Under the Sun
Election after election, hope springs for a better time
BY this time next week, the racket of the election season will be all pau.
Gaudy signs that visually polluted fences and yards will start coming down, sad reminders for losers, triumphant declarations for winners.
No longer will television programs be interrupted by soft-focused, color-saturated ads with clean beaches and rain-shrouded forests -- narrowly scoped, of course, so as not to show the homes and hotels squeezing into them -- or with giddy children and gentle-smile old folks used as props. Gone, too, will be the nasty "he's a bad guy, she's a fake" missives dangling from your doorknobs or littering your front steps.
The ballots will have been counted, and in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., incumbents and fresh leaders will shuffle through the post-election cycle, repositioning for their new terms in office.
As with every turnover, voters will be looking to see if things will be different, if the change in personnel will stir a departure from the past.
At the state Capitol, there will be at least 11 new faces at legislative sessions after nine House and two Senate incumbents opted out of their jobs. An altered line-up could transform leadership in both bodies, and while voters generally view jockeying among factions as tiresome and esoteric, ringleaders set the tone and priorities. They control who and what gets the attention of lawmakers.
As always, there are about a zillion issues that need tending, but often what comes out of the Capitol doesn't amount to a hill of beans to the ordinary citizen. There wasn't a great hue and cry over making state judges retire at age 70, yet that was one of the constitutional amendments put before voters with the accompanying blurts from advocates and opponents about why this was so profoundly important.
The way University of Hawaii regents are picked also sucked a lot of political wind from the atmosphere, but if all the people really, really troubled by the current process were asked to stand up, they wouldn't even fill the cheap, end-zone section at Aloha Stadium.
Meanwhile, issues like the cost of health care, that strikes hard at individuals and businesses, get short shrift. Legislative ears listen keenly to the requests of the insurance industry while remaining deaf to those of ratepayers, and as a result the state no longer has the power to examine rate increases to see if they are really needed.
Though the state's precarious energy structure has caught the notice of political leaders, bold steps needed to bring stability have yet to emerge and because the price of oil and gasoline -- the petroleum product dearest to the hearts of consumers -- has dropped in recent months, it seems that the winds that encouraged new incentives have died down.
The state can't rely on the Bush administration to lead the way on making oil the nation's alternative energy. Even if Democrats win a majority in either or both of the houses of Congress, their focus will be how to best extricate the United States from the horrible, deadly mess that is Iraq.
While that's happening, there are also other matters that need work, like shaping a rational immigration policy instead of this silly, expensive plan to send fences crawling over steep mountain ranges, through isolated valleys and across rivers and environmentally sensitive lands.
There's a minimum wage that needs raising, a nationwide health-care problem that should be approached from the care facet rather than pricing. There's a need to bolster the middle class, whose numbers are shrinking as good jobs with decent pay disappear. There's a need to support research to cure diseases, like Parkinson's and diabetes, without allowing the ideology of a noisy minority to stand in the way.
Maybe after the elections, after we've cast our votes (and we'll all be voting, won't we?), things will be different. The optimist in me hopes so.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org