How Liberals Celebrate 4th Of July

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 08, 2009

The Boylans spent the glorious Fourth of July on a Hoolauae Street lanai in Aiea, where we’ve spent if for three decades or so. The lanai belongs to Ned and Kamaile Shultz. The crowd includes various Wongs, Oyamas, Takesonos, Golds, Claffeys and assorted others. The menu consists of hot dogs, burgers, potato salad and watermelon; and the singing of patriotic songs and watching of fireworks displays from far away Ala Moana Park, Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor provide the entertainment.

The Hoolauae crowd leans decidedly to the left in its politics. Still, its Fourth of July celebrations reek of chauvinistic nationalism. So much so, that a few years ago a lonely conservative Republican in our midst - after hearing a second or third drunken rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic - said, “I didn’t know liberals were so patriotic.”

We came close to tossing the deluded muttonhead off the lanai. No, we’ve sung through the gawdawful Reagan and Bush the elder years and through the gawdawfuller Bush the younger and dumber years. Our patriotism never faltered; the nation’s leadership in those years merely, to put it delicately, sucked.

But I must admit, we sang with more gusto this past Saturday night for a number of reasons. The first, of course, was that the nation’s leadership - for the moment at least - does not suck. Barack Obama has brought erudition, enormous charisma and sweet reason to every issue he has confronted thus far in his administration.

Have his stimulus package, his energy legislation, his healthcare reform proposals and his diplomatic initiatives cured all of our nation’s ills? Of course not. But there are intelligent, pragmatic people working on all those issues and many more left unattended for all these ideologically laden years. And President Obama demonstrates almost daily via speech, press conference or interview that he is the most intelligent and pragmatic of the lot.

I also sang a little louder this July 4 at the prospects for election year 2010. It promises to be, as the cliché goes, “a watershed year.” A dozen or so members of the Legislature and term-limited members of the City Council aspire to the lieutenant governorship. An open First District congressional seat will draw at least a half-dozen candidates. Three formidable elected officials will vie to succeed Linda Lingle as governor: Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Last Monday night I attended Abercromie’s birthday fundraiser. The event’s organizers came close to violating the fire code by shoehorning 1,200 supporters at $200 a pop into the Coral Ballroom of Hilton Hawaiian Village. The food was passable; the entertainment by Neil Okimoto and the Makaha Sons first rate.

After dinner, the crowd listened to testimonials: from a high school science teacher, a former military officer, a union leader and more. The emphasis was on youth: young mistresses of ceremony and a young filmmaker talking about how Abercrombie inspired them.

Actress Kelly Hu, in a speech that stressed Abercrombie’s early endorsement of and hard work for Barack Obama, introduced the birthday boy.

Abercrombie’s speech was, by his standards, low-keyed and short. It was also, like the announcement of his candidacy, right out of the Obama playbook.

He promised that his campaign was “not about me or my political ambitions, but about you,” and emphasized the need to “close the gap between what is and what needs to be” in “a new era of hope and change.” In a swipe at the Republican governor he hopes to replace, Abercrombie said that “setting private against public achieves nothing at all. We’re all in this together. I will not divide people. I will solve problems, not just take positions.” But first, of course, Abercrombie will have to get by the mayor and the lieutenant governor. That means more oratory - and more expensive birthday parties.

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