Under the Sun
Case's bold candidacy raises relevant issues
ED CASE has inserted the age thing, with all its wrinkles, into the calculation of politics.
In declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, the lean, brisk 53-year-old congressman didn't exactly say that Daniel Akaka, the man who holds the seat, is too old.
Neither did he use the expression "good ol' boys," in the ageless and genderless sense of political patois.
But he did intend to introduce both concepts. They are foundations of his campaign and are relevant issues.
In human affairs, age matters. It is used to identify and classify, as much for consumerism as sociological reasons.
People who lived through World War II are called the "greatest generation," a group marked by the Depression and hard times that by and large stirred them to provide their children with more, with better. Akaka counts among these.
Then comes the "my-my-my generation" of boomers (please, leave off with the "baby" already), from which Case springs.
Just as marketing of products and services is based mostly in forecasting desires and needs at certain stages of life, so too are political campaigns.
Making his announcement, Case carefully phrased his reasons for running, talking about the need to phase in the "next generation" of Hawaii's representatives in Washington.
In referring to a "time of transition," Case was obliquely saying what many political observers in Hawaii often discuss among themselves -- that Akaka and Senator Daniel Inouye are getting on in years.
He brought up the possibility that illness or worse could abruptly prevent either or both from continuing to serve, a scenario not improbable since Case -- fresh off a loss in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor -- gained the opportunity for his initial posting to the U.S. House when Patsy Mink died while in office.
Case argues that someone new must begin to establish seniority, a prize in the esoteric hierarchy of the Senate where political longevity is rewarded with power. But in many ways, longevity and the all-consuming hunger to hang on to the job hobbles lawmakers. These compel elected officials to consider their own interests rather than what's good for voters and the nation, and over time can warp their sense of who they are serving. The future shrinks to the next election day, the world is hemmed by the beltway where lobbyists, trade-offs of votes and earmarking pork become the goal.
In taking on Akaka, Case essentially cut in line, upsetting an order of candidacy that had been acknowledged as "traditional" among Democrats in Hawaii. But though he carries the party flag, Case isn't cut from the same cloth and though he is a keiki o ka aina, his background and viewpoints differ from the mythical homogeneity the party promotes and that Republican critics exploit for their own purposes.
Case says he can take or leave political life, that if he loses this race, he has other goals and interests. While that may be true, his political ambition has been evident through the years. It may just be that his fit into the political structure here has been uncomfortable and that his candidacy is an attempt to re-tailor the party's mantle to conform to his own. If it doesn't work, he can walk away.
Case has been criticized as ungracious and disrespectful and for some, it's hard not to take it that way. However, transitions should be disorderly and noisy and fractious.
Case has stirred the pot, which may be good for Hawaii. Whether it will be good for Case is another matter.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org