As part of a new wrinkle for this blog, I am answering some questions from Mark about LDP factions, the DPJ, and political leaders. Now, I’m aware that there are at least two people (and probably a few more) who read this blog and happen to be far more competent to answer them. Message to those people: Please feel free to embarrass me.The other day, the Japan Times wrote an interesting article on the factional politics in Japan. The article discussed the origins of the current factions. But I would like to know more about the evolution of the policies, thinking, and philosophies of the factions.
My take is that ideology was of only secondary interest to the factions in the first place, except perhaps Ikeda’s group, and has diminished dramatically in importance even from those modest beginnings. (That’s my excuse for not knowing much about the subject.)
According to the article, the Ibuki faction used to belong to Nakasone. How would you compare the thinking of Bunmei Ibuki to Yasuhiro Nakasone? The article also notes that Yukio Hatoyama and Ichiro Ozawa came from the Tanaka faction. The media often compares Ozawa to Tanaka. How does the thinking of Kakuei Tanaka differ from that of Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama?
The occasional, politically incorrect statements aside, Ibuki is far more intelligent and thoughtful than many people out there give him credit for. He also shares some of Nakasone’s nationalist leanings. But beyond that, I know little about his political philosophy or his policy preferences. But I’m not really embarrassed about that. For Ibuki has nothing of Nakasone’s vision, drive, or ambition, the last of which is symbolized by his unkempt, graying hair. This is not accidental in my view; given the drastically altered role of LDP factions, Ibuki is more the amicable manager of an intramural flag football team, where Nakasone was the head coach of an NCAA Division I varsity football team. More caretaker than leader, faction leaders have severely limited influence over their nominal subordinates, and if they harbor Prime Ministerial ambitions, they are no more than marginally advantaged over the others. In sum, Ibuki as faction leader is more comparable to his generational peers; likewise Nakasone.
It’s all about winning for Ozawa, winning big, winning it all. In that respect, he is Tanaka’s true disciple. His old school ways with money matters also reminds us of Tanaka. Where he differs most from Tanaka is a certain joylessness, an aversion to the spotlight and the winner’s podium. Tanaka’s political philosophy, if you can call it that, appears to have been: Make everyone rich, make my constituency rich, and make myself really, really rich. Ozawa comes across as someone who is even less interested in the substance of domestic policy. Making everyone rich also colored his interests, what there was of it, in foreign policy; he harbored none of Ozawa’s resentment of Japan’s second-class status in its relationship with the U.S. or desire to project the Japanese military in the near and far abroad.
I have no thoughts about Yukio Hatoyama other than that he’s a dutiful conciliator with few if any enemies but even less charisma. But then, given the quality of the enemy… Oh, he’s a foreign policy dove by inclination, which probably suits the majority of DPJ members and supporters just fine.
Apparently, the Aso faction and the Koga faction will merge. The article says Ikeda and Miyazawa used to lead the Koga faction. How would you compare the philosophies of Aso and Koga to Ikeda, Miyazawa, and Yoshida?
Koga is closer to the Ikeda-Miyazawa(-Koichi Kato) lineage of true, post-WW II doves, while Aso is much, much closer to the nationalist-conservative wing that includes such luminaries as Shinzo Abe and Shoichi Nakagawa. Perhaps that’s what made it easier for Koga to merge/swallow Sadakazu Tangachi’s group. But, as you can see from the fact that Aso inherited his 20-band of parliamentary warriors from Yohei “Kohno Statement” Kohno, love transcends ideology.
The two ends of the ideological spectrum of the rich-nation, weak-army values underlying the Yoshida Doctrine were: a genuine aversion to the profligate expansionism of the inter-war decades; and the sense that Japan was biding its time until it could emerge glorious once again as a Great Power in its own right. Koga, who lost his father to the war, and Aso, descended from a pre-war magnate whose children married up in socially, are the metaphor for the two poles. As for Ikeda and Miyazawa, they can loosely be included in the aversion school.
But seriously, are they going to merge? Finally? Well, Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni got married, so why not, eh?
Also, I would like you to comment a little on the inter-faction politics. In a separate article, the Asahi Shimbun interviewed Yasuhiro Nakasone. The interviewer made the point that Tanaka had a great deal of power over Nakasone. But he didn't mention the specific issues in which Tanaka manipulated Nakasone. Could you help me out here? Furthermore, both Nakasone and the interviewer thought the relationship between Yukio Hatoyama and Ichiro Ozawa might be similar to the relationship between Nakasone and Tanaka. But the article didn't say how the relationship was similar. Do you have any idea on what the those similarities might be? Lastly, the interviewer said that Ozawa would probably have a harder time influencing Hatoyama than Tanaka had with Nakasone. He did not say why that might be the case. Do you have any idea on why that might be true?
I’m not aware of any substantive issue on which Tanaka forced his views on Nakasone (except, likely, where his personal interests and those of his supporters and constituency lay). I suspect for Tanaka that it was mostly about rewarding his allies with cabinet posts and other political appointments. In that sense and that sense only, I think that Ozawa will wind up reminding all of us of Tanaka, although he displays little of Tanaka’s visceral need for personal gratification.
Nakasone, of course, served at the pleasure of Tanaka. It is also clear that Hatoyama would not have won without Ozawa’s support. (Indeed, he may not even have run without it.) But Tanaka could pull the rug out from under Nakasone any time he chose to, because he had the troops and the control over political funds for it. That Ozawa cannot do, partly because (for now) there are at least as many people in the PDJ who hate him as those who love him, partly because the bulk of the DPJ money consists of government subsidies, which Ozawa is no longer in a position to control, and partly because the competition with the LDP takes the decision out of any kingmakers’ hands and into those of public opinion (including the media).
Did that work for you, Mark? Incidentally, I’ve begun subscribing to the SSJ Forum. The Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum has many distinguished commenters, but I had a somewhat unpleasant experience there, and the talk there can get pretty cranky, so I haven’t gone there for quite some time now. SSJ Forum appears to be a youthful, nimble alternative.