Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More Thoughts on the Immediate Future of the LDP

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post and was inspired by the anonymous comment there.
I had imagined that it would take at least another couple of elections before the post-1955 LDP era ended for good. Now, I’m less sure. Where there’s a fatal external shock to an institution, the endgame tends to happen very quickly, and the DPJ is a greater shock than anything that has ever happened to the LDP. I am not ready to predict the demise of the LDP just yet, but it certainly looks like the LDP as we know it is spent. Here are some of the signs of the end of times:

First, party discipline is down. Diet members, even Cabinet Ministers, increasingly express their dissent with the Prime Minister even after the party and the Cabinet have made the decisions.

Second, the factions look spent. The heads are caretakers, not leaders, and few if any are Prime Minister candidates. I already wrote about Aso’s situation. Sadakazu Tanigaki no longer heads a faction and has dropped out of contention in any case. The habatsu have devolved into intramural pickup teams.

Third, the younger generation is not stepping up. And when I say younger, I’m willing to concede the entire demographics up to 60. Is that weird or what? Look around the rest of the world where they hold meaningful elections/have term limits to see how unusual that is; try to hang on beyond kanreki elsewhere and you’re more likely than not to get the bum’s rush. If the LDP were an NBA team, all its starters would be 35 or older.

Fourth, it’s losing its support base. The rural population is declining and not that rural anymore anyway. And what remains rural is old, older and oldest. The post office crowd and the construction industry, the most conspicuous foot soldiers and moneybags, have been alienated/diminished.

Fifth, the vote-DPJ alternative has replaced the vote-Socialist Party protest as the main expression of dissent. Finally, there’s real competition.

No doubt other people will come up with bigger, better lists. In any case, my point is that something must happen and happen soon with regard to something like the first four issues—reverse entropy if you will—or the fifth point will bury the LDP under the rubble of history, sooner, rather than later.

It’s an odd sensation, because the DPJ isn’t exactly capturing the Japanese public’s hearts and minds either. But perhaps it doesn’t really have to win. Too much inbreeding and parthenogenesis as well as excessive reliance on a declining food chain may have pushed the LDP beyond the threshold. Let’s hope that, whatever happens, there will be two men standing in the aftermath.


dr datsun kildare said...

A very interesting thesis.I had no idea that the pieces were in place for a generational shift in japanese politics but then I only started reading Tower tales and Our man in Abiko recently.

I thought the NBA analogy was quite pointed.

datsun K said...

intersting to read your piece in conjunction with this again via

datsun K said...

sorry just read your links and you know the man.

apologies again.great blog.

Jun Okumura said...

I’m glad you liked the NBA analogy, Dr. Datsun Kildare. The other analogy that I like to draw for the LDP is with the Ottoman Empire—indeed most pre-modern empires—where hereditary absentee landlords engaged in court intrigue while the technocrats ran the show.