Isle delegates taking plenty of baggage to Denver
If the reason for the four-day political commercial starting tomorrow in Denver is to formally introduce Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for president, the Hawaii delegation brings its own agenda.
On the surface it is meet, greet and do a little lobbying.
Below the surface, the delegation really represents the new Hawaii Democratic Party.
First, there are stalwarts such as Sen. Dan Inouye, who has been representing Hawaii at the convention since 1952, when it was a territory and the conventions served a political purpose.
He recalls how the delegation from the Territory of Hawaii was installed next to the bathrooms on the top rung of the Chicago stockyard convention hall.
"Flush, stink. I would say we have come a long way," Hawaii's senior senator intoned during an interview last week.
While Inouye has guided much of Hawaii's political progress, today there is a new set moving in.
Andy Winer, the fire-in-the-belly private attorney who has come into his own as a local political organizer in the last three election cycles, is complemented by Brian Schatz, the 35-year-old former state representative and new Hawaii Democratic Party chairman.
Winer now serves as the Hawaii state director of the Obama campaign and could have a future political role if Obama goes all the way. Schatz has fashioned himself as a liberal environmentalist who is not dismissive of the old guard.
Also going to the convention are some of the new old guard, such as state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, a St. Andrew's Priory grad and member of the William Richardson School of Law's second graduating class. At Inouye's behest, she took over as spokeswoman for Sen. Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign and comes to Denver as a Clinton delegate.
Hanabusa, like Schatz, wants a promotion and like Schatz is weighed down with the baggage of a political leader; the sins of the rest of the crew are assumed to be the sins of the leader, while the accomplishments are held tightly and not shared with the leader.
When was the last time you heard a pol say, "Yes, thanks to the wise guidance of my Senate president or party chairman, I passed this tax cut for the working families of Hawaii."
For the 29 delegates and other assorted party members and workers, the next four days in Denver will show both the strains of the Hawaii Democrats and test their ability to come together in the Obama presidential campaign.