Sign of the rising price of metal: One of my neighbors is an artist who works in various metals. This weekend he surprised a thief attempting to make off with some metal which he had kept as parts for his work. The thief had stolen one basket and was surprised when he came back for another. The first basket was not recovered, alas.

Speaking of rusty old parts, the DPP continues to discuss the direction of the party, which might be made into a Hollywood sequel entitled Any Which Way But Forward. Yesterday the Chinese language papers were speculating that Frank Hsieh, the failed presidential candidate and caretaker chairman until May, was seeking to ensure the position for Lee Ying-yuan. Lee may or may not make a good chairman — the last time he got elected to anything was 1998, as Feiren pointed out when I asked him about it — but the key issue is that Hsieh wants Lee because Lee is his close friend — not because Lee is a veteran political strategist, can communicate well with the foreign media, has experience in party operations, is a good coalition builder, or any other particular quality important to a Chairman at this critical moment in the party’s history. They say defeat is a great teacher, but even in politics, good teachers still require good students….

The Taipei Times had a couple of articles on the DPP chairman search today. The first said that Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh’s vice presidential candidate, denied he was interested in becoming chairman:

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) dismissed media speculation yesterday that he would run in the election for party chairman in May.

Su was not the only senior party member to show a lack of interest in running for the position. Others whom media had speculated could be interested in the position but who rebuffed the rumors include Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun.

Su told reporters outside his residence yesterday that he would not run in the race on May 25, nor would he strike alliances with any individual or faction within the party.

“The most important thing at the moment is to respond to the people’s [wishes] and learn from them,” he said. “We should not be concerned with fighting for positions. I don’t think Taiwanese want to see that.”

The party’s charter stipulates that the head of state should lead the party when it is in power and that party members should directly elect the chairman when it is in the opposition.

It should be noted that Su might be playing coy, waiting for that “invitation.” Remember when Ma Ying-jeou was out of politics and had to be “begged” by his father to re-enter and run for Taipei mayor?

It’s a measure of how screwed up the DPP is that when it needs a wholesale reconstruction that people are mentioning Annette Lu or Yu Shyi-kun. The article observes that it is in the DPP charter that when the party controls the head of state, the head of state must be the Chairman. That curse is a practice the DPP picked up from the KMT, and shows how one of the DPP’s problems is that its only real model for how to be a political party is the KMT. Like an abused child, the DPP in adulthood simply recapitulates the errors it was taught when young….

A second report is a CNA report on the DPP’s internal reform process, quite brief. I quote the relevant portions:

DPP legislative whip William Lai (賴清德) said the caucus had started work on creating an ad hoc group that would push for structural reform within the party and serve as a platform to ensure a smooth process.

Over the next week the caucus will solicit the opinion of its members, other DPP members, party supporters and the public on the reform plans and a proposal could be drafted before the next DPP caucus meeting scheduled for April 11, Lai said.

During a DPP caucus meeting on Friday, DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said in a written statement that the party should revert to the basic political line that defined it before it came to power, Lai said.

DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said the DPP should address the problem posed by figurehead party members and consider building a system to regularly recruit and nurture party members, Lai said.

“Figurehead party members” referred to above would appear to be party members kept by local factions affiliated with the DPP for the purpose of vote buying (sometimes known as nominal party members — 人頭黨員). More importantly, the DPP legislator observes that the DPP ought to consider building a system for recruiting and nurturing party members.

Yes, you read that right. At the moment, the DPP does not have a party machine that scoops up people, especially young people, and brings them into the party. The KMT has many avenues, from the China Youth Corps to the farm, fishing, and irrigation associations, to informal social groupings such as clubs and other associations. The KMT’s Leninist background gives it a huge advantage in mobilization over the DPP.

What we need, in a nutshell, is a Chairman who is a professional without personal interest in high position, with excellent organizational and coalition building skills, who can communicate in English effectively with the foreign media, and so on. What we don’t need is someone’s buddy, or someone selected because they are ideologically pure….