Year Of The Woman

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - November 22, 2006

Call it the year of the woman. As 2006 draws to a close, the majority Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have chosen a woman - Nancy Pelosi of California - as Speaker.

Hawaii’s voters, by an overwhelming margin, have given Linda Lingle a second term.

The voters of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, having looked over nine other Democrats and two Republicans - 10 of whom were men, chose Mazie Hirono to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And majority Democrats in the Hawaii state Senate dumped longtime Senate President Bobby Bunda for Colleen Hanabusa.

Add Hillary Clinton’s runaway re-election to the United States Senate in New York, her probable presidential candidacy in 2008, and the presence of 16 women in the U.S. Senate next session, and 2006 - for Hawaii and the nation - was a watershed year for women.

“So what?” you ask. Well ... I’m not sure. I’ve always been drawn to the argument that women focus more on the core issues that affect our lives - housing, poverty, health, the aged, families - and that unlike their male colleagues in political office, they are less given to posturing and less likely to cling to the ideological shibboleths of right or left.

Near at hand, for example, we heard Republican Cynthia Thielen criticize President George W. Bush on Iraq, call for the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (that was the tipping point, of course), and devote much of the attention she received during her brief Senate candidacy to arguing for energy independence.

Thielen’s was the only public criticism of Bush I heard last year from an elected Hawaii Republican (Oh, in private a word or two, but not in public.). None of the men offered one up, neither Quentin Kawananakoa nor Bob Hogue nor Hogue’s state House and Senate colleagues.

I hope I’m right about the focus of political women, because Hawaii - and the nation - badly needs to deal with a long, long list of problems that beset us, and that have been largely ignored while ideologues rant.

Start with affordable housing. Last week, I’m told, Gov. Lingle gave a first-rate speech at a conference on affordable housing and homelessness. At the same conference she warned those in attendance not to overstate the problem.

It’s hard to overstate it. Walk any park on Oahu, from Kapiolani to Ala Moana to beach parks up and down the Waianae Coast to Waimanalo. Hawaii is in a housing crisis - and the people most afflicted include a disproportionate number Hawaiians, members of the Islands’ host culture.

While Hawaii has known low unemployment these past few years, while the state has enjoyed record tax revenues, while individuals - particularly at the top of the economic ladder - have enjoyed great prosperity, those at the bottom have lost one of life’s basics: housing.

And sustenance - the Salvation Army and the Hawaii Foodbank both report record requests for help. Too many of Hawaii’s people can’t put food on their tables (or on their tatami mats spread out in the park).

How have we allowed this to happen? While the wealthy from around the world build or buy mansions near our beaches, our people go without housing. While so many among us enjoy the luxury of $40,000-$60,000 automobiles - indeed, practically claim them as a right, an integral part of the American dream, we will allow so many of our fellow citizens to be without food.

There’s something singularly obscene in all of this.

I hope that these emerging political women will bring a new urgency to addressing these concerns shelter and sustenance. I hope. I hope.

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