Monday, April 17, 2006

Eeeek! A robotic talking point!

Whom does Kan Naoto think he is fooling with his "Ozawa will speak to the country bumpkins while I speak to the city folk" routine? Not himself, I hope.

I will give Kan credit for being quick on his feet. Only a few days after getting trounced in the Democratic Party leadership election, he is already talking about the vital role he will be playing in the party's future success. What was a throwaway line in an interview with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun on Friday by Sunday had metamorphosed into a full-fledged winning strategy for the party. Indeed, by Sunday, Kan's description of his responsibilities had expanded. Ozawa would still be in charge of the bumpkins and Kan the city slickers, but Kan would also be "building networks reaching out to the baby boom generation (dankon sedai) living in Tokyo and Osaka, where the great failure was last year."

Oh, darn. My B.S.-O-Meter just blew up.

First, it is hard to think of a way the leadership of the Democratic Party could have indicated more clearly the party's intellectual bankruptcy than by holding a leadership election where the winner turns around and appoints his opponent as his deputy. Why the hell did you run the election, then? Just hand out the goodies ("Sweets, sweets for everyone!") and get back to the business of slitting your bellies.

Second, I like Kan a whole lot. His smarts, savvy and charm prevented the Democrats from being swept out of the Tokyo bloc area district seats. Still, what are these networks he is rambling on about? What is their organizing principle? Parent-Teacher Associations? The Red Feather organizations? Homeowners opposing the construction of 14 storey apartments blocks outside the city center?

Third, no matter how the DPJ may dream, it cannot avoid choosing between representing the rural districts or the urban districts. There is room for only one Janus-faced party in politics and the LDP is it. As the institutionalized party of largesse, the LDP is the default rural vote, even as Koizumi seduces and caresses the suburban and urban electorate with his tongue. As the challenger, the DPJ must run as the party of opposing policies. Hence the constant, disheartening run into a tornado-like headwind: the needs of the rural districts are in diametric opposition to the needs of the urban and suburban areas. For the one to thrive, the other must be bled dry. The belief that the DPJ can be the Country Mouse / City Mouse Party is a fairy tale.

While we're on the subject of the long road stretchin' out ahead for Kan, Ozawa and the DPJ, check out Doug Turner's op-ed "Get This Party Started" in Time Asia. Mr. Turner gets it all down, right there on the page, even though he is not, as far I know, a certified member of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of Japan Old Farts. Damn!

Later -

It seems members of the public contacted by the Sankei Shimbun * have little confidence in the DPJ's getting its act together. To the question "Do you believe there exists in the DPJ the ability to hold the reins of government?" the answers were:

Yes 22.2%
No 64.8%
Don't know/no opinion 6.8%

Kind of a bogus poll, but still, ouch!

* (Results of a poll of 500 legal adults living in urban areas conducted on April 13, 2006. Results printed in the morning edition of the Sankei Shimbun of April 17, 2006).

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