A few party nuts liven up the gathering
Looking trim, fit and without his beard, former Gov. John Waihee was at his most avuncular during a recent meeting with members of the Star-Bulletin Capitol bureau.
His rise to power as the fresh-out-of-law-school leader of the 1978 state Constitutional Convention launched a meteoric political career that begin with one term in the state House and then propelled him to the state's highest posts - lieutenant governor and then governor. Along the way he became one of Hawaii's top political strategists.
Today Waihee surveys the local scene and wishes he saw more political crackpots, rabble-rousers and young people just a tad out of step.
Hawaii's Democrats have been too successful in appealing to the middle, says Waihee.
A mainstream Democrat and one of the original "Friends of Bill," Waihee went to this year's state Democratic convention as a strong supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"We shoved out the fringe, there were no nuts, there were no crazies there. If you don't have some nuts, it is hard to keep things moving," Waihee advised.
Hawaii's Democrats, by so thoroughly organizing among supporters of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, managed to capture the entire middle of the political spectrum.
"This year it was just nice people, you kind of miss it. I would have voted against the crazies, but I like their company; it keeps you sharp," Waihee says, noting that he considers himself part of the political establishment.
In years past, Waihee has advised that the best thing a political party can have is a fierce primary battle, because it early on forces everyone out of the woodwork and makes them take sides. Then after the primary race, the two sides will come together and the party will be stronger than ever, he speculates.
Whether that happens with the still unsettled local Obama and Clinton campaigns probably won't be known until Hawaii's Democrats return from the August national convention in Denver.
Waihee is enough of a political organizer to see that getting regular folks into the Democratic Party is all for the good, but still he wishes for a few Bolsheviks or tree-hugging extremists to rattle the Democrats' cage.
"I may just have to go out and organize a few dissidents ... come on - let's upset the apple cart," he says.