[Viewpoint] Where’s the GNP’s magic wand?After the bitter April 27 by-election defeats, the “dinosaur” Grand National Party is in search of a magic wand to instantly transform itself into the beloved Korean character Dooly in the cartoon “Dooly the Little Dinosaur.” GNP lawmakers held a workshop on Monday and engaged in discussions on how to reform the party- looking for that magic wand. The lawmakers said the GNP is a critically wounded patient in the intensive care unit, confessing that the situation is more serious than in the fierce aftermath of the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun.
But the lawmakers reiterated the same old lines over and over again, without actually exploring the real reasons behind the latest crisis. The high-handed attitude of President Lee Myung-bak, the incompetence of the GNP that has transformed it into a rubber-stamp for the president and the conflict between pro-Lee and pro-Park Geun-hye factions were the reasons they came up with.
The lawmakers said the president must change his attitude and stressed the importance of party unity. Communication and compromise, true working-class-friendly policies and fair personnel appointments were also presented as solutions.
They were all good notions but no different from what the Grand Nationals promised after last June’s local election defeats. If the GNP had actually carried out those promises, the recent by-election outcomes probably would have been very different. The GNP failed to implement those vows and now they’re coming up with the same solutions. The current crisis is the product of such indecision and lack of leadership.
Of course, the party has plenty of time before the general and presidential elections are held next year. If the emergency council, the new leadership and President Lee and his Blue House actually carry out those promises, the GNP will be reborn completely. But the GNP lawmakers appear unsure of that transformation.
The GNP’s internal problems are too complex to be resolved instantly. Representative Chun Yu-ok compared the GNP to a plant-eating dinosaur in her self-criticism. Those dinosaurs, which had big bodies and relatively small brains, eventually faced extinction. Chun said it was embarrassing to see a giant majority ruling party being pushed around by a smaller opposition party. It was an apt metaphor.
Some dinosaurs had large bodies, about 30 meters long, but their neurons traveled at the slow speed of 30 meters per second. When the tip of its tail was bitten by another animal, it took one second for the dinosaur’s brain to detect it. It took another second for the brain to order the tail to move. Depending on the size of the animal, and its predator, that’s more than enough time to lose the tail. The slow speed of the dinosaurs’ nervous system was a factor in their extinction, experts have said.
The GNP is as slow as those dinosaurs. Neurons appeared to be detecting the deteriorating opinion of the public yet it took a long time for the message to be delivered to the brain. The brain processed the information slowly and decided on a reaction slowly. The GNP is like a pitiful dinosaur that fails to respond quickly to a smaller animal attaching its teeth to its tail.
The GNP lawmakers’ workshop was pathetic for the same reason. There was no confirmation that the lawmakers will actually act on their brave words. Although rival factions agreed about the need to unite they still fought each other at the workshop. Harmony is a goal that’s really too ambitious in the first place: confrontations between the two camps will grow fiercer ahead of the nomination process for legislative elections next year.
The largest stakeholders in the GNP didn’t take responsibility for its defeats and that also cast a dark shadow over the prospect of the ruling party’s transformation. President Lee said, “We must accept the people’s decision humbly” and former chairwoman Park said, “I agree with the responsibility” but that was the end of the story.
The two did not present any vision to unite and harmonize. Of course, Park wants change more urgently because the presidential election comes next year. Without displaying a new politics of harmony, it may be hard for her to win that election. But she has already built up a high wall by insisting on “principles” in politics. Will she be able to lower the wall and reach out to the pro-Lee faction first?
The overhauls of the cabinet and the Blue House were also mistimed. Although speculation was high, the actual decisions were delayed and people are losing interest in them already. Some mocked the president’s sluggish decision by saying, “Lee puts heated steel into cold water to cool before shaping it.”
Politics is the art of timing but Lee clearly lacks decisiveness. There is no magic wand that will transform the party. The grass-eating, slow-moving dinosaur must please the public, like Dooly, to win back the people’s love.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Heo Nam-chin