The Myth of Democrats Controlling Politics and Government in Hawaii

Hawaii is a blue state dominated by Democrats and the Democratic Party. Conventional wisdom though this may be, it’s only half true. And even the half that’s true is not really true. Dwell on that for a moment.

All too often we hear variations of, “As long as the one party-political mafia gate-holders have a stranglehold on who gets to be a candidate, you will only see more of the same.”

As the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii (DPH), I will share with you some not so secret, secrets.

The DPH does not pick and choose candidates. Any individual who is a member of the Party can place a “D” next to their name and run in any election as a Democrat. The Party has no say in the matter whatsoever.

The DPH does not actively nor officially help any candidate running in the Primary Election, where Democrats will challenge Democrats.

The truth is the Party mostly has nothing to do at all with deciding who runs and who doesn’t. These decisions are made by the individual candidates.

Yes, there are a variety of players who encourage various individuals to run and who offer support to both new and incumbent candidates. And yes, these individuals are sometimes but not always affiliated with the Party.

More often the core allegiance of the various players and political operatives is based on the needs and goals of special interest groups – labor, business, environment, agriculture, construction etc.

Interest groups pleased with their preferred legislator’s performance will continue to support them, and those not pleased will seek to find a challenger to “take out” an incumbent.

The DPH has a strong social, environmental, and economic justice platform. Those serving in public office are expected to support the platform, but there is no mechanism to ensure this happens – none, zero, nada.

Anyone doubting this need only look at the failures of leadership in the State House. Year after year they simply ignore DPH priorities, focusing instead on pleasing various business and tourism industry organizations.

Think of the Party as a brand. The politically preferable brand for a majority of voters in Hawaii is the “D”. Consequently, most candidates choose to run as Democrats.

Because of the hard work and relentless commitment by rank and file Party members over the years, the DPH brand is a stellar one.

Unfortunately, in recent years the brand has been tarnished by incumbent legislators who are essentially corporatists.

Working people struggle daily just to survive, our stream waters have been taken over by big business, the houseless have been criminalized, and our economy remains dominated by military spending and tourism.

If real Democrats were truly in charge the minimum wage in Hawaii would be $15 now and headed without question toward a true living wage. If Democrats who actually believed in the Democratic platform and values were really at the helm, luxury second homes and real estate speculators would be paying the highest taxes in the nation not the lowest, AND the lack of affordable housing would have been declared an emergency a long time ago.

So the not-so-secret secret is that the Democratic Party of Hawaii is not in charge, it’s the corporatists that have hijacked the “D” brand who are actually running the show.

We can change this of course. It starts with finding and supporting new candidates who truly believe in the principles and values upon which the Democratic Party of Hawaii is based. We need to find real “D’s” to run against the faux “D’s” and those who carry water for their enablers.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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8 Responses to The Myth of Democrats Controlling Politics and Government in Hawaii

  1. Old fogey says:

    Sorry, but I disagree with your characterization about “real Democrats”. There’s no such thing. The politics are only as good as the strength of the forces behind them. Long ago, “real” Republicans were anti-slavery and “real” Democrats were pro-slavery. “Real” Republicans now are proto-facists. It’s not about the party, it’s about the politics and the balance of power at the time, and deciding on the best arena to struggle in. In Hawaii now, that would be the DP. But it could change later.

    • garyhooser says:

      You raise some good points and thank you for taking the time to share them but…My definition of a “real Democrat” is one that supports the values and goals contained within the Party’s platform and other value statements.

  2. Joem Malazarte says:

    If what you wrote is true, then it is the fault of the DPH to let someone put a D after his/her name that does not advocate for the DPH platform? Suggest the DPH should let the Democratic voting public know that a candidate does not represent the real Democrats. If the DPH cannot do that, I guess they cannot complain about the corporatists hijacking their party?

    • garyhooser says:

      Thank you Joem for the note. It is true and you are correct, and I agree. My hope is that a majority of Party members will also agree and take action in the future to sanction those who hold office and who do not support the platform. Will you support me on this if I propose such action? Are you a member of the Party?

  3. MATTHEW J RAZO says:

    Is there anything we (the constituents) can do to get corporate money out of politics, in the short? Because something needs to be done now. Waiting for elections and hoping people elect solid candidates is all well and good I understand that’s how the process works. In the long run at some point that is what will happen (hopefully), but what’s “the long run”? 15, 20 years or more? Look at the damage that’s being done now. How much more of this shameless greed can our nation sustain? The current system is so grossly corrupt, these politicians are driven by greed and shameless self interest. Clearly they’re not willing to cut the source of cash flow that lines their pockets both reps and dems.

    • garyhooser says:

      I agree Matthew that money in politics and campaign finance reform are the key issues – the reforms that make all other reforms possible. The reality is that election and campaign finance is managed by existing law and that law can only be changed in Hawaii by lawmakers that are elected by us. We cannot in Hawaii change the law directly. So…we must identify and elect those lawmakers now who support what we both agree is the most important issue – getting money out of politics. The additional truth is that while we can by changing the law, limit and control somewhat the money politicians receive from donors…the Supreme court has ruled we cannot prevent “people” from exercising their free speech and buying ads on their own (separate from giving the candidate money)…unfortunately the supreme court also has ruled that “corporations are people”….this outside money (as opposed to campaign donations direct to candidates) is yes a long term issue. But changing the law to limit/control/manage the money actually received by candidates and spent on campaigns can be done IF/WHEN a majority of elected’s want it to be. The key word is “majority” as it does not take all to agree only 50% plus 1. WE CAN DO THIS in a relatively short period…perhaps even in 2022.

  4. wolf Langlois says:

    Aloha Gary
    thanks for pointing out the sneaky way of politics
    i hope you survive working under such corrupt conditions without too much damage
    you are a true hero
    wolf langlois
    friend of Gary Mack

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