Democratic platform adopts native Hawaiian recognition
DENVER » Recognition of native Hawaiians is back in the Democratic Party's national platform.
The democratic party votes on a national platform every 4 years and now Native Hawaiians are included.
The wording is a bit different from the plank adopted in 2000, but the emphasis on some form of native Hawaiian recognition by the federal government runs on the same track.
This year, Democrats said: "We support the efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of native Hawaiians, consistent with principles enumerated in the Apology Resolution and the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act."
Eight years ago, the Democrats, meeting in Los Angeles, said: "We will work to pass legislation establishing a process for native Hawaiians to reorganize a governing body, freely chosen, expressing their rights to self-determination."
Although Hawaii Democrats in Denver cheered the adoption of the plank by the entire convention last night, the native Hawaiian sovereignty bill, dubbed the Akaka Bill for its sponsor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, has failed to move in Congress.
Larry Sabato, director of the University Center for Politics, said the platform plank could be important.
"Several studies have shown that party platforms are more significant than most people believe. Presidents and congressional leaders at least try to fulfill the vast majority of the pledges.
"So Hawaiians can take heart that the Akaka plank is in the platform. This doesn't guarantee passage by any means, but surely if a Hawaiian makes it to the White House, then there's a chance for this," Sabato said.
Last night, Akaka said he would again pitch the bill during the fall congressional session and, if that doesn't work, he would bring it up next year.
It's how Hawaii is marketed to the world, destination paradise. but that may have played to well with the media.
"Should the clock expire on this session of Congress, I am pleased to know that my Democratic colleagues, as well as the many Republican co-sponsors and supporters of the bill, will again support our efforts to federally recognize native Hawaiians and provide parity with American Indians and native Alaskans," Akaka said last night.
Although the native Hawaiian portion of the national party is only a few lines in a 75-page document, Hawaii delegates are cheering the inclusion.
"It lays out the connection very well," said state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, a delegate to the convention. "It refers to the apology resolution, which is an apology for an illegal overthrow, so it is a major recognition. It tells us all that it was Democrats who took this step for the state of Hawaii.
"With this and Barack Obama going to be president and Senator (Daniel) Inouye in an extremely important position, Democrats are stepping forward and doing what is right," Hanabusa said.
If he becomes president, Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill if it passes Congress.
In a statement released in January, Obama said he supports federal recognition for native Hawaiians because they are an important part of the local culture.
The bill would fulfill the promise of "liberty, justice and freedom'' for native Hawaiians and ensure they are not left out of the state's progress, he said.
Last night, Akaka lauded the inclusion of native Hawaiian recognition in the 2008 platform.
"This is a great day," he said. "Native Hawaiians deserve federal recognition like the other indigenous cultures across the United States."
State Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, also a national convention delegate, said she thinks the native Hawaiian plank will benefit the Democratic Party.
"When you look at all kinds of controversial issues at the time they were taken up, they looked dangerous, but when you look back, the question is, 'Why did it take so long?'" she said. "Look at women's right to vote or segregation. This is just one more in that process."