Mainichi reports that the most vigorous criticism is from the party’s young reformists — not surprisingly, as they fear for their political lives — but the Mainichi article goes on to quote various senior LDP officials voicing their criticism over the beleaguered prime minister.
The criticism focuses mostly on a series of ill-considered remarks (which were clearly the downside risk of choosing Mr. Aso), the latest of which is a remark that the DPJ will undoubtedly repeat over and over again during a general election campaign: Mr. Aso lamented publicly about having to pay for elderly patients who do nothing but eat and drink.
Is Mr. Aso deliberately trying to bury the LDP? Does the LDP stand the slightest chance of regaining the support of elderly voters, whose support for the LDP has wavered in recent years? There is no question now that Mr. Aso is completely out of touch from his country’s citizens, and he completely lacks an internal censor that is a politician’s best friend.
And there is nothing the LDP can do to rescue itself. If it dumps Mr. Aso in place of a new leader (who exactly would the LDP turn to next?), the party will demonstrate conclusively that it is little different from the DPJ, concerned more about its political fortunes than the good of the country. [NB: I don’t buy — and I suspect few others do — the LDP’s claim that it stands for policy over politics, while the DPJ is only politics. But in case anyone needed further evidence…] If it retains Mr. Aso, there is no telling what he’ll say next to offend some important LDP constituency whose support for the governing party has been wavering. With Japan’s recession worsening and no sign of effective government action, the government’s approval rating will continue to slide, the chorus of disapproving voices from within the LDP will continue to howl, and the DPJ will continue to appear capable of governing when compared with the dysfunctional LDP.
LDP reformists who think that a new leader can reverse Japan’s decline are deluding themselves. As absurd as Mr. Aso’s remarks are, his critics are wrong to think that the problem is Mr. Aso’s insensitivity. Even if Mr. Aso was well spoken and considerate or if the LDP had opted for one of his rivals, LDP members would still be worried about the LDP’s relentless decline in public opinion. The LDP is the problem. Divided between past and future, city and country, reform and reaction, the party is incapable of fixing itself, let alone Japan. If Koizumi Junichiro could not fix the party — although Mr. Koizumi certainly played a role in heightening the contradictions within the party’s ranks — no leader can. The LDP needs to lose. Japan needs the LDP to lose. Replacing the LDP with the DPJ won’t fix all of Japan’s problems. But it is an essential first step.
Thanks to Mr. Aso, Japan is that much closer to taking that first step.