Friday, August 21, 2009

Voting for Punishment

The predictions of the past few days that the Democratic Party of Japan is lined up to win an overwhelming 300 seats in the House of Representatives- -- coming from the Asahi Shimbun (the voice of the economics-challenged center-left) the Yomiuri Shimbun (the official organ of the incumbent administration--unless the prime minister is named Koizumi) and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (the official organ of the business-government establishment) -- has sent political scientists scrambling for explanations. The results of these polls so profoundly contradict long-held assumptions about voters that many experts are feeling almost as if they have been betrayed by the electorate.

Nothing doing.

Tobias Harris is right: there is no discontinuity between what happened in 2005 and what is happening now. What the independent voters did in 2005 was vote for the Koizumi Liberal Democratic Party, which is to say The Anti-LDP, at least as it was explained to them by the Celebrated Mr. K himself. The postal rebels, the ones who opposed his precious privatization of the post office, they were The Old LDP that had to be destroyed. The Democrats? Under the sober Okada Katsuya the DJP made a lot of the same noises the LDP is making today, whining on and on about "But how are you going to pay for these promises, down the road?" Back in 2005, when asked about when they would be raising the consumption tax, Prime Minister Koizumi and his economic advisors would say, "What for? To kill current growth? We'll talk about raising taxes when a clear economic growth path is established. Until then we will just concentrate on balancing the budget through budget cuts" -- which is pretty much the line the DPJ is peddling now.

The numbers to keep in mind: 8 and 83. "8" as in, according the Asahi Shimbun poll of August 15-16, the percentage of voters who trust that the LDP will follow through on its campaign promises. Then again, 8 is the number in percent of the respondents who trust the DPJ will follow through on its promises. As for those the percentage who believe that the DPJ will not likely fulfill its promises, or the percentage who believe that the LDP is not likely to fulfill its promises -- guess what, the number for both parties is again identical: 83.

This election is not about manifestoes and the believability of promises. Exactly the same miniscule fraction of the population (8%) believe both the LDP and the DPJ's manifestoes likely unfeasible. The same whopping majority (83%) believe that the two parties are unlikely to keep their campaign promises - that they are, indeed, lying.

So what we to have here is a sophisticated electorate making its choices based not on its ability to be duped by transparent pandering but instead on the cold hard realization that the LDP, the duplicitous, smarmy, self-serving LDP that reemerged post-Koizumi, the party that has ruled the country almost without interruption since 1955, has run the Japanese economy and pretty much everything else within the country's confines into a ditch.

It does not matter that the promises of the opposition are unbelievable: that a party is not the LDP is reason enough to vote for that party--with one notable exception.

And I cannot find fault in such reasoning.


Derek said...

If you blame the LDP for the bad, your rationale requires that you give it credit for the good.

For example, you claim that the LDP drove the Japanese economy into the ground recently. This fits with your preferred explanation for all the bad in Japan, but the world economy surely had as much or more to do with it than Abe, Fukuda and Aso.

You would also have to credit your beloved Francisco with the 3.7%-of-GDP-pace at which the Japanese economy is now growing, which is in reality also hardly attributable to his genius.

Joe said...

Derek, I think the point is that regardless of whether or not the Japanese public blames the LDP for the economy going bad, they blame the ruling party for not doing anything to meaningfully address problems that the country faces. Instead, the LDP sits on its hands and hopes that somehow things will go back to the Bubble Era.

And the electorate is finally sick of it.

Garrett said...

Wait. Only one party for whom not being the LDP is not enough?

Have you forgotten the Smile Party? Or how about good old Matayoshi Jesus's "party"?