Hawaii’s Republican Party gathered its faithful over the weekend for the statewide convention in Waipahu, and with no small amount of zeal and determination, some nearly decided a purge was in order.

Why? Because apparently 2016 has been too great a year for the Aloha State GOP. Who could forget state Rep. Bob McDermott barking colorful profanities at his party colleagues on the House floor? Or Sam Slom, the only Republican in the state Senate, having been hospitalized multiple times with a serious heart condition?

No, it’s an abundance of riches, so much so that some in the party base have decided its seven-member minority status in the 51-member state House is simply too big. To make room, they’d like to jettison House Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang for failing to support likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Some nerve, representative!)

Rep Beth Fukumoto Change GOP convention held at the FILAM in Waipahu. 21 april 2016.
State Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang takes heat from fellow Republicans at last weekend’s party convention. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It’s understandable, I guess. Fukumoto Chang just may be too big for her britches, what with having been named one of Asian Fortune’s “50 Young Asian American Stars In Politics” earlier this year and included on The Fix’s 40 under 40 rising political stars list in 2014 in the Washington Post. Probably best to take her down now, particularly at a time when the party is constantly accused of waging a war on women anyway and Trump has made misogyny fashionable among conservatives.

In the spirit of all that, it was enlightening to hear the genius plan that Fukumoto Chang’s Republican colleagues put forward, via catcalls and helpfully direct shouts (“Resign,” for instance), at Saturday’s convention meeting. Fukumoto Chang, they forcefully suggested, should follow Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson and change her party affiliation to Democrat, just as he did after the 2014 elections.


Since Fukumoto Chang succeeded Johanson as minority leader, that would not only maintain a party leadership trend, it would reduce the House GOP caucus to a more manageable size of six. That ought to be plenty to ensure that Hawaii’s Republicans are sufficiently represented in the House. After all, Slom is a caucus of one in the Senate and a veritable model of efficiency.

Leaner (and no doubt meaner), the Hawaii GOP will be well positioned to begin the winning that Trump promises is in its near future — winning so much they’ll be sick of all the darned winning! Once party ideological purity tests have been administered and all the RINOs swept from the room, the path to victory will be wide and thankfully clear of people like Fukumoto Chang, who are so annoyingly bogged down in political correctness over “racism” and “sexism” and other so-called “issues.”

Conventioneers Learn, Issues Are Hard!

But as Chad Blair reported over the weekend, implementing that strategy turned out to be messy business. So many convention participants loudly tried to offer their heartfelt advice to Fukumoto Chang during her remarks on Saturday, party Chair Fritz Rohlfing had to intervene to maintain order.

With the Fukumoto Chang matter thankfully behind them, conventioneers were able to turn their attention to bigger issues affecting Republicans this year, most notably, where transgender men and women are allowed to use public toilets.

Convention participants, in fact, were set to take a page from the House Bill 2 debate that has worked out so smashingly for the Republican Party in North Carolina. That “bathroom bill” had only cost that state a paltry $86.3 million in actual business losses by mid-April, though it stands to lose $481 million more — small prices to pay for a government not yet so small that it can’t make people pee in the right bathrooms.

What state wouldn’t want an economic development plan like that?

But wouldn’t you know it, another woman mucked things up. Meddling former state lawmaker Barbara Marumoto reminded conventioneers that the Donald actually said people should use the bathroom where they feel most comfortable (pesky detail!), letting the air out of what appeared to be a very promising argument for a restroom revolution.

GOP Speaker Robert Graham GOP convention . 21 may 2016.
Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It may or may not surprise anyone that convention-goers were taking their weekend inspiration from the chair of the Arizona Republican Party — that big-tent organization that gave the nation such unforgettable aloha ambassadors as former Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (OK, currently facing contempt of court charges, but who’s perfect?). Urging the faithful to get on board with Trump, Robert Graham tantalized imaginations, saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool to deliver Hawaii?”

Oh, Bob — you must have made hearts race with that one!

It’s hard to know where to go with all this, but let’s try to sort out the Fukumoto Chang business, at least. If I follow the logic of some angry GOP diehards, the House minority leader, who has been a Republican much longer than Trump, has run for office four more times than Trump and been elected to public office as a Republican three more times than Trump, is now somehow less Republican than former liberal Democrat-turned-GOP nominee-to-be Trump.

It’s hard to understand sometimes where real politics and the self parody that has become the GOP begin and end.

If Fukumoto Chang doesn’t care for Trump’s racist comments on Mexican Americans or his moronic campaign to prove President Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii or his refusal to condemn World War II Japanese internment camps or his characterization of some women as “pigs” and “dogs,” bleeding from their “wherever” — well, keep it to yourself, sister! The Donald’s going to make America great again! Only a lyin’, crooked little loser would say otherwise. Get on board, or as the Donald would say, “You’re fired!”

It’s hard to understand sometimes where real politics and the self parody that has become the GOP begin and end. Having been relegated to sideline status in Hawaii, where no Republican has held federal or statewide office in five years, its leaders seem to search high and low for ways to further miniaturize and marginalize the party.

Like petulantly trying to take away key committee assignments from state Rep. Cynthia Thielen when she became the only Republican to vote for Hawaii’s marriage equality law in 2013. Or starting rumors about Fukumoto Chang’s interest in jumping parties, as McDermott did earlier this year.

Truthfully, I have no idea what keeps Fukumoto Chang coming back for more. Smart, genial and committed to principle, she sets an example her more combative party colleagues would do well to adopt as their own, rather than trying to run her out of town on a rail.

In a Pod Squad taping earlier this year with reporter Blair and me just ahead of the GOP primary, she expressed sentiments about Trump that were thoughtful, restrained and more charitable than he deserved. Asked how she thought the nominating process would end, she said without equivocation, “You know, I think there’s a good chance Donald Trump wins.”

And now she confronts an element of her party that can’t abide anything other than mindless, fawning adoration of their dumpster fire of a likely nominee.

A word of reassurance to party leaders and diehards worried that their elected officials aren’t ideologically pure enough or that their zeal for the Donald isn’t sufficiently Trumpian: No need to run anybody off. Episodes like last weekend’s vilification of Fukumoto Chang will take care of that all by themselves.

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