Ed Case says he’ll fix Washington. Mazie Hirono‘s strength is a collaborative style. Linda Lingle is bipartisan.

Tulsi Gabbard says voters are tired of politics as usual. Mufi Hannemann says he’ll bring people together.

Charles Djou favors addressing community concerns instead of scoring political points. Colleen Hanabusa will continue to work hard.

Along with Daniel K. Inouye, three of these people will represent Hawaii in Washington over the next two to six years, and probably quite longer.

Perhaps Hawaii’s next U.S. senator and U.S. representatives will be the next Lyndon Baines Johnson, Sam Rayburn, Tip O’Neill, Bob Dole or Margaret Chase Smith, respected congressional leaders who transformed the institution and made their mark on the nation’s history. Inouye would be a strong role model, too.

More likely, it seems, Hawaii’s new delegation will still be stuck in a House of Representatives where Republican Speaker John Boehner’s every move is stymied by Tea Party members. Same goes for the Senate, where either Democrat Harry Reid will continue as majority leader or hand the gavel to Mitch McConnell.

The 112th Congress has been marked by the most partisan clashes in recent memory. Critical decisions on budget matters keep getting delayed until one party has the power to get its way. Compromise is a dirty word.

Disgusted, many longtime senators and representatives are choosing not to seek re-election, saying that the battles in Washington are the worst they’ve ever seen. Others are losing against candidates running on one-dimensional platforms often infused with anger — you know, “Throw the bums out.”

Why would anybody from Hawaii want a job in Washington right now?

Casualty List

Sure, it pays well — $174,000 a year. Great benefits, too.

And, despite some high profile loses in recent years, the incumbent-return rate is still very high.

The approval rating for Congress, however, is abysmal — between 17 percent and 22 percent, according to recent polls. And that’s actually a slight uptick.

The number of longtime pols fleeing D.C. is staggering. Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, keeps track of what it calls its Casualty List.

In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), 26 representatives and 10 senators are retiring. In the Senate they include such national figures as Olympia Snowe, Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl as well as Hawaii’s Daniel Akaka. Figures in the House include Dan Boren, Norm Dicks, Barney Frank, David Drier and Steven LaTourette.

In the 111th Congress (2010-2011), eight senators retired including Evan Bayh, Chris Dodd, Judd Gregg, George Voinovich and Kit Bond, as did 19 representatives including Bart Stupak, Patrick Kennedy, Dan Burton and David Obey.

Well-known figures, some with strong records of working with members of the other party to craft important legislation, are also being defeated for re-election, like Dick Lugar, Dennis Kucinich and Russ Carnahan this year and Russ Feingold, Ike Skelton, Bob Bennett and Arlen Specter two years ago.

That’s a lot of significant departures for a body that numbers 535 members. Their reasons for leaving are not encouraging.

Snowe, for example, the Maine Republican, said, “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.”

LaTourette, the Ohio Republican, said, “It’s been my experience that compromise, cooperation, getting something done, is not rewarded. The group of people that are interested in that type of result — the circle’s becoming smaller and smaller.”

The to-do list in Congress is staggering, starting with looming cuts in defense spending and increases in taxes that will kick in come January unless something is done soon. Challenges in the long-term funding of Social Security and Medicare loom. The national debt has surpassed $14 trillion.

Global warming. High unemployment. A sluggish economy.

Why would Ed, Mazie, Linda, Tulsi, Mufi, Charles and Colleen want to go to Congress?

Follow Civil Beat on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for Civil Beat’s free daily newsletter.

About the Author

Comments