In the past, the GPT just campaigned on ideals, but it has wasted too many resources in this way: ‘this time we are not just campaigning on ideals, we are campaigning to get elected.’ This was how GPT Co-Convenor Wang Hau-yu described the party’s past and goals for the next round of elections in 2018. There were echoes of Lee Ken-cheng’s controversial 2014 critique of the old GPT (discussed in Chapter 3). It is not certain whether Wang’s remarks were meant as a criticism of the Lee- and Pan-era GPT, but Wang undoubtedly wanted to see a radically different style of party operation. For some this meant the GPT was becoming a professional party that could compete with mainstream parties, but for others it meant the party was selling its soul.
Although Wang was only Co-Convenor for part of the period covered in this chapter, he was by far the most influential and well-known party member until he defected to the DPP after the 2020 election. In this chapter, I will focus on the first part of this period, from the 2016 defeat through to the first election of the Wang Hau-yu era in 2018. First, I will examine the state of both the GPT and the Trees Party in the aftermath of their 2016 election setbacks. I will then offer a picture of the GPT’s party change through an analysis of its 2018 campaign, which was starkly different from previous local election campaigns in 2014. I will consider how to best explain the GPT’s core patterns of party change in the 2018 campaign. The second puzzle revolves around explaining the GPT and Trees Party’s electoral performance. Why, despite such different campaign strategies and issue appeals, were the GPT’s election results very similar to the last round? I will give less attention to the Trees Party than in the previous chapters, as it only had one serious set of candidates in 2018.