Friday, November 5, 2010

The Puppet Master and his Toy - also, an article for your perusal

Caught in the quagmire: the life and times of a despondent democrat

The hazy fun of summer is a great recipe for forgetting what happened in the 1st Congressional District last semester, but if you think back hard enough, the picture should come in to focus.

The Democrats, divided between Democratic Party-bred Colleen Hanabusa, and the more centrist, independent Ed Case, managed to defeat themselves in a special election, and let Republican Charles Djou waltz right into the position.

Tomorrow, the Democrats, with help of their constituents, have another chance to defeat Djou in the general election. All we have to do is check the little box next to ‘Hanabusa.' But should we?

The problem for left-of-center voters is one of conscience versus the big picture.

The Democratic Party in Hawai‘i has been in power for a long time now and that time span has affected the way in which they do business.

"I think over time it's made them less passionate … and less focused than they would be if they had competition," said University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Political Science professor Neil Milner. "The democrats are just sort of listless."

When Hawai`i became a state, the children of immigrant workers, children born in Hawai`i, suddenly found themselves with voting rights and voted the dominant, plantation-owned Republican party out of office, ushering in 40 years of liberal, worker-supported rule by Democrats.

But that strength, the same beautiful strength that let immigrants overthrow plantation owners democratically, also contributed to a quagmire of progress quelling and political incompetence.

I spoke to John Bickel, Treasurer of Progressive PAC, part of the Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i, via email:

"When I began Party activism here in the 1980s, (the Democratic Party) was a machine. It was composed of government political appointees and unions – especially HGEA (Hawai‘i Government Employees Association)."

The Democratic Party in Hawai`i became so good at holding on to power that it forgot what the point of having power in the first place is. The point of running for office should not be to plan the next step in your political career. The point of running for office is to do what's best for the people you represent and for the progress of the state, regardless of what it does to your career: a concept that Hanabusa has failed to grasp.

Our Senators, Akaka and Inouye, support Hanabusa, not because they find her compelling or competent, but because they know that one day they will need to be replaced – and they'd very much like to be replaced by someone who will change nothing about their self-benefiting Hawai`i – someone who was groomed and trained to be just as happy with the status quo as they are.

At the same time, not voting for Hanabusa could be disastrous at the national level.

"For the republicans … (this election) could, conceivably, make a difference between being the majority or being the minority," said Milner.

Bickel agreed saying "Congress is less an institution where individual morals make a difference. Unfortunately loyalty to Party is the only relevant question these days. My greatest fear for next week is waking up to the words ‘Speaker John Boehner!' Hold your nose and vote for Hanabusa, or watch Obama in gridlock for two years.

"Without Democratic Party loyalty, we are likely to get a Congress that stifles reform and leads to paralysis."

Yet a vote for Hanabusa is a vote for what's left of the 1980s Democratic machine and that stifles progress here at home.

"For the (most part, the) Party is against the remnants of (the) machine, while a few factions of legislators are … hanging on to the memory of it. Hanabusa is indeed one of those," said Bickel.

So what is a despondent democrat to do?

When faced with a conundrum that I simply do not know how to internally rectify, I find that consulting someone who has a larger accumulation of wisdom than I is often the best thing that can be done.

My father's advice: "Voting your conscience is probably the most important civic action possible. Call it like you see it."

The way I see it, Party loyalty needs to be earned by each candidate, every time. And that's the way I'm calling it.

That's why, as a Democrat who cares deeply about the progress of this state and about the well-being of this system, I will vote Republican in the 1st Congressional District race tomorrow

Editor's Note: the original Article can be found here:

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