Change and the Democratic Party

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Change and the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party led by Kim Han?gill was launched Saturday. Upon confirming his election as the party’s new chairman, he emphasized a thorough renovation of the party. Kim said the party should throw away everything except the soul that has been maintained over the last six decades. That is a proper attempt at orientation for a party that has been torn asunder by various factions since its defeat in the last presidential election.

There are many things that the Democratic Party should deprive itself of: Sectarianism centered around factions, dogmatism in ideologies, conflict and antagonism, incompetence and irresponsibility. It sounds harsh but it’s not an overstatement to say that all those negative qualities come from loyalists of former President Roh Moo-hyun within the party. Those qualities resulted in the party’s defeat in the last presidential election, which was theirs to lose. That is why not a single member from the Roh faction could be represented in the new leadership elected at Saturday’s convention. We have to understand that the party is simply sick and tired of the Roh faction. It also signifies the party members’ yearning for a party going on a line of pragmatism rather than ideologies.

The Democratic Party’s quasi-monopoly in the opposition has been shaken since Ahn Cheol-soo appeared on the political scene. A new party being formed under his leadership is the biggest worry of the Democratic Party. Given such a situation, the Democratic Party’s thorough reform is not an option but a must.

There still lingers some uneasiness. A party leader with less of an organizational base within the party or less confidence is more likely to get trapped by inner schisms and is less likely to pick a more clear-cut fight against the ruling party. Even new chairman Kim said in his acceptance speech, “Succeeding my father, who fought against the Park Chung Hee dictatorship all his life, his son Kim Han-gill will keep fighting against the Park administration.” It appears rather inappropriate to bring up a dynastic struggle against a competing dynasty while emphasizing reform. Does that mean going back to a party that fights merely for the sake of fighting?

The biggest enemy for the DP is business as usual within the party. It is more urgent to fight against that than to fight the Park administration or, for that matter, a new party created by Ahn. The DP should reinvent itself as a party of pragmatic, enlightened policies.

That would regain the people’s trust and make the Democrats able to win elections. Chairman Kim also said in his acceptance address, “Now we have to get into the storms of change and reform.” At the end of the storm, the DP should be a party that deserves the people’s trust.

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