[Viewpoint]Musical chairs at the AssemblyUri party members are leaving the party one after another. They have resolute and imaginative reasons for their secession. Choi Jae-cheon said, “I am going out to the wilderness of creative destruction,” while Lee Gye-an said, “The Uri Party has to die for the sake of new politics.” Lim Jong-im said, “The party has become conservative and is siding with the privileged.” Can they withdraw from their party so easily?
Secession is a betrayal of the voters. Many voters cast their votes for the party, not the individuals; when a politician is elected to the National Assembly, the party usually plays a big role. That’s why candidates so ardently seek party nomination. The party is especially important for first-time office seekers with relatively unknown credentials. Just as a child is born to the parents, an assemblyman is elected thanks to the party.
In the United States, withdrawal from a political party is a very rare event. When the George W. Bush administration was launched in 2001, the Senate was evenly divided between the Republicans and the Democrats, 50 to 50. In May, the Republican Party lost the Senate. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided to leave the Republican Party. When the 67-year-old senator withdrew his affiliation with the Republican Party and became an independent, the Democratic Party could control the Senate, monopolizing the 30 committee chairman positions.
The reason for his withdrawal was his disappointment with the Republican administration. He reasoned that President Bush had promised “compassionate conservatism” to embrace the lower and middle classes and progressive issues in the presidential campaign, but failed to translate those promises into action. Mr. Jeffords raised his concerns many times with the party leadership, but when his complaints were not accepted, he decided to leave. While his secession was the action of one man, it could have led to epoch-making consequences. In its early days, the Bush administration focused on the establishment of a missile defense system, a new defense policy, an energy policy to increasingly rely on nuclear power plants and Social Security reform. Then the Republican Party lost the Senate.
But the president, the Republican Party, the media and the voters were calm. Mr. Bush and the Republican leaders said they opposed the withdrawal but did not criticize Mr. Jeffords.
The Washington Post wrote that Mr. Bush had been less moderate than his campaign promises except on a few issues, and the switch by Mr. Jeffords would make Mr. Bush pay. Vermont voters did not criticize the senator for exploiting his constituency. American society was not shocked by the surprising secession of Mr. Jeffords; they approved of his reasons.
In the history of Korean politics, secession has been as common as the moths in a summer night. When a party lacks a philosophical frame, when its power declines or when a ruling party loses its majority, weak-kneed politicians leave the party.
In the National Assembly election of February 1985, the Korea Democratic Party, a pseudo-opposition party, collapsed. The lawmakers lined up like penguins and went to the New Democratic Party of Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. When Kim Young-sam became president in 1993, he pressed the National Party of the Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung. The lawmakers left the latter party and flew to the ruling party. In 1998, the Kim Dae-jung administration battered the Grand National Party lawmakers, and many joined Mr. Kim’s party.
The biggest reorganization was the merger of three parties in 1990. Roh Moo-hyun, who was a first-term lawmaker at the time, opposed the merger, and his opposition made him president today. But he encouraged Democratic Party members to withdraw in a group in 2003 to form the Uri Party.
Now the long history of secession is repeating itself at Uri. When the party began to fall apart because it focused on half-hearted reform instead of pragmatism, reformist first-term lawmakers began to leave, arguing that the party was siding with the conglomerates. When Uri Party lawmakers left the Democratic Party three years ago, a female member defending the Democrats pulled the hair of another female lawmaker who was withdrawing. That scene might happen again soon.
Just like the cycle of introductions of new automobile models, politicians are seen leaving their parties every five years. The same phenomenon is happening in this administration that claimed to be fresh and new in everything. Those who want to leave their party should depart quietly.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin