Japan Becomes the New Italy
Japan's Premier Resigns Position After 11 Months
By Blaine Harden and Akiko Yamamoto Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, September 2, 2008; A10
MANILA, Sept. 1 -- Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, after less than a year of listless leadership over a sour economy, said Monday that he was resigning to prevent a "political vacuum" that could further weaken Japan's government.
The surprise announcement marks the second time in two years that a deeply unpopular, politically stymied and seemingly directionless Japanese leader has called it quits after serving less than 12 months in office. Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, resigned last September.
. . . A parliament paralyzed by political division. "It is a fact that it took very long to decide on anything," Fukuda said in a nationally televised news conference Monday night.
The LDP had more or less run Japan as a single-party state since the 1950s. But it lost control of the upper house of parliament in the summer of 2007 to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.
Since then, with the Democratic Party trying to weaken and embarrass the LDP at every turn, the government has been all but unable to enact new laws.
__________________________________________________________________ Sound familiar? That weaken and embarrass, along with unable to enact new laws sounds eerily like Pelosi's post-2006 House. Governments (including our own) are increasingly unable to govern and the end of fascism left a void of those able to handle the tools of democracy. The end of the Cold War may have left similarly hapless Americans asleep at the switch of a democracy that seemed unending and divinely inspired, rather than a gift of men to men. Italy may have simply been at the extreme front end of a trend since the days after WWII that pretty much buried fascism. Italy is of course the all-time leader; earliest and most refined inventor of fascism, as well as champion changer of governments, averaging two a year since they hanged Mussolini by the heels at a gas station in Milan. Hanged at a gas station. Irony at its extreme. Freedom (by whatever term you choose to describe it) may have made advances across the globe in the past half-century, but it hasn't had a whole lot of staying power. Nation after nation, born from the womb of freedom, found themselves clinging by fingernails or hijacked, bound and gagged, then hustled off to the ignominy of presidents for life. That is perhaps the nature of democracies, to require watchfulness and regular maintenance less the warranty run out; both their inherent strength and political weakness. Stability sniffs at the feet of dictators, then more often than not jambs its nose in the dictatorial crotch, no matter how unpleasant the odor. Japan is ripe for stability. We may be as well. The record is not good, from Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe to George Bush's denial of habeas corpus for suspected (but unproven) terrorists. The slide is gradual, the losses bearable--until of course they become unbearable. But then it's far too late. Governments that can't govern, like Fukuda's Japan, are the precursors to the metaphoric 'strong man on a horse' that brings order and stablity to nations longing for order and stability.
We Americans are at the brink of that longing. Nothing works anymore, we are redded and blued into pro-this and anti-that, urged to further partisanship by Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann. No matter who wins in November, half the nation will be unhappy and the slim winner will claim a mandate, even though mandates used to follow landslides rather than dead-heats.
Think of it as the Honda-izing of American politics, the Toyota-ficating of what was once a civil and hotly (but honestly) contested political landscape. Honda and Toyota consigned Ford, Chrysler and GM to the dustbin of automotive history. It remains to be seen if Japan is once again showing us the way. What is at stake is nothing less than the survival of that republic Benjamin Franklin doubted we could keep.