Media Mix, Sept. 25, 2021

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about Sanae Takaichi’s candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party and, by extension, the prime minister’s office. Since I wrote the column, her chances of achieving that post have increased greatly. Though she is still way behind Taro Kono in polls of LDP members–the only people who get to vote (and not all of them)–she’s now neck-and-neck with Fumio Kishida, meaning she could be the contender if there is a runoff. So the possibility that Takaichi could be Japan’s first female prime minister is very real, and, as pointed out at the end of the column, something that many women may find disappointing due to Takaichi’s conservative bent. Still, some women have said that although they don’t agree with Takaichi’s policies they still hope she wins because they think that having a woman in such a powerful position is enough to change the environment for the better. (Strangely, these women don’t bring up the fact that Takaichi once did an internship in Washington for representative Patricia Schroeder, a famous liberal Democrat, though it’s obvious why other LDP members don’t mention it.) The things that bother feminists, such as Takaichi’s opposition to elective surnames for married couples, are not uppermost in the electorate’s list of interests, and while she has not made any distinct comments about addressing the wealth gap, an issue that does interest the electorate, she would have to say something about it if she became LDP president and had to lead the party in the upcoming lower house election. Given the usual disarray among the opposition, the LDP will likely hold on to its majority in the lower house and thus continue to control the government, so, in a sense, it may not matter what she says about the wealth gap, an issue that was also sidelined by her mentor, Shinzo Abe, when he was prime minister. It says much about Japanese politics that the perception among the public is that there is a huge difference in policy outlook between Kono and Takaichi, who both belong to the same party. Kono is seen as someone who, despite the compromises he has made since announcing his candidacy, stands for change, while Takaichi is considered an LDP hardliner, meaning she won’t veer too far off the path that Abe and Suga have trod. Real life has a way of mixing things up, especially in politics, but whether Takaichi’s being a woman will make any difference is anyone’s guess. Still, it would be a shame if it didn’t. 

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