One features the slogan, “Aso accomplishes.” Another says, in words reminiscent of the LDP’s 2007 election slogan, “First, economic growth.” Notably, the posters feature not simply the party’s name but the ambiguous phrase, “Aso LDP activation.” Mr. Aso reactivating the LDP? Whatever it means, Mr. Aso’s name comes before the name of his party.
These posters are revealing, telling us just what the LDP has done by making Aso Taro its leader. By giving Mr. Aso an enormous mandate, the LDP has lashed its fate to Mr. Aso. It has gambled that Mr. Aso’s popularity will be enough to rescue the party from years of mistakes. Gone is any discussion of what the LDP stands for, or what voters can expect if they vote for the LDP. Contrast that with the DPJ, which even as it has entered a suicide pact of its own with Ozawa Ichiro has still emphasized a policy vision. With Mr. Aso and his hodgepodge cabinet, it’s anyone’s guess. Spending out of a recession? A consumption tax increase? Spending cuts? Deregulation? More regulation? Another new eldercare system? Preserving the existing system? The LDP and Mr. Aso are flailing about in the hope that voters will mistake movement for decisive action.
It seems that Mr. Aso and the LDP deserve each other.
And it’s easy to see why the reformers, who for better or worse actually have a program, might be ready to leave the LDP. The LDP that Mr. Koizumi destroyed at least had an identity and a purpose. A venal purpose, perhaps, but at least it was an ethos. The new, post-Koizumi LDP is the proverbial headless chicken, regardless of the man at the head of the party.