|[a] Selection RF|
Election 7 Election 8 Election 9 Election 10 Election 11 Election 12
Election 13 Election 14 Election 15 Election 16 Election 17 Election 18
The next several dozen entries in this series represent my memories—in the form of fieldnotes that were already well on their way to being letters—of Taiwan's provincial elections in November 1985. I had taken down what I call "jottings" at the time, and "now," two months later, I was ready to get a little bit more detail down in the form of fieldnotes. If you are somewhat unfamiliar with the five-stage process that framed my work habits even back then, it might be worth a quick look at the introduction to this series. Suffice to say here that in Taiwan in 1985 I was working from "jottings" to "fieldnotes" most of the time. Every month or so, I would write a letter that made it all into a more sustained narrative. Even early on, I realized how powerfully the knowledge that I would be writing letters influenced my fieldnotes. You may see it, too. It has remained my method to this day.
|[b] Competition RF|
My regret? I wish that I would have pursued that idea more aggressively back in 1986. In other words, a deeper pursuit of what it means for a one-party state to move toward (in)direct representation, even while keeping a close and sometimes nervous watch on it, is as relevant to political culture all over the world today as it was in the mid-1980s. On the other hand, that is precisely the role fieldnotes should play. They are not merely informational. If they "work" (and I would argue that almost all of them do...if they are written in the first place), they can inspire thinking months, years, and even decades later.
|[c] Meat-n-greet RF|
And don't tell me that this is "political science." No, a careful reflection on indirect selection and one-party states should be as much the territory of anthropology as political science or any other discipline. Don't be surprised if you see a Round and Square series in the future called "Political Culture." You know I'm serious.
 The fascinating little hint in the second sentence is what I wish I had pursued in great—and even exhaustive—detail. Another regret. What is it to have a population outwardly accept a government's political legitimacy? It is a question that more anthropologists need to consider. IR and political science have their very significant roles, but this is the very stuff of anthropology, if you ask me.
|[d] Indirect RF|
But it is the party—the Guomindang—which is the ultimate source of political power on the island. The majority of Taiwan’s citizens outwardly accept the Guomindang’s political legitimacy. The Guomindang is the government; there is no political opposition within the ultimate realm of decision making on Taiwan. All of the country’s important decisions are made by party members elected directly or, more often, indirectly by the people. The indirect selection is the key to understanding both the status quo and movement toward change.
Elections can be a problem for authoritarian states; this is evident from recent elections in the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Argentina. Once given the right to choose their leaders, people do not easily give it up. For this reason, many one party states have suppressed elections or drastically restructured them. In contrast, Taiwan’s elections are reasonably open and competitive. But they are only local in scope; it is as if Americans could vote only for city councilmen and state representatives; mayors, governors, and all national offices would be appointed by “the party.” Taiwan’s leaders have created free, democratic elections while limiting their scope, their duration, and the issues covered.
|[e] Choice RF|