Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Yosano-Hiranuma alliance of convenience

Michael Cucek has already pondered Yosano Kaoru's thinking behind his strange alliance with arch-revisionist Hiranuma Takeo — which has resulted in party that will supposedly be called Stand Up Japan! (the SUJ? As if Your Party wasn't bad enough) — but there's another factor beyond the electoral factors considered by Cucek.

The alliance is a marriage of convenience in policy terms for both Yosano and Hiranuma.

As I've argued in the past, if the revisionist conservatives have a blind spot, it is a patent inability to speak intelligently about economic problems (which was one reason why the appointment of the late Nakagawa Shoichi as finance minister so puzzling). They love symbolic politics — they love making the case for why, in the grand sweep of history, their program of revising the constitution, reinvigorating Japanese arms, and defending traditional culture is imperative. When it comes to speaking convincingly about the economic insecurities faced by Japanese families, however, they fumble, as the government of Abe Shinzo (and Abe's decision to campaign in the 2007 upper house election on constitution revision) so clearly illustrates. Not only can they not emote on economic issues, they just have nothing new or interesting to say when it comes to solutions to the problems plaguing the Japanese economy.

If there's one thing Yosano can do, it's economic policy, having long fought a lonely battle within the LDP for fiscal reconstruction. Whatever other considerations are going through his mind, we should not forget his emphasis on forthrightly explaining policy proposals to the nation. Indeed, he wrote a whole book on this idea, a book in which he comes across as wholly sincere.

As such, Stand Up Japan! is an alliance of convenience for both its progenitors. I expect Yosano will have a free hand to push his economic agenda of choice without having to compromise as he did within the LDP, while Hiranuma will have a vehicle for inserting the revisionist agenda into election campaign without having to worry about having something to say about the economy.

Whether this chimera of a party will survive is another matter entirely, but it does pose a major risk to the LDP. Now that there are neo-liberal and revisionist LDP splinter parties it's possible that the collapse of the LDP could pick up speed. Partisans from both camps within the LDP now have parties to which they can comfortably escape, which would leave a rump party in the hands of the old guard, which has stood for nothing but holding power. And out of power, what purpose will the LDP serve other than serving as work relief for aging politicians? The party might linger on as a loose coalition of hereditary politicians who can keep winning on the strength of personal support, but even then, how much longer will the aging members of the koenkai of LDP politicians have the power to return their man?

As unlikely as it seems, Stand Up Japan! could be a serious, even mortal blow to the LDP.

7 comments:

Janne Morén said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janne Morén said...

The question now is of course if or when the DPJ starts breaking apart in the same way. They're no more a coherent party than the LDP, and a few electoral setbacks is likely to produce the same internal tensions that is now tearing apart the LDP.

If that happens, it would be a good thing for Japanese politics in my view. These new proto-parties collect like-minded members, giving them an ideological cohesion - a common view of what Japan should be - that is sorely lacking in the current parties. The LDP and DPJ are mostly apolitical vehicles for winning elections; the actual policy agenda is decided by the incoming cabinet, and that in turn is decided by party-internal power politics rather than by the electorate. A change to more ideologically pure parties would transfer much of that power from party officials to the voting public.

Noah said...

Reposted from a Facebook snark:

I am starting my own Japanese political party.It is called the Righteous Liberal Democratic Life Peace Freedom Dignity Kick-Ass "I ♥ Japan" New Improved Everyone Together Holding Hands Future Love Genki Drink You Get A Free Car Party of Japan!

English Acronym: RLDLPFDKAI<3JNIETHHFLGDYGAFCPJ

Our platform is simple:

1. Secure equal-paying lifetime jobs for all

2. A balanced budget in 6 years without raising taxes

3. A more independent stance from the U.S.
3b. A closer U.S.-Japan alliance

4. A return to traditional Japanese values

5. Honest, clean, uncorruptible government

6. A fertility rate of exactly 2.1 children per woman

7. The prime minister's wife will be cute, fashionable, and have some kind of odd but loveable quirk that will earn her the love of the people

Vote for the RLDLPFDKAI<3JNIETHHFLGDYGAFCPJ!!!

Adamu said...

Why would the DPJ split up when it has a fairly solid grasp on power for the next 3.5 years? Doesn't make sense. Jockeying for the top position seems much more likely.

After seeing Yosano explain himself on Japanese TV last night, here is my take:

I think the new old people party's short-term goal is to attract attention as a non-LDP alternative to the DPJ in the upper house elections. That way, they can hopefully win enough seats to block DPJ from an outright majority, at which time Yosano can claim to have accomplished the last great goal of his political career and maybe retire or something.

Lionel said...

Approval ratings for the DPJ continue to plummet and yesterday Kozo Watanade said Hatoyama will have to go if he doesn't deliver an alternative Futenma plan by May (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d6e02c04-42a4-11df-91d6-00144feabdc0.html)

With the current leaders at the helm, getting the majority in the upper house elections looks very elusive. So perhaps both Hato and Ozawa will be off before June - and Kan or maybe Okada as PM. This might give the DPJ the reprieve they need to win the majority.

But the creative destruction is sure to continue for years yet, and by the next general election in 3.5 years the landscape is sure to have changed quite a bit

PaxAmericana said...

Janne,

By that logic, the LDP should have broken up countless times during its long reign. For what it's worth, during the long reign of the Democrats in the US from the 1930's to the 1970's, they had a wide spectrum of ideologies. The Vietnam War and Civil Rights laws took them to the edge of breakup, but there's nothing remotely like that in the foreseeable future in Japan.

Janne Morén said...

Pax, in a way they partially did break up over the years; the DPJ could be regarded as one of the many splinter parties born from the LDP.

The difference is of course that the LDP was in power previously, and had unfettered access to all the economic and electoral advantages that accrue from that. This time they don't, and they no longer have all those resources to keep their members in line any more.

By the same token no matter how fractious and disorganized the DPJ may become, they'll stick together as long as they are in power, or have reason to think they soon will again.