BY CHARLES DJOU – The difficulty in Congress faced by the East-West Center, based at the University of Hawaii, is a perfect illustration of the danger Hawaii faces with a one-party congressional delegation in the two-party town of Washington D.C.
Earlier this year a single freshman Texas Republican congressman, who had never before held public office, successfully stripped funding for the East-West Center in the U.S. House. The funding was eventually restored in the Senate version of the budget appropriation, but only after quick maneuvering by local officials.
When I spoke with the Texas representative’s staff they told me that no one from Hawaii’s congressional delegation had ever spoken to them explaining the importance of the East-West Center. Indeed, neither of Hawaii’s congressional representatives even spoke up on the House floor to defend the center. Ironically it was left up to another Texas Republican, Congresswoman Kay Granger, to defend funding for the East-West Center on the House floor.
Now the East-West Center is under fire again, as Congress is looking at completely eliminating the center. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently voted to wipe out the UH based facility. The center might again be saved in the U.S. Senate, but these difficulties will continue as long as Hawaii continues to send a one-sided and unbalanced delegation to Congress that is unable to speak with the new GOP majority in the U.S. House.
Power in Washington D.C. ebbs and flows between the Republicans and Democrats and has done so for decades. Hawaii is exceptionally vulnerable, however, to these changing tides with a one-party congressional delegation.
Even worse, Hawaii’s delegation votes with such little independence and with such strong lock-step loyalty to their partisan political leadership that our state is exceptionally vulnerable to the rapidly changing dynamics in Washington. With Republicans in ascendency in the U.S. House, Hawaii has become increasingly isolated and unable to effectively communicate our needs to the GOP in control in Washington.
Over the long-term one-party rule never works well for the people. Whether it is the old Soviet Union or Hawaii today, narrow group thinking from one political party is never healthy for any community. We need more balance in our political leadership and a vigorous two-party democracy. The longer Hawaii remains under one-party rule, the more vulnerable and isolated our state will be.
Next year Hawaii voters will have a historic opportunity to bring balance to our elected leadership with at least half of our congressional delegation up as open seats. 1962, 1976 and 1990 were the only other times since statehood that Hawaii has faced as historic and wide -open election for Congress as we face in 2012. It is up to the voters to seize the opportunity.