Neal Milner: Can Hawaii remain an 1980s oasis in a modern political world?

Hawaii is in a long-running political bubble that will last through future terms as well as the November general election.

After that, however, certainly by the 2024 election, there’s a good chance our bubble will burst.

For now, while the rest of the country’s politics are going crazy, Hawaii’s election night coverage will have an 1980s vibe, like Bob Sevey was still grounded, Joe Moore was playing sports and Pogo and Checkers were more popular than Huntley and Brinkley.

No fancy charts, no decision desks, no breathless projections. Just a bunch of people like me calmly talking about the story waiting for the next print for the few results that haven’t already been decided after the first print.

The blanket is a holdover from old Hawaii, like the double-knit pants and the windy, misty Kanikapila concerts at the Andrews Amphitheater.

Election night coverage is ho hum because Hawaii politics is ho hum. You can only add so much hot fudge, whipped cream and cherries. The sundae is always vanilla.

Even if you think the big races have been heated (I don’t), they are predictably heated for the Hawaiian election.

If there are differences, say between progressive and moderate Democratic candidates or Trumpists and other conservative Republicans, they are mitigated.

Republican gubernatorial candidates, left to right, Duke Aiona, BJ Penn and Heidi Tsuneyoshi compete in the Aug. 13 primary. But Republicans are unlikely to win the general election. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Moreover, most Republican candidates for the highest state offices are effectively removed months before the midterms.

There are some close races, at least close to Hawaiian standards, but it’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm for a lieutenant governor primary race or even governor races for both sides, which will likely be decided a minute later. the first impression.

fresh faces

Incumbents win, moderates win, new faces only win if there are no outdated faces running, which is rarely the case.

People here say they want change, new faces and candidates who are not politicians. This describes Vicki Cayetano who, by all indications, is being tricked by leading candidate and longtime politician Josh Green, who you may have noticed by the scrubs he wears morning noon and night, is a doctor.

As for new Republican faces, Heidi Tsuneyoshi would seem to fit that bill. Except his poll numbers indicate his odds are less likely than a specific rail completion date.

And BJ Penn, who it seems could have mobilized the most insurgent new types of Republican voters, turned out to be a dud.

So the first winner will be former lieutenant governor and defeated gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona who entered the race so late that he may have been one red light away from blowing the deadline.

Trump’s influence on state Republicans? Steal, stop stealing? It’s not part of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is accelerating in ways we are only beginning to understand. As Thomas Edsall recently said, “red and blue America will never be the same again.”

The Democratic and Republican parties have become more extreme, but party realignments are the most significant developments.

Change party base

Party bases are changing in a way they haven’t for at least 70 years. As recent elections have shown, the Democrats are no longer the party of the working class and the Republicans no longer have the same suburban white-collar base.

Almost three-quarters of the wealthiest congressional districts are held by Democrats. The majority of the poorest neighborhoods are Republican.

Instead of divides based on social class, the country divides along more fluid and complex lines like religion, education, rural versus non-rural, and region.

The battles within the two parties are legion and brutal.

This trend started before Trump. He stepped it up, but it’s likely to continue, Trump or not. All of this is, in Edsall’s words, “a profound upheaval”.

Hawaii seems like an island of old-fashioned stable politics in a sea of ​​frightening disruption. At least people think so. It’s our bubble.

The most common response to seeing the bubble in Hawaii is “good!” Luckily we live in Hawaii.

The beat continues from there – all the other common ways of thinking about Hawaii, all complementary and reassuring: people are different here; the aloha spirit prevents political wickedness from growing; it’s cultural.

There are several things wrong with these answers. First, they are conventional, which means we accept them without thinking. These answers are conversation stoppers.

Second, these optimistic opinions are based on almost no reliable information, but rather on wishful thinking and motivational reasoning rather than facts.

The political understanding of this place is so superficial and far too focused on bigwigs and elections.

There are no recent studies of Hawaii’s political culture. There is little information on whether people here have changed their minds over time.

All we get are scattered polls, usually at election time, and public opinion polls here and there on certain issues, which is an inaccurate and limited way to use polls.

Nationally, polls show a majority of Republican voters believe the 2020 election was stolen. Further, Republicans are far less interested or convinced by the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Recently, Tsuneyoshi said the same about the January 6 attack: “I think we have to see how everything plays out. I have no opinion on the insurrection. I think it’s a sensational situation. I think there was a lot of dynamics that went into that day.

Nationally, the majority of Republican voters believe the 2020 election was stolen. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2021

A political island

A common sentiment nationally, and I’m guessing here too. But that’s still a guess on important information.

Look at all the national changes I mentioned above. It is impossible to offer an informed opinion as to whether they occur in Hawaii.

In short, there is no relevant and up-to-date body of knowledge about politics in Hawaii. The longer I live here, the less confidence I have in what we know.

It’s not so bad if you think Hawaii can remain an isolated island politically, but it’s doubtful for several reasons.

First, and I’m just reminding you of what you already know, Hawaii has been and will continue to be deeply affected by outside cultural forces.

Second, and more specifically, national politics is bleeding everywhere. We may not see many of these changes in the 2022 election, Edsall says. But, he concludes, all the fuss “suggests that the balance of political power is more fluid than widely recognised.”

“It should undermine the confidence of those who predict victory for the left or the right in 2024.”

It’s tempting, yet reassuring, to be confident that Hawaii will remain an 1980s oasis in a political world of 2024.

You may find it hard to imagine such changes here. But then again, most of you, certainly me, could never have imagined just 10 years ago that American politics would be what it has become. Or that you have become what you have become.

So make your choices and mail in your 2022 ballot.

At the same time, it undermines any confidence you might have about Hawaii as an oasis on the road.

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