Friday, August 17, 2007

Lazy A** Crap I Don't Want to Read Anymore

Please, please, please...if you are going to write about the current Japanese political scene, do not lapse into the following:

"the LDP lost because the Abe Administration did not focus on the issues that were important to the voters"

First, it takes a particularly strong-smelling brand of gall for anyone to think he or she knows what issues are important to the voters. Given the shallow, leading questions poll takers ask, not even the poll takers know for sure.

Second, opinions can change. If a leader, rather than telling everyone what he thinks they think, fosters conditions making it possible for them to think they think what he thinks (let that roll around there for a second) then he can get them to change their minds, leading them to take as important what he feels is important.

Remember these graphs?

In all three cases, Koizumi Jun'ichirō took ideas that were unpopular at the time and made them popular. Indeed, in the case of the need to dissolve the Diet over the failed postal reform legislation, he whipped the public around from 65% "against" and 23% "for" to 33% "against" and 54% "for" in A SINGLE MONTH.

Abe Shinzō does not know which issues are important to the voters? Heck, not even the voters know them sometimes!

"the DPJ will have to act more responsibly as regards Japan's international obligations"

Under the present constitution (I frequently must remind myself that a constitution is not necessarily a particular written document but the principles under which a people is willing to be ruled) Japan's international obligations are rather limited:

1) adherence to the rules and standards set down in the international treaties to which Japan is signatory, and

2) to stand aside while other people kill themselves over ideas and resources.

The DPJ is not advocating an abandonment any of Japan's treaty obligations. What it is trying to do is to get the country back into obedience with the second of the above principles.

The Indian Ocean/Iraq adventures, while they have been legal, have ultimately not been constitutional. Representative models of government demand that in the long run, governments act according to constitutional principles, not just immediate national self-interest.

Besides, from the scheduling alone, the Indian Ocean dispatch looks like a goner. When Abe conceded on the delay for the opening of the fall Diet session to mid-September, that meant that not even a snap vote on the renewal in the House of Representatives would leave enough time for an override of inaction by the House of Councillors (see Article 59 of the Constitution as regards the 60 day limit) before the expiry of the anti-terror law.

"the people are watching. The DPJ has to realize it cannot just play just an obstructionist role in the Diet"

Oh, yeah? Oh, right, I can remember that due to the skeptical and severe gaze of the electorate over the Diet's every action, the LDP went the extra kilometer, reaching across party lines to work toward common goals for the common good of the Japanese people, foregoing the petty tyranny it could have wielded thanks to the ruling coalition majorities in both Houses in order to forge a national consensus with its political opponents.

Tit for Tat. What goes around comes around. Nyah, nyah, nyanyanah!

The DPJ has won the right to give the LDP grief on every single piece of legislation it sends up to the House of Councillors. Had the LDP restrained itself from running roughshod over the opposition on every piece of legislation it offered up during the winter session, the DPJ would face a social expectation to be more accommodating now.

Editorialists and essayists, particularly over at the Asahi Shimbun, warned the ruling party, "Be careful, LDP. Your karma may run over your dogma!"

The LDP did not listen. No amount of argument makes the DPJ responsible for the LDP's having been stone deaf.

If the non-Japanese press uncritically repeats the saccharine "we all need to promote consensus-building" nonsense Nikai Toshihiro will be spouting henceforth, I will just spit.

"popular reforms"

There is nothing popular about reform. Reform is like the cleaning out of your house at New Years: you have to throw out all the broken, marginal and useless junk--despite your having developed a stupid sentimental attachment to some of it. You have to attack the dirt and the disorder. You work like hell, exhausting yourself in order to get everything "just so"--only to have to watch it all go to pot all over again.


Anonymous said...

You have a good point about writers who examine only current polling data on election issues. There is indeed a shallowness both to the surveys and the essayists. If I may, I would caution against a dismissal of all analysis using Japanese opinion data.

Yes, just using a sampling of Yomiuri, Mainichi, FujiSankei, etc. election run-up survey results is not enough. My experience, however, finds that the JiJi timeline series of public opinion are well done, technically sound, and predictive. Moreover, they do show trends when used along side a range of other surveys by private and governmental groups. True, not everyone has access to these.

Again, I would urge you to examine both public and private surveys of Japanese social, economic, and consumer trends. If you use these with sound electoral polling data, they give you a deeper and broader picture of Japanese voters’ concerns. These indicate a distinct aversion by the Japanese people to international involvement, an active military, changing the constitution, and attaining global stature. The concerns are the growing economic gap, the fragmentation of society, graying population, and instability. There is little in Abe’s “beautiful country” program to address substantially these worries; and the voters appear to know it.

Shallow is indeed a good descriptive for many things, however.


MTC said...

Dear Mr. Wakeman -

I will take your suggestions to heart and look at the polling data you indicate.

My wrath at the users of the phrase "not the issues of interest to the voters" comes from the way the authors assume an Olympian (and frequently dismissive) tones toward their targets. I sense that the foundations of this assumed omniscience are frequently anecdotes or generalized polling.

For example, no one questions that most voters said "pensions" when they were asked what was the most important issue coming into the House of Councillors campaign. However, what the pollsters did not confirm was whether or not worries about the pension system was the one single reason a voter had decided to change his or her previous voting patterns.

Something could be "most important" but still not the tipping point for the individual.

There was no ostensible reason why, for example, the pensions problem was necessarily a DPJ issue. The LDP was not against the relinking of the account holders with their accounts. The LDP leadership's attempt to prevent the pensions debacle from affecting with the House of Councillors election was the real disaster. Had the ruling coalition chosen to face the pensions problem squarely and put on a contrived show of humility, the performance would have defused the pensions as an election issue.

This seems to a failure in personality and political style, rather than policy.

So it went down the line for every single issue: whenever the Abe Cabinet faced a crisis, it made a poor, reactive rather than responsible decision...and thus eneded up looking unworthy

The "Beautiful Country" political program, which is at best inane, is not a sufficient reason for the Abe Clique's failures. It has been the Abe Clique's inability to handle additional, unexpected problems -- to walk and chew gum at the same time, as it were -- which has been at the root of the Cabinet and the LDP's unpopularity.