Frozen Garlic: Campaign Trail: TPP rally in Taichung


Ko presents politics in a moral frame. For him, diligence is the hallmark of morality. Working hard is the only consistent theme that the TPP communicates. They talked over and over about starting meetings at 7:30, as early starts guaranteed good results. Ko likes to repeat, 嗡嗡嗡, an onomatopoeia meaning something like work, work, work.

However, Ko’s discourse is missing the defining elements of populist rhetoric. He does not invoke the “real people” in a populist sense. He does not see the people as homogeneous; rather, he talks quite a bit about diversity and pluralism. He also does not define a general will on behalf of the real people. Ko says that administrative efficiency is the most important thing for effective government, but he doesn’t seem to think that the general public has, above all, a burning desire for administrative efficiency. This is more of an internal, technocratic instruction to his team: if you want to perform well in office, you have to have administrative efficiency.

Ko’s discourse might have a coherent internal logic, but it is, nonetheless, horribly flawed. Ko’s fundamental assumption – that Taiwan can’t and so shouldn’t do anything about its relationship with China – is clearly false. The United States has never issued a blank check to Taiwan; that relationship must be carefully managed and nurtured. More importantly, the relationship with China does not reduce simply to unification or independence. Taiwan has to make important decisions about day to day economic, cultural, and political interactions. Those decisions will have an enormous impact on how the relationship develops in future years and decades, and that relationship will in turn affect the choices around Taiwan’s future status. Ko simply doesn’t want to talk about how he would manage China policy. For now, the handful of TPP legislators might be able to sidestep this question, but if Ko runs for president in the future, this answer will not be sufficient. The TPP might also eventually have to face the problem that lots of politicians work hard; they do not have a monopoly on their central selling point. However, other than ignoring cross-strait relations and working hard, it is unclear what the TPP represents. In the end, maybe all they are left with is Ko Wen-je’s personal charisma.

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Campaign Trail: TPP rally in Taichung

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