Tolerance is what the liberals needTen years ago during the 16th presidential election, voters in their 40s accounted for 2.87 million of Roh Moo-hyun’s popular vote. The turnout for the age group was 76.3 percent, and Roh earned 48.1 percent. Roh’s rival, Lee Hoi-chang, earned 2.86 million votes, or 47.9 percent. Voters in their 40s in 2002 were equally divided and supported both two candidates.
Now they are in their 50s. In the 18th presidential election, their political inclinations changed dramatically. The turnout was a whopping 89.9 percent with 6.99 million votes. Only 37.4 percent, or 2.61 million voters, supported opposition party candidate Moon Jae-in. The exit polls indicated that ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye earned 62.5 percent, or 4.37 million votes, from the age group.
Analyzing elections is like analyzing a football match. The interpretations are based on the game that’s already been played, so some views can be especially convincing. But they are not always right. We all admit that the concentrated support of the voters in their 50s led to Park’s victory. But we need to pay closer attention to one thing in particular.
Over the last decade the support for the progressive camp has been quite consistent. As noted before, 2.87 million voters in their 40s supported the liberal candidate in 2002 and 2.61 million voters in their 50s made the same choice in 2012. That means the voters with liberal tendencies voted for progressive candidates both elections. However, the support for the conservative candidate increased by 1.51 million over the last 10 years.
The numbers tell us that the progressive faction has not collapsed but has certainly failed to expand its territory. In this presidential election, KakaoTalk, Facebook and Twitter were expected to have a significant influence on voters, and the prediction was right. Social networking services were utilized throughout the campaign. Online warriors were in full force to support the progressive candidate. However, in reality they were communicating with one another. They were unified, but they did not tolerate different voices. Anyone with a different view was harshly attacked online.
There are speculations that the conservative camp hired people to stir up the cyberspace atmosphere. But the hegemony of the progressive camp was solid. They did not embrace other views. After the election, they cited statistics based on income and education and argued that Park Geun-hye appealed to low-income, low-educated voters. The exclusivity and elitism spread throughout the progressive camp. That’s why the moderate, floating votes quietly, yet firmly turned away from them.
“When I attend a progressive seminar or meeting, I am the only one who was not an activist and did not graduate from Seoul National University,” one voter expressed on Twitter. “None of the attendees were born after the 1970s.” The liberals may feel frustrated and disappointed, but the seed of hope remains in the 14.69 million votes they earned. If they want to grow, they should break away from the old habit of turning people with different ideas into enemies.
*The author is new media editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-yoon