Taiwan had its election on January 16th, elevating Tsai English Language (her real name) to the presidency. Tsai represented the DPP, which is roughly equivalent to the island’s progressive party. She beat the traditionally minded KMT candidate and a third party handily, with about 60% of the vote.
Her victory was celebrated by the young and celebrities with a similar kind of euphoria as when Barack Obama took office, with many happy that Tsai is female.
The DPP is seen as younger and more enlightened than the stodgy KMT, which is the party of Chiang Kai-shek, who was the leader of the Republic of China before being chased to Taiwan in 1950 by the bloodthirsty mainland communists. Which makes it sound strange that DPP is the anti-China party. But it’s only odd when you consider that well into the 1970s Taiwan claimed to be the legitimate authority of all China. That is, of course, no longer the case. Taiwan moved from its authoritarian nature and became a modern democracy in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and it maintains a weird and touchy relationship with China. That is a gross simplification, but it captures some large currents.
Part of the DPP’s appeal are to those who consider themselves Taiwanese and not Chinese. For instance, many, largely in the south of Taiwan, make a point of speaking Taiwanese and not Mandarin. But it is also true that much of the DPP’s pull, especially among the young, is its progressive stance on many questions. For instance, a DPP “green” paper, the Taipei Times, is deeply concerned about global warming and the “rights” of those claiming same-sex attraction. Et cetera. The blue papers return insult for insult, but with less vitriol, not being as progressive.
The picture will be entirely familiar to those living in older democracies, with folks there understanding democracies force politics on its citizens, with the concomitant acrimony necessarily following. For example, what is the best official attitude to take on, say, the Muslim migrant crisis in Europe? An equivalent question in scope is how Taiwan should treat China economically. In both cases the majority of citizens can offer little of value, for the trivially simple reason that they have no experience in statecraft and little understanding of history and so forth beyond their own family.
Yet democracy runs on egalitarianism, which insists lack of ability, interest, or sense is no barrier to participation. Indeed, even to mention these matters, as I’m doing now, is seen as gauche. The fallacy that one ignorant man is of no help but that a million ignorant men can vote its way to truth will and must be believed. This is why democracies are corrosive of tradition.
As a for-instance, consider same-sex “marriage”, i.e. gmarriage (for government-marriage). That democratic governments have the conceit that they can define marriage is the first and major problem. The second is then invoking this fictional power. Gmarriage, incidentally, is always misunderstood. What’s troubling is not that two persons of the same sex choose to call themselves “married”, which is of little to no interest, but that democratic governments must force everybody to call that pair “married”, too. Gmarriage is totalitarian. Which, as readers familiar with history recognize, is another common trait of advanced democracies.
In Taiwan, Tsai English Language is not married, which is far less usual there than in the West. She has a fondness for cats and has publicly revealed her support for gmarriage. She said, “In the face of love, everyone is equal. Let everyone have the freedom to love and to pursue their happiness. I am Tsai Ing-wen, and I support marriage equality.” Raw egalitarianism.
Immediately after her election, a group called Pride Watch Taiwan released a survey showing support of Legislative Yuan members for gmarriage. The DPP had 32 members agree, and 4 disagree; but the amazing thing was 32 members didn’t have the guts to say either way. The ratio is skewed more toward disagree in the KMT, but still 21 members (60%) are waiting to see which way the wind blows.
It’s blowing away from traditional Confucianism with its heavy and significant emphasis on duty and family (which, of course, does not technically exist in gmarriages, since the couples cannot procreate; incidentally, egalitarianism will soon attack the “couple” notion). Abandoning 2,500 years of culture in a short 25 winters is something a democracy can certainly do, but will it happen in Taiwan? Those in the DPP who only wanted to oppose China and are satisfied with cultural traditions might not be ready. But it’s not a bad bet to take.