candidate Hung Hsiu-chu keeps getting pelted with spitballs from within her own party. Speculation about a reshuffling of pages in the rulebook for her nomination, or of a whole new minting of rules, just won’t die.
It sure seems both American Democrats and local KMT stalwarts are plagued with doubt about the ability of their anointed warriors to bring home the bacon. We may long for substantive discussions of pertinent political issues, but for the moment, the talk on the streets is not about issues. It’s about personalities, period. (Father Daniel J. Bauer SVD is a priest and associate professor in the English Department at Fu Jen Catholic University.)