Danny De Gracia: Who Will Step Up And Fight For All Of Hawaii's People? - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

A few days ago, I was returning home from yet another brutally long day at work, and I spotted an intensely enthusiastic person waving a sign on the street in Pearl City. Curious as to which of Hawaii’s incredible choices on the primary election ballot could possibly inspire such glee and aplomb, I was disappointed to discover upon closer inspection that the man was only holding a sign to promote the sale of Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol products.

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Come to think of it, if we really want to be intellectually honest with ourselves, there really are no incredible choices on the primary election ballot for the top races here in Hawaii.

Between the union volunteers (or should we say “volun-tolds”) who look like disinterested zombies holding signs for candidates their organizations decided on their behalf to early endorse before the filing period was even complete, or the anemic way most Oahu residents have followed the governor’s race, I think the public gets it that this primary is basically open and shut.

Hawaii statewide elections are historically decided in the Democratic primary. Josh Green, who has basically been campaigning for governor since the day he became lieutenant governor, is most likely going to be the next governor of Hawaii. And his closest competitor, Kai Kahele, who joined the race too late, is not going to move the needle very far. The result of this relatively static contest is that there is very little incentive to think radically or act courageously.

Rewind a couple years to the 2018, 2014, 2010, and especially the 2006 elections, and man, were those the party years. “Party years” as in it was exciting and actually somewhat relevant to be a member of a political party, because there were sincere, sharp differences in ideology, competing visions of what the future of Hawaii should be, and an effort to at least try to talk about what was wrong with Hawaii.

Perhaps Covid burned out too many people, or maybe the bad economy drove out too many people, but now, this year’s election can be summed up in a single word: “Meh.”

This is sad, because while our choices are “meh” the crises we face in our economy, cost of living, jobs, health, education and the environment are absolutely dire. One would think that problems ignite passion, and that our leading candidates for federal, state and local office would be daily fighting tooth and nail to take urgent action to save the future of our state.

Instead, the battle is to monopolize the buzzword “leader,” and in Hawaii, being a “leader” in 2022 means making as little waves as possible so as to continue to allow the status quo to stay the status quo.

I guess this primary election is perfect, if our status quo suits you. But what happens if you’re not the kind of person who has the ear of our elected elite governing class? Who speaks for you if you work on Kalihi Street, rather than Bishop Street?

What happens if you’re not the kind of person who can afford to max donate at every candidate “birthday party” on Oahu? Who speaks for you if you’re a homeless person in rags with a rusty shopping cart in hand, rather than a lobbyist clad in a Kahala leaf print aloha shirt with a blue dial Rolex Datejust?

Candidates in the 2022 elections need to work harder for all the people, not just the politically connected. PF Bentley/Civil Beat/2014

We have a serious problem in Hawaii where the gap between haves and have nots is only widening. The state is broken, the system is broken, and the promises of a better Hawaii that were made to us by past generations have been broken. We need candidates who are agitated, restless, and willing to serve a cause that is greater than themselves.

When few of those seeking higher office are moved by the plight of the average person, and when things only get worse with every election, it gives rise to a sense that the game is somehow rigged and that there is no point to participation. Not surprisingly, voting in Hawaii is apathetic, and Native Hawaiians in particular probably feel like no one cares about them.

I used to pride myself on never missing an election and always voting early, but now I’m beginning to understand how our Native Hawaiian brothers and sisters must feel. Even the retired four-star Army general and former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus says that he hasn’t voted since 2002 and I’m beginning to wonder if all these people know a great and dark secret that I don’t know about when it comes to voting.

Look, let’s put everything on the table. Gas prices and food prices are skyrocketing. Most people can’t afford rent. Forget about buying a house. Jobs don’t pay enough, and there’s unemployed people who have gone to dozens of interviews with overqualified resumes that can’t get hired.

Health care is broken, and no matter what our leaders say, just try getting an appointment with a specialist scheduled in a timely fashion.

Oahu’s public spaces look like trash in the shadows of massive, multibillion-dollar development projects. This island and this state looks like a shantytown, with homeless everywhere.

And where is the action? Where is the initiative to change this? Are we just going to leave things like this? Is the only thing that matters running for higher office without actually fixing something?

To the candidates running for statewide office, is this really the legacy you want for our children? Step it up. We deserve so much better.

Read this next:

Why Aren’t Our Candidates For Governor Discussing Energy?

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

Stop. This "savior" mentality is not representative democracy, it just leads to authoritarian populism. Remember "I alone can fix it"? How did that work out?

Kalihiwai · 3 weeks ago

The problem is that we have to many same old bad idea politicians that think their job is to pass bills. That is furthest from the truth. They have two jobs. 1. Lower the cost of living in Hawaii. 2. Create a quality of life for the people. Thats it. How they go about that is the issue. We dont need politicians. We need statesmen (women).

Stopthemadness · 4 weeks ago

Open primaries are the best idea for opening up a space for new blood in our officials. It ends the threat of getting "primaried" by someone even more extreme who appeals to diehard party members. CA does this already.

LarryS · 4 weeks ago

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