by Andrew Walden
Usually discussions of Hawaii’s one-party system focus on an alleged “plantation mentality” and Democrat “machine voters.” A caricature of the machine voter has them giving up their vote on instructions from nefarious union bosses in exchange for a plate of chili and rice. But a recent poll points in a surprisingly different direction—wandering Republicans. The Star-Advertiser-HNN poll released August 22 shows that Republican crossover voters back Mufi Hannemann 72-28% – making the Republican voting bloc absolutely indispensible to Hannemann’s Primary election chances.
Hannemann’s dependence shows that Republican voters have it within their power to transform Hawaii into a genuine two-party state--simply by refusing to pull Democrat ballots. Without those crossover votes, the Democrat base will almost certainly find its true and accurate reflection in the form of Neil Abercrombie. Hannemann and his $2M pay-to-play war chest will be finished.
The old boy system has entered its phase of Brezhnevian decrepitude: the political enforcers have lost their power to keep the shake-down operators in line. In response, old boy revanchists laid out the case for Mufi Hannemann’s candidacy in an October, 2009 article in Hawaii Business titled: “Good News: A Small Elite No Longer Runs Hawaii—Bad News Nobody Does”.
Here are some key points from Hawai’i Free Press’ reply:
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D-Ko`olina) wistfully remembers, “In the old days if you didn’t follow what the leadership wanted, you didn’t get CIP—Community Improvement Projects. The way we operate as a legislative body now, it’s much more of a shared decision-making concept. If there’s anything new, it’s the sense that, unless we have consensus whatever we do is not going to sustain.”
…Pointing to the failure of the Superferry and other recent projects, former Theo Davies CEO David Heenan says “people are somewhat burned out by all this consensus seeking. It ends up being just meeting after meeting, and all of a sudden, the window of opportunity closes.”
Hawaii’s one-party system has not fallen apart—but the old boy system has. The contradiction between these two facts is at the root of Hawaii’s failure to break out of the consensus politics which give a heckler’s veto to any small group of self-appointed activists with a phony “environmental” or “cultural” gripe and an OHA--or environmental--lawyer.
These activists now make up the base of the Democratic Party and the base of Neil Abercrombie’s support. As Mufi Hannemann operative--and former Republican campaign worker--Keith Rollman described the recent Hawaii Democratic Convention:
“There is little tolerance for any ‘Democrat’ not willing to tow the liberal mantra of the Neil Abercrombie zealots who have taken over the party. What used to be the ‘big tent’ is now a rather ingrown clique with some very radical views. I don’t think they represent the more patriotic AJA Democrats I know, the typical union workers or a majority of the more moderate and independent individuals who still consider themselves Democrats.”
Even with this degree of control, the activists still partly shelter themselves behind Dan Inouye’s apron. Inouye doles out funding for “studies” and sinecures solely for the purpose of getting annoying activist fleas to leave his favored projects—such as TMT—or his contributors in Hawaii’s seed industry--alone. It is the system of caudillos and Mafioso everywhere: “Plata o plombo”—“silver or lead.”
The system is collapsing because the “lead” part of that equation has gone by the wayside as the activists’ power over the Judiciary makes them more and more untouchable. Leading the Senate, the same Colleen Hanabusa who spoke so wistfully of the old “No CIP” days rejected Katherine Leonard whose judicial philosophy—following that law rather than making law--was obviously a mortal threat to the activists’ Judicial grip. Hanabusa’s Senate also did noting to enact any of several simple legislative fixes which would have saved the Superferry from the Supreme Court’s ridiculous EIS ruling.
Characteristically, in a corporatist system, every thirty years or so a new power structure asserts itself in revolutionary upheaval.
In Hawaii it is time for that upheaval. Heenan and Hanabusa noted the old boy system is falling apart. This is apparent in the failure of the old-boys to defend the Superferry, Hokulia, Molokai Ranch, and HC&C. The activist class now controls the Star-Advertiser, ML&P, A&B, Grove Farm, and the Judiciary. It has neutralized the Legislature. They are backed by the eco billionaires Steve Case and Pierre Omidyar and dream of winning the allegiance of government employee unions based on the ecos’ as yet unproven ability to raise taxes based on suckering the weak and ignorant into believing that $100/barrel oil is good for them and bringing in federal pork based on so-called “green energy” schemes.
Ed Case sees Hannemann as an obstacle to any future Senate run. A key figure in the enviros’ anticipated new order, Case looks at the erstwhile new leader of the old system and says:
“I've known and worked with Hannemann for the same period, and once saw him as a leader for Hawai‘i today and tomorrow. But, as I've watched him in public office, I've come to view him as the most dangerous politician in a generation, because his talents mask an agenda which, if successful, will set Hawai‘i back a generation. He is the product and clear choice of a political machine that must end.”
Will Republicans attempt to stand up for themselves and attempt to do what partisans are supposed to do--dispatch both Hannemann and Abercrombie to the dust bin of history by electing Duke Aiona on November 2? Or are Republican voters so afraid of a few hundred hippies with money and lawyers that they would sacrifice Hawaii’s opportunity for democracy in exchange for the old-boys’ rapidly fading offer of security?
Ronald Reagan recognized the Soviet Union was rotten to the core--if somebody kicked the door in, it would all come crashing down.
Hawaii’s old-boy system is rotten to the core. Now is the time to kick in the door.
To do that, Republicans voters must man up and pull a Republican Primary ballot. Let the Democrats nominate their hippie from Buffalo on September 18. Then Hawaii voters November 2 will make a clean choice between a true reflection of the Democrat base—Neil Abercrombie, and a true reflection of the Republican base—Duke Aiona. Neither candidate will be in a position to re-build the old-boy system.
On November 2, Hawaii can become a true American-style democracy based on a competitive two party system—and it is entirely in the hands of Republican voters to bring it about.