Friday, March 13, 2009

The Silence of the Dems

In the short story "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have this famous exchange:
"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
I was thinking of this little bit of wordplay the other day while listening to the reports on the first meeting of the Democratic Party of Japan's steering committee after the arrest of party leader Ozawa Ichirō's right hand man Ōkubo Toshinori. At the meeting Ozawa apologized for the disruption and difficulty the arrest was causing his fellow party members. He also swore that the prosecution was politically motivated, that he would not resign and that he was committed more than ever to press for an election.

The assembled members of the party, young, middle-aged and senior, were then given a chance to offer their opinions.

No one said anything.

Nothing. Nada. Rien.


The meeting broke up, and the attendees went their separate ways, desperately avoiding press reporters and their inconvenient questions.

Now I have heard repeated that the Democratic Party is an ideological tossed salad, hopelessly riven with divisions of opinion, lacking any unifying principle and guaranteed to fall to pieces should the party somehow prevail in the next House of Representatives election. Tobias Harris of Observing Japan and Curzon of Coming Anarchy are having a contretemps over this issue.

The arrest and the meeting of the leadership presented an open invitation to express frustration at Ozawa's carelessness.

But no - all remained mute, just nodding to Ozawa's explanations and excuses.

So either...

1) The potential wrath of Ozawa the Merciless scares the living daylights out of every living one of them, so that only a poor benighted fool would express disquiet over the current state of affairs, or

2) Every single one of them has a political secretary who could be picked up for violating the election laws, making it best not to call attention too much to oneself with a display of righteous anger and/or frustration at the damage the Ōkubo arrest is doing the party, or

3) They have figured there is no real downside to sticking with Ozawa.

If Prime Minister Asō Tarō dissolves the Diet, calling a House of Representatives election in order to capitalize on Ozawa's and the Democratic party's slumping poll numbers -- then Ozawa pulls a fast one on the PM by resigning his party leadership position in favor of a more telegenic and likable DPJ leader.

Advantage: Democrats

If the prosecutors find a smoking gun -- evidence demonstrating a clear solicitation of funds from the construction firm and political payback from Ozawa to the ultimate donors of the money -- then the party members unseat Ozawa immediately on grounds of unethical conduct -- showing that the party both respects the rights of the individual and knows how dump bad apples.

Advantage: Democrats

If the investigation into Ozawa's finances stalls, or the prosecutors are forced to recant some of their charges, then Ozawa looks like he was right all along about the partisanship and prejudices of law enforcement.

Advantage (albeit a weak one): Democrats

The supposedly seething mass of Democratic Party dissenters (for details, anonymously sourced, see the Yomiuri, Mainichi and Sankei Shimbun articles of this week and last) had a chance to speak their piece the other day about this deeply wounding incident.

Every single member of the variegated flock failed to bleat.

And that, given the conventional wisdom on the DPJ, should be seen as curious.

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