The mid-terms are over and it’s time now to get down to business, the people’s business to be specific.
You ran for office and were elected under the banner of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, and the hope for many of us is that you will now support those values upon which our Party is based.
The Democratic Party, like all political parties is based in a core “ideology”, commonly defined as “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.”
The Democratic Party of Hawaii’s core ideology is reflected in it’s “Platform” which states in its preamble, “The abiding values of the Democratic Party are liberty, social justice, economic justice, and protection of the environment, and compassion and respect for the dignity and worth of the individual.”
Political parties should not be like football teams where jerseys can simply be swapped when a player decides they want to go with one that has a better win/loss record or because they are unhappy with the coach or owner.
This is a core issue that in many ways has put our Party where it is today at the national level, and ultimately responsible for the election of Donald Trump.
In our own State legislature, too many legislators at the State and County level are in fact members of the Party in name only, commonly referred to as DINO’s.
Far too frequently here in Hawaii, a candidate’s choice to join the Democratic Party is a pragmatic one and not one based on values or ideology. With few exceptions, if a candidate wants to win in Hawaii, they must run as a Democrat. Aspiring politicians, focused only on winning and regardless of their ideology (assuming that they actually have one), more often than not, choose to put a D next to their name.
The basic evidence of this, if one takes the time to do the research, is in the voting record of each legislator. Even more telling is the list of donors contained within the campaign spending reports.
But the larger evidence is the long list of unresolved issues facing our State. Public education is woefully underfunded. The lack of affordable housing and rampant homelessness, grows worse daily. Our once pristine watersheds and coastal areas continue to deteriorate, and our reefs are literally dead or dying. Our prisons are over crowded. People are working multiple jobs and can’t afford a basic decent living.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii with overwhelming support from State Party Delegates passed a Resolution during the 2018 convention stating;
“Resolved, That the Democratic Party of Hawai`i urges the Hawai`i State Legislature to pass legislation increasing the state minimum wage to at least a level of self sufficiency, where full-time employment generates a living wage, and supporting annual increases to the state minimum wage equal to the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index;”
Other States have already passed minimum wage laws exceeding Hawaii’s with 18 including automatic annual adjustments to reflect cost of living increases. Why must we always follow, when in theory nearly every single legislator supports the principle and has pledged to support the action?
Ditto with funding for public education. Our legislature found the political will and the money to fund the rail system, why not treat education with the same urgency?
The 2019 legislative session, will be upon us soon enough. When “sine die” arrives during the first week of May, we will know.
I suspect there will be some gains during the coming session but they will not come without a herculean effort by community advocates. As in the past, significant legislative accomplishments will come only after regular people step up to fill the hearing rooms, submitting email testimony after email testimony, and making repeated telephone calls pleading with their Senators and Representatives to do the right thing.
Of course, it shouldn’t be this hard. If we lived in Texas, or Alabama, or even Arizona perhaps we should expect the never-ending battle, but we live in Hawaii where the Democratic Party dominates the political landscape and where these values should be second nature.
Hawaii should be the leader in the promotion of economic, environmental, and social justice issues. Our tax structure should be the most progressive in the world with the uber wealthy and often absentee corporate owners paying their fair share. We should be energy and food self sufficient, and it should have happened a long time ago.
The Hawaii Democratic Party should be the national leader in holding those who gain elected office via our banner accountable. Our local legislators at all levels must know clearly that the Party exists in order to support an ideology and core values, and not merely as a brand to be used without consequences to help them get re-elected.
In addition to properly funding our public education system, we must demand that a minimum wage be a living wage (estimated today to be at $17 for a single person). We must implement Bail Reform and stop incarcerating people simply because they are poor. And we must stand up to the large corporate interests who continue to pollute and desecrate our natural resources.
At the end of the day, my hope is that in the future when Hawaii elects Democrats to hold public office, those Democrats are in fact people who sincerely believe in the values of the Democratic Party and are willing to work for and fight for those values. My further hope is that all Hawaii citizens will take ownership of their government, let legislators know how they feel about these issues and be actively involved in the process.
And to be clear “hope” without action achieves nothing. For those who have been paying attention to the political landscape in Hawaii, you know that the action part has already started, that momentum continues to grow, and that 2020 will be here soon enough.
With respect and solidarity.
Note: While I serve as the Vice Chair of the Democratic Party for the State of Hawaii, I do not write here on behalf of the Party nor has this message been approved or sanctioned by anyone. The above simply represents my thoughts on an important issue, and it is long over due that I state them.