Thursday, January 27, 2005

GNP vs. Post-Civil War Democrats

I want to start a conversation of sorts with this rather
than a post. I know that in the blog constellation I occupy there are quite a
few not only GOP minded people, but politically minded people as a whole.
Moreover, I would like to have a more comparative discussion on Korean
politics, and how it fits with the political systems of other countries.


Being a conservative Republican I do not really know what to
make of this story in the Joongang:


victory inspires GNP to read


Apparently the brain trust at the GNP has decided to study a
book on the rise of conservatism in the US in order to find a way back to
power. The most obvious thing to point out at this point is “How Korean
is this!?!”. The idea that studying a book about something, particularly
something foreign and successful, seems to me a rather Korean solution.


Getting past that, I think I join those of GOP minded Korean
Blog readers/writers to say that the two situations are very, very different.
Most notably is the notion of what is “conservative”. While both
the Korean GNP and the GOP are commonly referred to as the “right”
and “conservative”, one has to wonder in relation to their
societies if these are true. Most notably the conservative moment in the US at
this moment are challenging the current orthodoxy on foreign policy, spending,
and taxes.


Meanwhile, Korean conservatives resemble the more proper
definition, the simply are resistant to change. Perhaps, and this is what they
could possibly learn from the book, their opposition is not out of inertia, but
rather a total lack of policies. However, this is not really the case. One
could compare the inertia of the GNP with the GOP in the 60’s. Yet, one
must remember that politics does not take place in a vacuum. The only reason
why there was a moment to change the GOP entirely into a Goldwater/Reagan
philosophy were the polices of the Dems in the early 60’s that seized not
only the agenda, but the imagination of a nation (the Kennedy model of
expansionistic foreign policy, continuation of New Deal activism, and, shock
and horror to current Dems, tax cuts and deficits to stimulate the economy).


So then in order to see if such a simple concept as new
policy/philosophy will help the GNP, we need to look at the opposition, the
Uri-nation. Yet there, one sees almost the same polices as the GNP. In fact I
would wager that if it was not for certain buzzwords, one could not separate
the plans of both parties (correct me if I am wrong, please). The only profound
difference between the two is on policy towards North Korea, yet this is only
superficial. Neither party wants to actively destabilize the North (notice the
GNP’s comparative silence on defectors, and their unwillingness to
actively attempting to block things like Kaesong or Kumgang). Even on the other
side of the coin, while the Uri-nation is more actively anti-American, one
cannot help but notice the strong working level relationship they have with the
US. Also in that score, one cannot help but not to notice the embarrassed
grudging acceptance the GNP has to the idea that the US Army (a bunch of
long-nosed foreigners) is needed to protect the South.


Perhaps a better historic precedent for the GNP is not the
GOP of the 1960’s but the Dems of the 1860’s. While this may seem
too much of a reach, perhaps consider the reality back then:


  • A
    country mentally, economically, and in some sense physically divided at
    the end of brutal civil war.

  • The
    Democrats in that vouched for a “ignore the south” strategy,
    while the GOP wanted engagement and reconstruction of the south.
    Admittedly it is very weak to compare the “sunshine policy”
    with reconstruction, especially when you compare the polices specifically,
    however I think there is a superficial serviceable comparison here on the
    major issue of the day.

  • Despite
    the difference on the south, the two parties agreed to similar polices,
    which happen to mirror Korea amazingly well:

    • Isolationist
      Foreign Policy

    • High
      Tariffs to Foster Domestic Industry

    • Shockingly
      lazier-fair economy polices, even the face of increasingly worse banking

    • A
      very selective anti-immigration policy. In explanation, Korea seems to
      less and less willing to allow non-northeast Asians to work in Korea,
      even in DDD jobs. In fact one could argue that the Kaesong project is an
      immigrant killer since such work normally done by foreigners is now done
      by North Koreans. The US intern was relatively open to European
      Immigrants, yet maintained the Chinese Exclusion Acts effectively cutting
      off mass immigration from Asia.

    • Increasing
      worry of European powers ensconcing themselves economically in the US,
      and the Americas in general (Comparable to the Korean worries about
      foreign investment, and foreign ownership).

  • Farmers
    and rural areas (the Grange and Free Sliver movements) supporting the
    Democratic Party. Similar in a way to the Farmers finding friends in the
    GNP for sake of “Korean tradition”


This last point is perhaps the seeds of where the GNP can
gain some traction. Farmers are not only carping about the free trade pacts and
the reduction of tariff barriers, but many feel betrayed by the Uri-nation from
Uri’s failed capital relocation plan and general deceptive supportive
rhetoric on their plight. Such would play to the GNP strengths of dictionary
“conservatism” but also give them an effective too in campaigning
(which was later masterfully used by FDR).


However, again, one must contrast this all with the
Uri-nation. In short, the farmers want economic isolationism (In difference to
the social/economic activism of the Grange and Progressive movements) that
brings us back to square one, both parties want the same thing.


Perhaps they could literal take things out of the Dems'
1860’s playbook, economic reform (started by the Free Silver movement).
However once you look at the constituencies, this breaks down. The Dems' by
1890 (when the movement really took off) were no longer seen as the party of
big business, and so has little business constituency, not so the GNP. Furthermore
the Free Silver movement itself (as well as the Grange movement) was, in a
fashion, a plea for balanced development; unfortunately the vociferous
rejection of the GNP to the capital relocation makes that difficult.


More of a bit of sidelight, and I wonder if such is needed
for Korean politics after all I have seen, the GNP moreover needs a leader who
is truly committed to their polices (what ever they decided them to be). There
is no Goldwater or Reagan neither in the wings, nor for that matter a Samuel
Tillden or a William Jennings Bryant. No doubt this has to do with the cultural
tradition of backing your leader 110%. Perhaps what the GNP needs is a strong
leader, that not only truly believes in their polices, but also is willing to
look like a kook for a while, and more over the GNP needs to tolerate that kook
for the sake of party diversity.


And that only leads me back to my original query, what the
hell can the GNP really learn form the rise of the modern GOP majority in the
US? For the rise was due not to a GOP plan, but for a couple of puckish
radicals that everyone thought were kooks who challenged the GOP orthodoxy at
the time, got the support of GOP voters at large, seized the agenda, and most
importantly captured the imagination of the people.


Ms. Park do you have AuH2O, or are you a Whig?


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