Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on Ozawa, “Old-School” and the DPJ Policy Agenda

LB’s comment here got me to thinking: What exactly do I mean by old-school? That led me to more thinking about Ozawa and the DPJ agenda. I decided to put my response up as a separate post—as a prelude of sorts to a more scenario-based examination of the post-electoral prospects for a breakaway by LDP dissidents.

First of all, Ozawa’s way with money (if at least some of the allegations appearing in the mainstream media are to believed) and relative disinterest in policy except as the means to electoral power certainly does make him something of a throwback. However, I was using the term “old school” shorthand for a desire to turn the clock back to the pre-Koizumi years, where the construction industry, the post office network and other conservative strongholds provided the money and muscle in return for public funds and protection from competition, while the Self-Defense Forces stayed put on the archipelago. (The reality was of course more complex, but this is close enough of a caricature to serve our purposes here.) The Ozawa DPJ has been making some concessions to these demands, though only in part to accommodate the PNP and the Social Democrats. However, I believe that there is still enough substance in its policy agenda as well as enough distance from traditionally powerful vested interests to distinguish the DPJ from both wings of the status quo from the pre-Koizumi era.

Now Ozawa may not have much interest in the DPJ policy agenda beyond its electoral implications, but he is not ideologically or temperamentally wedded to what I refer to here as old school either. Thus, he is not per se an obstacle to a reformist administration. The old Socialist wing and the labor unions will stake out their own claim, but it’s not as if they have anywhere else to go if they don’t get everything they want. And their intraparty power should be significantly diluted by a DPJ victory in the Lower House election.

Having said that, the Upper House breakdown will give the PNP and the Social Democrats disproportionately strong leverage over a DPJ administration. This is where the potential for a group of LDP dissident to join a more or less reformist DPJ administration comes in. I’m trying to work out a range of election scenarios against which such a turn of events can be projected. It’s going to take time though, and no one’s paying me to do it, so it won’t materialize in the next couple of days.

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