Elections 2012
Illustration by Emily Metcalf
Elections 2012
Illustration by Emily Metcalf

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — It’s often said that political party platforms are a waste of time, because voters don’t pay attention to them and candidates don’t feel bound by them. But sometimes particular platform planks are the focus of intense infighting among party loyalists. A party’s platform can provide a sense of the values and programmatic intentions of party activists.

This essay is a short summary of a webpage which provides links to the Republican and Democrat platforms for 2012 (both the national and Hawaii platforms), along with quotes in context, analysis, and details about the positions of Hawaii candidates for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. See http://tinyurl.com/bo6um6m

The 54-page Republican national platform for 2012 expresses strong opposition to creating any new race-based governments (i.e., the Akaka bill), explicitly linking that opposition to a fundamental commitment to racial equality as grounded in the Constitution. But that’s tempered by a contradictory pledge to maintain government tribal handouts generally and to include Native Hawaiians in such programs on an equitable basis (even though there would be nothing equitable about providing handouts to Hawaiians since they are not a recognized tribe).

Here are the only two sentences directly applicable to Native Hawaiians: “As a matter of principle, we oppose the creation of any new race-based governments within the United States.” (page 9) “We support efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by American Indians, including Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and to preserve their culture and languages that we consider to be national treasures.” (page 27)

The Hawaii Republican Party adopted a strongly-worded resolution opposing the Akaka bill at its convention in 2011, which remains the state party’s position going into the election of 2012:

“Whereas, the “Akaka Bill” violates the fundamental values inherent in the Hawai’i Republican Party’s LLIFE platform; Whereas, the “Akaka Bill” imposes an entirely new level of governance upon the Hawaiian people; Whereas, the “Akaka Bill” trades away individual Liberty in exchange for government grants and favors; Whereas, the “Akaka Bill” denigrates the principles of Individual Responsibility; Whereas, the “Akaka Bill” creates unequal opportunities, fiefdoms of favoritism, and artificial barriers to our citizens; Therefore, be it resolved, that the Hawai’i Republican Party in convention at Lihue, Hawai’i, May 14, 2011, hereby expresses its unalterable opposition to the “Akaka Bill” and to any iteration of it that robs Hawaiians of Liberty and Equal Opportunity or imposes more government and the fiscal and moral calamities such a course inevitably brings; Therefore, be it further resolved, that copies of this resolution be posted on the Hawai’i Republican Party website and distributed to Hawai’i elected officials and media for public dissemination.”

Linda Lingle, Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate, strongly supports the Akaka bill and Hawaiian racial entitlement programs. Likewise Charles Djou, Republican candidate for U.S. House Hawaii District #1. Likewise Kawika Crowley, Republican candidate for U.S. House Hawaii District #2, who not only favors the Akaka bill but also favors Hawaii’s secession from the U.S. to re-create Hawaii as an independent nation. All three of them have abandoned the national and state platforms of their party regarding the Akaka bill, in the interest of pushing their own personal agendas and presenting themselves to the public as politically correct bipartisan candidates. Having abandoned their party’s conservative platforms, perhaps their party’s conservative members will feel justified in abandoning these candidates. Republicans from Hawaii who favor the Akaka bill are far more dangerous in Congress than Democrats who favor the Akaka bill, because it is Senate Republicans who have blocked the Akaka bill for 12 years and who might be talked out of blocking it if their fellow Republicans from Hawaii relentlessly plead with them. See http://tinyurl.com/9299363

The 70-page Democrat national platform for 2012 has one powerful sentence on page 50 which puts the Democrat Party strongly and explicitly in favor of the Akaka bill. That sentence is at the end of a section entitled “Tribal Sovereignty” which includes the following language: “American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. … We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.

The Hawaii Democrat Party platform has a preamble of 13 principles, where #12 is: “Support the rights of native Hawaiians and the preservation of native Hawaiian culture”

An entire section of the platform is titled “Native Hawaiians.” It strongly and explicitly supports both the Akaka bill and the racial entitlement programs:

“Native Hawaiians are indigenous peoples of Hawai’i and deserve a just relationship with the state and federal governments. We support recognition by Congress of native Hawaiians as indigenous people as provided by the U.S. Constitution. Such recognition will begin the process for native Hawaiian self-determination consistent with federal policy extended to other indigenous peoples of the United States. We support na kanaka maoli right to self-determination. We are committed to the support of native Hawaiian agencies, organizations, and programs that increase the quality of life for kanaka maoli. We especially value our host culture that has allowed diversity to thrive. We support the growth of Native Hawaiian farming, agricultural and healing practices. We value and wish to foster the preservation of our host culture.”

The Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, and both Democrat candidates for U.S. House, have considerable experience working for the Akaka bill and for Hawaiian racial entitlements.

Mazie Hirono has been a champion of pork-barrel spending who secured numerous earmarks for local projects with no national significance that should be paid for by local people rather than by people of other states. As Hawaii’s senior member in the House of Representatives, Hirono is the sponsor and introducer of the Akaka bill.

Colleen Hanabusa served in the Hawaii state Senate from 1998 to 2010, when she resigned to run for the U.S. House. Just days after her election in November 1997, Hanabusa traveled all the way from Wai’anae to a Hawaiian sovereignty rally in Waimanalo. She spoke very passionately, telling the crowd of about 100 secessionists that she has special respect for the “first people” of Hawaii and the “host culture”, and “My door will always be open to you whenever you need help in the legislature.” Hanabusa rose to the rank of President of the Senate before she resigned in 2010 to run for the U.S. House. While in the state Senate Hanabusa was Chair of the Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs (now reduced in scope to Hawaiian Affairs alone) where she sponsored many bills exclusively benefitting Native Hawaiians. On March 30, 2011 Hanabusa signed on as first cosponsor of the Akaka bill. With the departure of Rep. Mazie Hirono, Hanabusa will be Hawaii’s senior member of Congress in her second term.

Tulsi Gabbard, at age 32, is a political veteran. At age 21 she was the youngest woman in America ever elected to a state legislature. As a member of the Hawaii National Guard she was called to duty, resigned from the legislature and served in combat in Iraq. She has since risen to the rank of Captain in the Army National Guard and is now a Company Commander. In 2006 she served as legislative aide to Senator Akaka, during the period when the Akaka bill narrowly lost a cloture motion to end a Republican filibuster following 5 hours of floor debate in the Senate. She later won election to Honolulu City Council. In 2012 while serving on the City Council she won the Democrat primary election for U.S. House to replace Mazie Hirono, defeating the former mayor of Honolulu by a wide margin. There’s no doubt she will win election to the U.S. House in November. Her campaign webpage says the following about the Akaka bill and racial entitlements:

“The fact that our country overthrew the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 [false!] is a great injustice and something that weighs heavily on my heart. As I consider this unjust act, I think of my two years working with Senator Akaka, watching him work tirelessly trying to get the Akaka Bill passed into law. … This is Senator Akaka’s legacy and something that’s got to be done for the Hawaiian people. … I believe the U.S. government through an act of Congress should more formally recognize the special legal/political status of Native Hawaiians. Pending re-organization of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity, through the process commenced by Act 195 (2011) or a Native Hawaiian-driven process, I would immediately work with the delegation to pass a bill or administrative regulation acknowledging this status … I assisted Senator Akaka with programs and legislation directly benefitting Native Hawaiians. … Formal recognition of Indian Commerce Clause status of Native Hawaiians would help reauthorization of these important acts. Additionally, tying such reauthorizations to Native Alaskan health and education acts is good strategy because Republican Don Young of Alaska needs Democratic support. Congresswoman Hirono successfully used this strategy in 2011 to obtain reauthorization of $41 million in education funds for Native Hawaiians. …”

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