The Future of the Tea Party? Look to Japan

October 20, 2013

Conventional wisdom is that after the disastrous government shutdown, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, led by Ted Cruz, would never try something so stupid and costly like that ever again.

I believe just the opposite is true that, having tasted so much power over the global economy, Cruz and his misbegotten bunch are emboldened to try the same stunt over and over.

Further, it seems to me Cruz may well be moving toward something I’ve not seen suggested anywhere else, but which already exists in another form right here in Japan.


Japanese Diet


The Japanese Diet consists of two houses of parliament. The current ruling party is the Liberal Democratic Party, which is literally neither. It’s basically the equivalent of the Republican Party in the United States, minus the international hawkishness. The Democratic Party here is more or less like the Democratic Party in Japan. Below that are a number of smaller parties with relatively few seats in the Diet: the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, as well as tiny boutique parties usually splintered off the Liberal-Democratic Party, such as the People’s New Party, which holds a whopping three of the 722 seats in both houses.

But here’s something to consider. The third most powerful political party in Japan for the last ten years or so has been the New Komeito Party, a religiously conservative group founded by members of the Soka Gakkai, the somewhat controversial Buddhist movement based on the teachings of Nichiren.

When I first moved to Japan in 2003 the New Komeito Party was at the peak of its powers because it had formed a coalition government with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. This coalition dramatically undercutting the minority Democratic Party’s powers while at the same time increasing the New Komeito’s. The ruling Liberal Democratic got most of what it wanted, though much of the legislation it proposed required the approval support of the New Komeito Party in order to pass.

I think there’s a darn good chance that by the 2016 elections in the United States, something similar will emerge. I think Ted Cruz, or whomever is the Tea Party’s Flavor of the Month by then, will officially break away from the Republicans and form their own legitimate political party. Cruz presumably knows he hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever being elected president or even supporting the 2016 Republican ticket as a Vice Presidential candidate.

But, as the leader of a third political party forming a coalition government with the Republicans, he could yield all the same the kind of power and sway he did during the government shutdown. Non-Tea Party Republicans famously hate the man and have for some time trying to figure out how to rein him in. But if Cruz (and others) formed an actual third party, the reins would be off and he’d wield more power than ever, God help us.

I hope Cruz isn’t reading this.

2 Responses to “The Future of the Tea Party? Look to Japan”

  1. Ed Says:

    Thanks for the explanation of the political parties. I live in Japan too and while I hear all about these parties, I’ve never tried to figure out what an American equivalent would be to each of their policies. Thanks for making that clearer.
    On a side note, what is it that makes the Soka Gakkai controversial? I’ve heard that before, but never heard an actual reason. Is it the mixing of religion and politics?

    • stuartgalbraithiv Says:

      Soka Gakkai is considered by some to be a cult along the lines of the Church of Scientology and, yes, there are concerns about its influence within the Japanese Diet similar to Christian conservatives in the Tea Party movement. There are strong opinions pro- and con- all over the Internet, but at a glance I didn’t spot any good ones summarizing the various salient points.

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