Going Out On A Political Limb
Wednesday - October 11, 2006
This column is about predictions and pronouncements.
First, predictions. My own predictive skills border on the pathetic. For example, at a forum three days before the Sept. 23 primary election, Gene Ward, an East Honolulu Republican state house candidate and obstreperous former friend of mine, asked a panel (Richard Borecca of the Star-Bulletin, Jerry Burris of the Advertiser and me) who was going to win the Democratic primaries for the United States Senate and 2nd District congressional?
Now Borecca and Burris have been covering Island politics since before the dawn of man (Gads, they’re old futs!), so I allowed them to go first. Borecca hemmed and hawed, then said, “Akaka by 5,000 votes, Hirono by who knows what in the Congressional.”
Burris, a student of polling, said: “Akaka by 4-5 percent, Hirono in the Congressional.”
I, fool that I am, and adverse to being part of an echo chamber, said: “Case in the Senate race, Hanabusa in the Second Congressional.”
I should have learned, long ago, never to predict political races (and never to ignore polls). One of my first predictive follies was in the 1988 Honolulu mayoral contest. Using one of my finely-calibrated ethnic analyses, I wrote that then City Councilman Randall Iwase would win the four-person race. He came in third - or was it fourth? Anyway, nowhere near the top.
But sadly, this year’s general election appears so predictable that I am oh so tempted to say that Linda Lingle’s, Daniel Akaka’s, and Mazie Hirono’s victories are as certain as ... well ... as North Shore winter surf.
How could Iwase possibly beat Lingle? The guv has high approval ratings, a low unemployment rate to brag about, and all the money in the world with which to campaign. Iwase? He’s one of the two guys who offered themselves to the Democrats when the Democratic leadership couldn’t find a more attractive candidate to run.
I can only figure one way for Iwase to get close, and it requires two things Iwase doesn’t have, money and a taste for the jugular. Every Republican from Wilmington, North Carolina to Waianae shudders at the possible impact of Bush and the war in Iraq on the November election. Lingle spent much of the Summer and Fall of presidential election year 2004 extolling the virtues - yea, even the greatness - of George W. Bush
Whether Iwase is able to raise $200,000 or $2 million, he should spend every cent of it reminding the voters of Lingle’s admiration for President Incompetent, the president whose appointees torpedoed the Akaka Bill, the president whose lack of an energy policy resulted in Hawaii’s drivers putting food money in their gas tanks. And so on.
Being of the Bush party is what will also sink Republicans Cynthia Thielen and Bob Hogue. Since statehood, no incumbent member of Hawaii’s congressional delegation has ever been successfully challenged.
Now to pronouncements. I have two. The first is actually a quote from the character Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Stark exhorts a crowd of poor Louisiana farmers to register and vote because, he says, “If you don’t vote, you don’t matta!”
True enough. Old folks like me vote, and we “matta.” Young folks don’t. I recently asked the 24 members of a college class I teach how many of them had voted in the primary. Five raised their hands, and three of them were older, non-traditional students. Politicians know these young folks don’t vote, thus they don’t “matta.” We old codgers will keep our Social Security and Medicare, but affordable housing for young marrieds? Early childhood education programs? Universal healthcare coverage? Are you kidding?
Then there’s the pronouncements from supporters of a losing candidate, either just before an election or just after, that their bags are packed and they’ll be moving to the continent if that no good so-and-so blankety-blank wins this election. I’ve heard it from Tom Gill supporters and Frank Fasi supporters and countless supporters of various Republican candidates. This year it came from Case folks.
Most of those Gill, Fasi, and Republican supporters stuck around, of course. And Gill’s progressive brand of politics found life in their long championing of Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie. Fasi’s folks stayed too; and while they never saw their man win the governorship, they helped him give many years of good service in Honolulu Hale.
And Linda Lingle? Although I don’t mean to jinx her, I think she’s on her way to a second term as governor - with the help of a lot of Republicans who stuck around. Case and his people, in their despair, should try for refunds on their airline tickets.
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