Fear and Loathing

So, the unthinkable happened and here we are facing down the idea of a Trump presidency for the next four years. Clearly it is the most deeply divided that the nation has been a long long time – certainly since the Nixon era, possibly since the Civil War and Reconstruction. It is bringing out the worst in our nation already and signs are that it will simply continue to spiral downwards with both sides getting more entrenched and extreme. I’m no fan of Trump, voted for Hillary even though she has her flaws, but it is over with now and we have to live with the results, so I’m trying to look for some good things to hang on to for the upcoming four years. So here goes – some thoughts on the silver-ish linings in the storm clouds encompassing our nation:

1. Neither party is going to be able to ignore the result of this election or the concerns of ‘the little people’ be they liberal or conservative. If they do, ‘the little people’ will rise up and hand them big surprises in any future elections.

2. The Republicans now control the mechanics of governance, both at the federal and largely, also at the state and local level, more so than at any time since the 1920s. So, now, they will have to actually govern, not sit on the sidelines and obstruct. While some (or actually, most) of their agenda isn’t something I support, at least they will have the chance to break the gridlock, and they will be accountable for the consequences of their agenda and people will have a chance to see how their policies actually impact the lives of ordinary citizens. In short, they are the dog that actually caught the semi they were chasing – let’s see what they do with it!

3. It seems inevitable to me that once in the highest office in the land, Trump will be incapable of restraint and that, finally, he will be seen for what he really is, and, one hopes and prays, impeached. Don’t really like Pence, but at least he seems sane. Or at least saner.

4. Millenials, minorities of all stripes, and, indeed, everyone else out there on both sides of the political divide have seen what can happen if you DON’T vote, so maybe they’ll get out there next time and cast their ballots. Our voter turnout in this nation is disgraceful. Maybe this will be the cattle prod necessary to get people to the polls.

5. The patently bizarre Electoral College has delivered the second president who didn’t receive the majority of the popular vote in 20 years. It is time it was revised or scrapped in the entirety.

6. It is also time to remove the setting of congressional districts from the hands of self interested legislators and put it in the hands of a computer, although since both 5 and 6 favor the party currently in power this isn’t likely to happen, but the election brought the flaws in both systems to the forefront, and perhaps they will become agenda items for the loyal or not so loyal opposition.

7. In one area where I DO agree with candidate (now president elect) Trump – we need to really ramp up our investment in America’s infrastructure – roads, bridges, train system, schools, municipal water etc. etc. This could also bring new jobs and improved economies to some of the hardest hit areas of the nation.  Let us hope that this is one campaign promise that WILL be kept.

8. America’s place in the world order may get more realistic. That is assuming that President Trump doesn’t blow it up, of course.

9. This too shall pass. No matter how bad it looks now, it will end and we will all go on to whatever is next.

And another election update

I don’t really have the heart for much today, since my little doggie is still very much under the weather, so I’ll do another – and final – update on our much delayed and contested primary.  At least I very much hope it is the final.  So, where we last left the primary, our sitting governor was ousted and less than 2000 votes separated the two contending candidates for the US Senate seat for the remainder of Dan Inouye’s term.  Two polling places in the rural district of Puna, south of Hilo were unable to open due to the impact of tropical storm Iselle.

According to election law, the ‘make up’ voting had to be done within 21 days of the original election, and initial reports had it that absentee ballots would be sent out to registered voters in the two precincts that had been closed.  Two days after the election, the decision was made to have a ‘make up’ polling day this past Friday.  Colleen Hanabusa immediately filed a law suit to stop the election, claiming that people still wouldn’t be able to get to the polls as there was significant damage and some roads were still closed and there were lots of people without power. Much criticism ensued that she was just trying to get more time to campaign, since she was behind.  Judge threw out the suit and said it was okay to have the election on Friday.

Both candidates descended on Puna with the supporters en masse, adding to the stress and strain of an already beleaguered neighborhood, or so it seemed to me.  Turnout was about the same, maybe slightly higher, than it was throughout the state, and the end result was the same – Brian Schatz, the incumbent appointee, is the Democratic candidate and is expected to win in the general.  Couple of local races ended in run-offs so the fuss was  just so much ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’ in the end.  It wouldn’t surprise me greatly if Hanabusa filed a suit of some kind or demanded a recount, though, and I’m sure she will try again in two years when Inouye’s (now Shatz’s) term expires.  Schatz seems to be a shoe-in in November this year, though.

Far more interesting now will be the three-way gubernatorial race in November with the relative unknown Ige as the Democratic standard-bearer, running against two well-known opponents – former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona for the Republicans and Independent former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.  That will be a real horse race and could see the return of the Republicans to the state house for only the second time since statehood.


Quick update on Hawaii’s Primary

Our incumbent governor is out – clearly having offended way too many groups and individuals, and, some say, for thwarting the will of Dan Inouye in appointing Brian Schatz instead of Colleen Hanabusa, and the Democratic nominee is going to be David Ige, a State Senator for many years. He will be facing two opponents – former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman running as an independent, and Duke Aiona, former Lt. Governor under Linda Lingle, our last Republican governor. Current polling favors Aiona over the other two candidates, but it is early days yet. Ige will need to put forth something other than ‘not Abercrombie’ if he is going to improve his standing, though.

Due to damages and power outages from Iselle in the southern district of Puna, two precincts were unable to open, so our U.S. Senate primary race between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa remains too close to call, and poor Puna has to put up with an influx of rabid politicians to go with their downed trees, damaged roads and lack of electricity, as the campaigning will continue there until absetee ballots can be sent to all registered voters in those two precincts who had not voted previously. Not sure as yet what the time lines will be for that, but both candidates were quoting Yogi Berra yesterday evening with variations of “It ain’t over ’til it’s over” statements, and both are sure to be spending a lot more time than they thought they would over here on the Big Island.

Negative campaigning by Clayton Hee towards the end of the Lt. Goveror’s race seems to (thankfully) have backfired and the sitting Lt. Governor won the Democratic nomination by a comfortable margin. The veteran’s group that was credited with the election of our Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard in the last election is becoming a political force to be reckoned with. Their candidate – Mark Takai – was an easy winner of the Democratic nomination out of a crowded field of 7 candidates.

Politics in the Islands

Politics here are different from the mainland. For one thing, for the most part, the ads are not negative. What got me thinking about this was a flyer that came in the mail a couple of days ago that WAS negative – it didn’t say who to vote FOR – it was just a hit piece about who to vote AGAINST. In California, this would be normal, and would be accompanied by a blitz of nasty tv spots as well, implying that the candidate in question was responsible for all manner of bad things and was probably a moral reprobate as well.

However, here, it was so unusual that I had to give it a second look, before throwing it in the trash,  wondering who was responsible for putting it out. Politics here are gentler and, to some extent, more subtle and with a lot of subtext. Take, for example, our US Senate race to determine who will fill the late Senator Dan Inouye’s seat for the balance of his term. The candidates are Brian Schatz, the former Lt. Governor who was an interim appointee to the seat by Governor Abercrombie, and Colleen Hanabusa, the current House of Representatives member and hand-picked successor endorsed by Senator Inouye shortly before his death.

First off, it created a bit of a fire storm when Abercrombie ignored Senator Inouye’s wishes in the first place and appointed Schatz instead of Hanabusa. That in turn may be influencing the current gubernatorial primary race, in which the polls have State Senator David Ige  leading Abercrombie by a pretty substantial margin.  But no one is talking about this being an issue, at least not directly.  Schatz’s ads talk about ‘leadership for a new generation’ and Hanabusa’s talk about needing to preserve our traditions and what is unique about Hawaii and not letting things here become just like everywhere else. Both are basically talking in code about Inouye’s endorsement, or lack thereof.

In the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, no-one-group-has-a-majority reality that is Hawaii, we are also treated to a lot of political ads that let us know the family make up of our candidates. One ethnically Asian candidate has a number of ads featuring his haole wife. Another ethnically Caucasian candidate carefully lets us know that his Asian wife’s parents also live with them. It may not be entirely clear where these folks stand on any issues, but by the end of the election season, we all are aware of their family backgrounds and ethnic make up.

Another ‘only in Hawaii’ feature of our politics and politicians is humility. I worked with political types back on the mainland and this was a characteristic that was not even pretended to. Here, virtually every political ad ends with “and I humbly ask for your vote.” I seriously doubt that our politicians are, in reality, that much more humble than their mainland counterparts, but here, they have to at least make some pretense of humility. I suspect it has to do with the influence of the Asian cultures as the ancient Hawaiian ali’i didn’t seem to be a particularly humble bunch, nor did the missionaries, plantation owners, or whalers, so that pretty much leaves the Asian plantation workers as the source for this particular twist to our politics.

Another feature of the island political landscape here is the sign waving.  This is something I have never seen anywhere else that I’ve lived.  We have the usual bumper stickers and yard signs, and people here host ‘meet the candidate’ gatherings, just like elsewhere.  But unique in my experience is the sign waving.  A group of supporters, sometimes including the candidate, gathers at a busy intersection at the height of either morning or evening traffic and stands by the side of the road waving signs and giving the shaka to everyone passing by.  If you are a supporter you wave or shaka back and/or honk your horn, although that is optional and not often done on the neighbor islands.  If you are not a supporter, you just ignore the wavers.  It gets more complicated when the competing candidates’ supporters are across the road from each other, but even then, it all seems very good-natured.  I’m not really certain what this is supposed to accomplish, but a good time seems to be had by all.

Our primary is this coming Saturday and it will be interesting to see what happens.  While Governor Abercrombie has done enough to earn himself some enemies (teacher’s unions without contracts for two years, and trying to impose a state income tax on currently exempt government pensions are the two big ones) I have a notion that the pundits will put at least some the blame for a loss on failing to follow the wishes of the late and very revered Dan Inouye, particularly if Colleen Hanabusa also beats Brian Schatz.  But, polling here is notoriously inaccurate as some ethnic groups simply refuse to talk to pollsters or tell them the opposite of their true voting intentions, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.