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.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Djou, I will never vote for you or Linda Lingle for either the House or Senate. That’s because you both support the Akaka bill. Last year you made it very clear that as Republicans you will be far more effective than any Democrat could be in persuading your fellow Republicans to stop blocking the Akaka bill. You’re right. I believe the Akaka bill is the most devastating piece of federal legislation ever to threaten the State of Hawaii. Dividing the lands and people of Hawaii along racial lines far outweighs all other issues combined. Therefore, if you and/or Linda Lingle are the Republican nominee for Senate or House, I will vote for any Democrat who runs against you, and I will ask my friends to do likewise. The only way you can get my support for your candidacy is by pledging to amend the Akaka bill to include a provision that “nothing in this bill shall have any force or effect until such time as the people of Hawaii approve this bill by a yes/no vote on the ballot in a general election, according to the same rules for approving an amendment to the state Constitution.” A non-binding advisory referendum, such as you proposed last year, is not acceptable because you could (and would) simply ignore it.

    • Mr. Conklin, I fully agree with you on the Akaka Bill, however,simply voting against someone due to a single issue is not prudent. The damage another Democrat can do to our country cannot be overshadowed because you’re afraid the Akaka Bill will be approved without your additional language. There are many more issues that will not be resolved by Democrats and we need to fix that.

      Personally, and as an independent, I will take my chances with the Republican candidate over the tax and spend, do-nothing House representatives we now have. We don’t need another union backed rep from Hawaii. Aloha.

  2. Mr. Conklin, you promise to vote for any Democrat regardless of their position on the Akaka bill? It’s no wonder we continue to elect invisible (Mazie who?) representatives to Congress. Mr. Djou offers an infinitely better choice for Hawaii.

  3. To Wahiawa and Palani: If the choice is between a Democrat who is ineffective in pushing an evil bill, vs. a Republican who would be very effective in pushing it, I will vote for the Democrat. I am confident that the Republicans will take over the Senate and keep the House regardless whether Hawaii sends a Republican or not. And I believe the Akaka bill is so awful that it outweighs all other issues.

    • I have read many of your posts on other forums and thought you were a rational human being. But, to vote on a single issue, no matter what importance you put on it is, in my mind, irresponsible.

      But, this is America, one man, one vote. I hope your prediction that the Repubs will win the Senate is true. But, I’m not wasting my vote on a Democrat. Aloha.

  4. The GOP has a better than 50% of winning the Senate. But they’ll also win the WH, if today’s polls are in play 16 months from now.

    Gallup daily tracking yesterday had Obama behind 49-42. Rasmussen has him behind 55-45. After this debt debacle, which will result in a downgrade, he’ll no doubt drop into the 30s.

  5. Reasonable people may differ. A legal code which creates racial preferences will create social discord and will (whatever slick lawyers say) violate the clear text of the US and Hawaii Constitutions. Mr. Conklin, properly, gives this consideration great weight. Unless Republicans win the White House, they will need a veto-proof majority to make the program cuts necessary to balance the budget in our grandchildren’s lifetime. I’d give this consideration some weight. The East-West Center (like most of academia) confers status and high income on a few, for little benefit to taxpayers. The State Democratic Party uses appointments to the East-West Cnter to reward political insiders (Karen Knudsen, for example). Years ago, the Economist rated think tanks worldwide on influence, intellectual firepower, and the comfort they provided to staff. The East-West Center rated low on the first two and high on the last. Support for the East-West Center counts against a candidate, but I would not assign that consideration the same weight as support for racial preferences. Still, it’s hard to reconcile support for the East-West Center and support for fiscal restraint.

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