Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's campaign for the March 22 presidential election received an urgently needed jolt of new energy Thursday with the twin success of two "Against the Wind" marches and a massive rally at Taipei's Chungshan Football Stadium on the politically charged 61st anniversary of the "February 28th Massacre" of 1947, an event which is a symbol of the nearly 55 years of Kuomintang authoritarian rule.
The scale of participation was not as massive as the two million strong "Hand in Hand to Defend Taiwan" human chain formed on February 28, 2004 that stretched from Keelung's Peace Island in the north to Pingtung in the south.
Nevertheless, the completion of two parallel "Against the Wind" marches on Taiwan's west and eastern coasts by youthful supporters and long-time activists combined with a massive 100,000-plus strong "Praying for Taiwan: Love and Trust 228" rally that filled Taipei's Chungshan Stadium undoubtedly has helped to revive morale and confidence in the DPP camp.
The lift was urgently and even desperately needed by the DPP candidate, whose campaign has lagged in the wake of the stunning victory of the opposition Kuomintang in the January 12 Legislative Yuan and the sudden lifting of KMT nominee and former Taipei City mayor Ma Ying-jeou into an apparently commanding lead.
Ironically, a major contributing factor to the mainly spontaneous turnout by Taipei citizens yesterday was the intensifying sense of crisis among many pro-DPP supporters and Taiwan citizens over the possibility of the restoration of one-party KMT rule if Ma wins the March 22 poll combined with the KMT's nearly three-fourths control over the Legislature and the strong possibility that Taiwan's autonomy could be swallowed up in a "great China common market" under a restored KMT government.
But there was more to yesterday's events than narrow partisanship or an inflamed sense of crisis.
With the help of Chthonic lead singer Freddy Lin and former National Youth Commissioner Cheng Li-chun, dozens of youths used their feet to demonstrate that not all young Taiwanese are apathetic by leading an "Against the Wind" march that attracted greater enthusiasm as it proceeded northward from Olanpi to Taipei.
Like the "Hand-in-Hand" human chain four years earlier, the "Against the Wind" march was something which showed that "the impossible can be made possible" and showed that the energy of Taiwan's democratic movement and the values of democracy, human rights and progress still have the power to move and excite Taiwan youth and older citizens.
Moreover, the appearance of personages such as former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, who broke with the DPP after losing the fight for the nomination in the March 2000 presidential poll to then former Taipei City mayor Chen Shui-bian, and the support of so-called "July 15" or "light green" scholars has allowed Hsieh to largely shake off the negative legacy of widespread disappointment over the performance of President Chen Shui-bian's administration.
Endorsements from Hsu and long-estranged DPP lawmaker Lin Cheng-chieh, a controversial leading figure in the "Depose Chen" campaign of late 2006, also punctures any attempt by the KMT to use Chen's performance to claim that the DPP under Hsieh is a "corrupt" party.
Finally, Hsieh's forceful speech at yesterday's rally demonstrated that the DPP standard-bearer has finally emerged from Chen's shadow to be the genuine driving force in the DPP and has correctly put the realization of democratic and progressive values, as encapsulated in his calls for Taiwan people to defend their democracy from one-party rule and his advocation of a "well-being economy" that would put upgrading of living quality over the pursuit of high economic growth figures and retain Taiwan's hard-earned autonomy from absorption into a "one-China market."
Finally, Hsieh's decision to set aside partisan views and urge DPP voters to vote for both the DPP's own "Taiwan for the U.N." referendum and the KMT's referendum calling for the "readmission" of the "Republic of China" highlighted the shift in the DPP from sectarianism to a "majoritarian" approach under Hsieh's call for a "positive and tolerant new Taiwan-centric consciousness" as well as reaffirming the DPP's commitment to achieving Taiwan's rightful place in international society and ensure that the Taiwan people realize their dream of being the masters of their own destiny.
Whether the surfacing of the genuine Frank Hsieh campaign will be enough to energize new support and overcome the gap with Ma's "play safe" campaign obviously cannot be known.
But what is clear is that the real race is not over and indeed may just be beginning.