A White Male GOP Akaka Block

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - June 14, 2006
| Del.icio.us

So much for the Akaka Bill. Last Thursday morning 41 United States senators said “nay” on a procedural motion that would have allowed the measure time for debate and a vote on the Senate floor.

All 41 of those senators were Republicans. All but three of them represent red states, i.e., states that voted for President George W. Bush last year. And those Republicans have made the current Senate the most ideological of modern times.

It is also a body unrepresentative of the nation. The United States Senate represents male, Caucasian America. One black man serves there, Illinois’Barack Obama. Born and reared in Hawaii, Obama voted to allow the Akaka Bill a full hearing. Three members sport Hispanic surnames; two of them, both Democrats, voted “aye” as well.

Only 14 women serve in the 100-member Senate; 12 of them voted “aye,” including three of the 11 Republicans who supported hearing the Akaka Bill.

The two Republican women who voted “nay,” Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Elizabeth Dole, represent states of the old Confederacy, Texas and North Carolina, respectively. Those states where some folks still refer to the Civil War as “the second war for American independence” rather than the more accurate “war to preserve the institution of chattel slavery” provided 15 of the 41 votes to nix a hearing on the Akaka Bill.

In the course of the debate on the cloture vote on the bill, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander warned: “If we start down this path, the end may be the disintegration of the United States into ethnic enclaves. This legislation would undermine our national unity by treating Americans differently based on race.

“It would begin to destroy what is most unique about our country. Instead of making us one nation indivisible, it divides us. Instead of our becoming ‘one from many’ we would become ‘many from one.’”

Treating Americans differently based on race?

Did I read that right?

Sen. Alexander twice sought the Republican nomination for the presidency. He’s campaigned from one end of the country to the other. And he’s never heard a tale from a black man or woman of being “treated differently based on race”?

And “one nation indivisible”? If an indigenous people in Hawaii seek a degree of sovereignty, according to Alexander, they divide the country. Yet in the past six years, while blocking a vote on the Akaka Bill, Sen. Alexander and his Republican colleagues have voted for three massive administration tax cuts that have disproportionately benefited the nation’s rich. The result has been the greatest disparity between rich and poor in the United States since the 1920s and the gilded age of the last quarter of the 19th century. Two nations, rich and poor, isn’t divisive? You bet it is.

Then there’s the generational division. The Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and his son took a $1 trillion national debt and, in the short span of a quarter century, turned it into $8.4 trillion national debt. Currently, the Republican president and Congress are adding $1.75 billion a day to that debt. Sen. Alexander and his colleagues spend recklessly, and our children and grandchildren will pay. That’s divisive too, far more divisive than the Akaka Bill could ever be.

And Hawaiians already know something about separation and the “undermining of national unity.” With the arrival of Capt. James Cook in 1778, the dying began. In a little more than a century, Western diseases took the Hawaiian population from 400,000 to less than 40,000.

In the mid-19th century, the imposition of a Western system of private property separated Hawaiians from their land. The theft was misnamed the Great Mahele.

In 1893, a cabal of sugar barons, their minions, the American minister in Honolulu, and sailors from a United States ship - with the tacit approval of the Republican administration in Washington - overthrew the Hawaiians’queen. Seven years later, the United States, during the administration of Republican President William McKinley, annexed Hawaii.

Those 41 Senate Republicans, who know so much about national unity, are part of a long tradition of undermining Hawaiians.

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