Regardless of the final outcomes of the 2022 elections, the real work and the real leadership necessary to improve lives and save our planet – will come only from the electorate and not the elected.
Only through the active engagement of the broader community, will our elected politicians find the strength and courage to make the critically important changes needed. This is the reality at all levels – Federal, State, and County.
Trust me on this. I’ve been there, and know the reality of how our political system works. The votes necessary to regulate environmentally harmful industries will come about only when people on the streets demand it. The political will needed to increase taxes on the very rich to support affordable housing for local residents is only going to happen when the halls of government fill with citizens insisting upon it. And only when the people’s voice drowns out that of the insurance lobby will universal health care for all people, regardless of their ability to pay – become a reality.
A people united will never be defeated, “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido” – comes from one of the most important protest songs in the world.
This is really what it’s all about. Our government leaders are elected by us to represent us, but it’s up to us – to be loud and clear as to our wants, needs, and expectations.
No single charismatic leader is going to rise up and lead us to the promised land. This my friends is not going to happen – at least not to the promised land that I envision. If one should rise up and attempt to be such a leader, you can be sure the forces of money and power would take her out – and/or he would fall to the corruption that such power inevitably leads to.
Elected representative leadership who “lean our way”, directed and supported by an informed and engaged community who take ownership of and responsibility for their government. This is what democracy looks like and this is the only model that will get us through to a better tomorrow.
Translation: We can’t just go vote then go back to Netflix, and expect the world to change for the better. And no, watching Face the Nation, listening to National Public Radio, and posting on social media, are not enough either.
We need active engagement in a true “Civic Square” both in a metaphorical sense and in a real tangible civic infrastructure sense. We need to get to a place where civic matters are regularly discussed at our dinner table, and where not voting, not submitting testimony, and not showing up at a public meeting are the exception and not the rule.
How do we get there?
For starters, we need to demand of those elected to serve us, to instigate and support the civic infrastructure needed. The public needs and deserves legislative bodies that value civic engagement rather than treat it with thinly veiled disdain while waiting impatiently for the 2 or 3-minute testimony clock to beep.
We need legislators at both the County and the State levels who embrace the Sunshine Law rather than seeking ways to avoid it.
We need to get money out of politics and instituting a true and robust publicly funded election program is how we get there.
Fortunately, many of the items needed to rebuild the Civic Square will be contained in recommendations forthcoming by the Hawaii State Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC). The Commission’s final recommendations are due out on December 2, 2022, and bill drafts and rule change proposals can be found on their website. https://bit.ly/3TeP2oX
The CISC report and how our State Legislature reacts to it will be a litmus test. The recommendations will either be ignored, embraced, or given meaningless lip service accompanied by robust statements of support but no real action.
Please take the time to visit the CISC website, review the proposals, and email them your thoughts now at StandardsofConduct@capitol.hawaii.gov – prior to when the final report is due. This will allow them to possibly include your ideas and suggestions in the final draft.
This is important. I believe the CISC members are sincere in their effort to produce the best, most meaningful report possible.
So let’s help them. And let’s always remember, that el pueblo unido jamás será vencido!