The sky isn't falling on local Democrats
PEOPLE ASK me, "As chairman of the Democratic Party, aren't you upset about Ed Case running against Senator Akaka
?" I answer with a wry smile, believing that internal competition has galvanized our party in the past and will do so once again.
Clearly the great clash for the governorship in 1970 between incumbent John A. Burns and challenger Tom Gill brought out both an old guard and a new wave in full force, reinvigorating the party for a generation.
Many other distinguished candidates have competed to the party's benefit, from Spark Matsunaga and Patsy Mink to Cec Heftel and John Waihee. Ed Case won his U.S. House seat in a heavily contested race, and Dan Akaka went to Washington after defeating a popular Democrat of the times, Joe Kuroda.
Similarly, the Democratic Party debated the Vietnam War, just as it now debates the Iraq War. We debated a woman's right to privacy and same-sex marriage, environmental protection and Hawaiian rights. All of this occurred while the stage-managed opposition commented with an occasional "Tut-Tut."
Is the sky falling? Far from it. Our current movement for renewal actually began when we lost the 2002 governor's race. It continued in 2004 when the party decided to give the chairmanship to an outsider, then swept the state House and presidential races.
Will the Democratic Party be exhausted by the Akaka-Case contest? Absolutely not. From the intensity of feelings today, clearly thousands of people will mobilize around the U.S. Senate primary contest. In the process the Democratic primary will draw voters into the action who have been holding back or staying home.
We compete, expand and regroup, driven by ideas as well as personalities. For 2006, I'm hoping for a slingshot effect. Our task is to carry newfound energy from the primaries (not only Akaka-Case but the U.S. House Second District) right through to the general election. Imagine if we Democrats can pour that energy into what the experts now insist is a lost cause -- the campaign to elect a Democratic governor.
The vitality of Hawaii flows through the Democratic Party. The battles for the soul of Hawaii are fought in our party, and that makes me proud to be a Democrat.
Brickwood Galuteria is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.