Monday, April 19, 2010

The Japanese Tea Parties

Not another political party!

Well, not exactly a party. Unlike the old boys club"Sunrise Party" (that's the new English name of Tachiagare Nippon! - why is it that this new translation set visions of the last scenes of Paul Schrader's Mishima dancing in my head? ) the Nippon Soshinto (the "Japan Regeneration Party"?) lacks the requisite five sitting members of the Diet to win official approval as a political party. Until such time as it does (it is not likely to) it will carry out its activities as a political organization (seiji dantai), meaning it will be campaigning without public funding.

Trying to campaign without a dollop of money from the public coffers fits in rather well with the basic ideological stance of this new autonomous conservative political organization. Founded by Suginami Ward mayor Yamada Hiroshi, former Yokohama mayor Nakada Hiroshi and Yamagata Governor Saito Hiroshi (in the abscence of an official name, Ethan Chua referred to the incipient party as "the Hiroshis") the Nippon Soshinto is dedicated to fighting the Democratic Party of Japan, which, in emulation of its predecessor the Liberal Democratic Party, is blowing out Japan's national budget though baramaki ("rose strewing") public works projects and indiscriminate social welfare spending. From the past utterances of its founders, the party will have a strong nationalist aroma (check out the photo of the press conference) -- Suginami Ward, for example, is one of the very few municipalities whose public schools make use of the controversial Fusosha New History textbooks.

In its combination of attacks on fiscal stimulus spending and a strong conservative nationalist cant, the Nippon Soshinto shares elements of the Tea Party movement in the United States. Both are growing out of a climate of fear, responding to the uncertainty after the election of a more liberal party to power, a shift in government spending priorities as a result of that election and an increase in fiscal deficits as governments try to counteract the depressive effects of the Great Crash of 2008.

However, the voters being targeted by the Nippon Soshinto are not the defiantly ignorant rural astroturf rubes of the U.S. Tea Party movement. Indeed, the projected Nippon Soshinto voter is very nearly the social opposite of the Tea Partier: he/she is an urban or near-urban, upper middle class, highly educated individual. Indeed its policy mix seems directed at managerial, Nihon Keizai Shinbun reading commuter with few emotional ties to the countryside. Its macroeconomic stance is typically corporate - what can save Japan is unemotional, strictly-by-the-numbers government belt-tightening - or more colloquially, the "I got mine Jack, you have to fend for yourself" view.

Rolling into the House of Councillors election this summer, the voters now have the opportunity to choose from amongst three different flavors of non-LDP micro-party conservatism. The DPJ-led ruling coalition member People's New Party will appeal to social conservatives in the rural areas, the party offering wistful, even maudlin, depictions of a traditional Japan of several decades ago combined with trans-Keynesian levels of public borrowing and fiscal profligacy. The Sunrise Party will appeal to the somewhat paranoid nationalist voter, with party ideologues Hiranuma Takeo and Ishihara Shintaro banging on about how the DPJ is handing control of Japan to the South Koreans and the Chinese. In terms of economic policy, Yosano Kaoru will continue his Ahab-like pursuit of a solution to the burgeoning of the national debt, meaning the Sunrise Party will be running on the electorally poisonous promises of cuts in government spending and higher taxes.

[This, by the way, explains the reason why the mild and reasonable Yosano has joined forces with Hiranuma: it is not Hiranuma trying appear more reasonable by hanging out with Yosano, it is Yosano searching for voters whose fanaticism is intense enough to makes them willing to swallow the harsh medicine of higher taxes.]

Finally there is the Nippon Soshinto offering a "liquidate the farmers, liquidate labor, love the nation" plan for the nation's reconstruction in the hopes of captureing the attention of the members of middle-aged urban/suburban managerial class and their spouses (cue the devilishly handsome new party secretary-general Nakada Hiroshi).

In short, in the House of Councillors election, conservative voters have a choice between Shabby Socialist (PNP), Bad Tasting (Sunrise) and Organization Man (Nippon Soshinto) flavors of ex-LDP Japanese conservatism.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"[T]he projected Nippon Soshinto voter is very nearly the social opposite of the Tea Partier: he/she is an urban or near-urban, upper middle class, highly educated individual."

In other words, almost identical to a Tea Partier.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

Anonymous said...

Haven't you gotten the update yet? Tea Partiers are now to be labeled as spoiled wealthy assholes.
Oh, and racist.
See you in November! :)

Fernando said...

Thank you for the very informative post.

I don't think "baramaki" means "rose strewing," however, except in the figurative sense, which you very well may have intended.

According to the Kojien, the "bara" part is written 散, meaning scattered.

Sorry to butt in with pedantry!

Hapi said...

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Katie Muffett said...

"...in the hopes of captureing the attention of the members of middle-aged urban/suburban managerial class and their spouses (cue the devilishly handsome new party secretary-general Nakada Hiroshi)."

Oh no, not more center folds/MILFs. I had hoped to escape the 'Next Political Idol' farce by reading Japanese current affairs.