BY MALIA BLOM HILL – It is, I confess, too easy to mock and criticize politicians. Maybe it’s the endless weighing of polls and legacies and that finger held constantly to the wind. Or maybe it’s the obfuscations, the justifications, and the ill-considered legislation. But politicians do have to think about a lot of things that most of us never bother about. I mean, do you have any idea how much time they spend fretting over what tie will make them look like a leader of people without conveying a privileged, upper-crust background? It’s why they all go gray so quickly.
All of this to explain why Gov. Linda Lingle was in a pickle. Supporting the Akaka Bill gets her grudging accolades from various normally critical groups and looks great on the ol’ legacy meter. Opposing it . . . doesn’t really do much, politically speaking, except get her the temporary approval of those who secretly think that she’s an unreliable ally.
Oops. Guess who was right?
As you may have heard, Lingle reversed her previous opposition to the Akaka Bill in a dramatic and widely-trumpted press release and letter to the Senate, explaining at length why she’s totally hunky-dory with the most radical piece of legislation ever to transform an entire state’s culture. To be fair, I thought that Lingle’s reservations–primarily concerning whether members/leaders of the new Native Hawaiian government would be immune from certain Hawaiian laws–were valid. And yes, it’s a good thing that they’ve been resolved. Sort of.
But let’s not pretend that everything is better now. Notably, one of Lingle’s reservations was not, “will this have enormous unforseen consequences for the economic and social health of my state.” (See above rant about the concerns of politicians.)
Here’s the part that really gets me about the letter though–the hubris that seems to suggest that now that our illustrious Governor is on board, there’s nothing left to say on that matter. Au contraire. I have a lot to say. Like, “It’s totally disingenuous of the Governor to say in her letter to the Senate that the Akaka Bill just brings Hawaii into line with the other US states that recognize Indian tribes. This is a completely new and different situation–not the recognition of a tribe, but the creation of one out of a racially mixed former country.” And, “Just saying that the Bill is constitutional doesn’t make it true. There are a lot of people hoping to sue the U.S. if this is passed and use the unconstitutionality of Akaka to test other civil rights issues.”
Regardless of what Gov. Lingle’s press office claims, her approval hasn’t solved anything for those of us who truly understand the problems with Akaka.
MALIA HILL IS A SENIOR POLICY ANALYST WITH THE GRASSROOT INSTITUTE OF HAWAII