Election '10: Beyond The Machine
A candidate for high office asked me recently: "What do your voters want?" I said I couldn't speak for all, but overall we want to end Hawai‘i's crippling control politics.
The machine, old boys network, status quo, establishment, insiders. By whatever name, it describes today's centralization of political power and control in the hands of too few to the exclusion of too many. It operates as a loose coalition of politicians, unions and businesses who act together to preserve their own positions.
Political machines are not unique or new to Hawai‘i. The plantation-era Big Five companies and their political followers ran an exclusionary machine for decades before a new majority declared their independence with the '54 Democratic revolution. It's sad that one legacy of that revolution is now what it fought to replace.
Today's coalition is sometimes called the "Democratic machine", but that's a mistake. The network's goals are not driven by party philosophy but power preservation. The battle underway in the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i between machine and independent members shows that most Democrats also reject the politics of exclusion.
The coalition's biggest fears are new ideas that rock the boat and new leaders who think and act independently. Acting together, they've largely succeeded in hammering down most threatening nails. The result has been a stunted political culture that's produced a lost generation of leadership and left us ill-prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.
In my May speech to the Democratic Convention, I offered this advice to Sen. Hanabusa (and to my party):
"Almost 70% of the voters didn't vote for you. Most did and do share our values. But we, including many in this room, share a deepening and spreading disillusionment with politics as practiced in our Hawai‘i and country today. The politics of power, not principle or people. The politics of division, not unity. The politics of avoidance, not solution. The politics of fear and retribution, not freedom and enlightened debate. The politics of extremism, not consensus. And we are ready, willing and able to vote to change all that even over our values if that's what it takes today to get to where we want to go tomorrow."
Our most crucial campaigns this year give us clear choices between the status quo and moving beyond the machine. The wrong decisions may lose us another generation; the right ones will give us a fighting chance.
Editor’s Note: In other words, if Mufi Hannemann is the Democrats’ nominee for Governor, he will become the next Dan Inouye and Hawaii will be under his thumb for the next 20-30 years. Without a Hannemann victory, there is no Democrat ready to become the next Inouye and Hawaii will become a two-party democracy.