The Dissing Of Hawaii’s GOP

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - September 16, 2009
Peter Carlisle

The recent announcement from Honolulu city prosecutor Peter Carlisle that he would relinquish his Republican Party membership in anticipation of a mayoral candidacy is the least of the worries for the state GOP.

Carlisle’s rationale is reasonable and logical. The mayor’s race (along with the City Council seats) are non-partisan contests. The explanation is he did not want to have party politics enter into the non-partisan fray. OK, that’s fine. But I don’t remember a Democrat politician renouncing his or her party affiliation in order to make a run for office. Carlisle’s defection serves more of a commentary on liabilities office-seekers incur in Hawaii if you are anything but a “D.”

I spoke with a well-placed Republican who lamented that election year 2010 could be the “end of the Republican Party in Hawaii.” I can’t say that I disagree with that assessment.

Now, I am not here to signal the demise of the state GOP, but we have to be realistic. When one of the most prominent members of the party discards his affiliation before a run for public office, it’s kind of like asking a girl to the prom and then breaking the date when your buddies say she isn’t “hot” enough. Metaphorically speaking, the state GOP was dissed.

There was a time when the Hawaii Republican Party was relevant. In recent history, the election of Gov. Linda Lingle was historic. In the late 1990s, the state Legislature boasted 20 GOP members in the House. As a matter of fact, Republicans were essential in effecting the only veto override of a Democratic governor.

But today finds the GOP with an anemic presence in both the state Senate and state House, with two and six members respectively. That’s not enough for a pickup basketball game.

Politics is nothing but a numbers game, and the Democrats are able to generate the number of votes every two and four years. Organized labor is essential to the perpetual power of the Democratic Party in Hawaii. Why? Because the core message of financial responsibility and less government is antithetical to the union mission. Democrats believe the center of our universe is government, and their support of unions is as natural as breathing. Throw in a predominantly disinterested general public and an unorganized private business sector and you have severe political imbalance.

Is the death knell for the Hawaii GOP sounding?

Should we call the undertaker and tell him we got one coming?


Since politics is a numbers game, the survival of the party will rely upon the following:

* A well-defined and committed message of less government, lower taxes, business advocacy, common-sense environmental stewardship and indefatigable support of public safety.

* A vibrant community outreach exposing the shortcomings of the status quo while presenting realistic and impactful alternatives.

* The Hawaii business community must galvanize its membership under one banner, thereby creating a lobbying group that would exert more power and influence than its union counterparts.

* A group of compelling candidates representing the aforementioned ideals must stand up and run. Non-contested races cannot continue.

* The GOP must register every single living and breathing human being and get each one of them to the polls on election day.

* The GOP must work like never before to capture the attention and the pocketbooks of citizens who are disillusioned or dissatisfied with our present political condition. More importantly, when tested, the GOP must not compromise core beliefs for political expediency and short-term gain.

A clean sweep by Democrats in 2010 in major races could force the GOP out of Island politics and into the nether regions of the Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties. If that were to happen, the hope of a vibrant two-party system in Hawaii will disappear.

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