US Democrats, lo­cal KMT stuck in quick­sand

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - DANIEL J. BAUER

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.)

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