Case rages against the machine
THIS year, we have Democrats running against Republicans and some Greens and Libertarians in the mix, but in Hawaii, elections are not about party. They are about turf.
That was made clear to me last week listening to the veterans of the Frank Fasi wars talk about their campaigns for former Honolulu Mayor Fasi, as he tried to beat George Ariyoshi for governor.
Fasi ran as a Democrat and lost in the primary to Ariyoshi in 1974, 1978 and 1982. Then in 1994, to avoid another Democratic primary defeat, Fasi ran in a party of his own making, dubbed the "Best Party," and lost to former Gov. Ben Cayetano.
But all that time he was running against the state's Democratic political establishment first embodied in former Gov. John Burns and our island's power centers ranging from the ILWU to the major local banks.
Fasi's campaign chairman, Iwao Yokooji, told me how difficult it was to campaign on the neighbor islands because people were afraid to vote against the ILWU. "Even my friends would say, how can you protect me?" Yokooji said.
The perception of machine politics in Hawaii helps define our politics. One of my favorite Corky cartoons has five losing candidates lined up at the bar bemoaning their fate.
One guy says he lost because the "machine called out its votes." Another complains there is "no way you can change the machine vote," while another says the "machine didn't come through with the votes." Another adds that he lost "because of the rumor that I was the machine candidate."
And finally, the last loser just says, "Why can't I be the machine candidate?"
Those who run against Hawaii's political machine need either their own apparatus, such as Gov. Linda Lingle's Republican following, or the ability to appeal to those left out, those dismissed by the powerful as not worth the trouble.
In other words, if you are not part of the machine, you must be an effective populist. Fasi wore his love for the little guy as an arm band.
U.S.. Rep. Ed Case is challenging Sen. Dan Akaka, partly because of the Democratic Party's inability to change.
"Too many sense, too often, a growing intolerance and not-so-subtle exclusion that leaves some of us feeling like unwelcome strangers in our own land," Case said while staring the political machine in the face at the state Democratic convention.
Hawaii's senior Sen. Dan Inouye has already said that a vote against Akaka is a vote against him. Nearly all of Hawaii's unions have already come out for Akaka.
Case says the race is not about him, so much as it is about Hawaii's future. He could also say the race is about him against the state politics machine.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org