David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, May 1, 1999

Democrats have strayed
far from roots

As they feel the public outrage from their latest disgraceful performance, members of the state Senate's ruling Democratic faction talk about returning to their party's roots.

This bunch has drifted so far from the Hawaii Democratic Party's roots that they couldn't find their way back with Rand-McNally's best atlas.

Let's see how senators have mocked the founding principles of their party:

Bullet Social equity. The rise of the Democrats in 1954 was driven by Japanese-American vets returning from World War II to a caste society in which sugar planters ruled and immigrant laborers were second-class citizens. Democrats aimed to take power from the rich and mighty and make the American dream accessible to all.

Have Senate leaders continued the tradition of protecting the little guy from the abuses of the powerful or have they joined the ranks of the powerful abusers? The vote to deny Attorney General Margery Bronster a second term provides a disturbing answer.

On one side were beneficiaries of Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools, who overwhelmingly wanted Bronster confirmed to pursue her gutsy investigation of Bishop Estate.

On the other side were rich and powerful Bishop trustees Henry Peters and Richard Wong, who wanted Bronster out and the investigation impeded so they could continue to plunder the legacy Bernice Pauahi Bishop left to help poor Hawaiian children realize their dreams.

Where was the social equity in doing the dirty work for Wong and Peters?

Bullet Workers' rights. Democrats took power in 1954 by joining forces with the ILWU, which represented oppressed sugar workers. Together, they implemented reforms to guarantee workers a square deal.

Senate leaders have perverted that noble effort to pandering exclusively to the government employee unions that get them elected. They see their job as working for public employees, not for the public they both should serve.

Senate President Norman Mizuguchi said as much in his lame excuse for his flip-flop vote to oust Bronster: She had backed legislation that would have cost a few employees at the State Hospital their jobs.

Senate leaders have shown little concern for working people in the private sector who can't find work, who have to take work beneath their training to survive, who have to leave their homeland for jobs.

Bullet Economic opportunity. Founding Democrats knew that a thriving private economy was key to equity and opportunity for all. They worked closely with business as well as labor to build an economic base to support statehood.

Current Senate leaders view business with suspicion and treat any initiative to boost Hawaii's economy as a threat to public workers. They've trashed the private economy to protect government employment as a leading "industry."

Bullet Education. Democrats struggled to build quality public schools and the University of Hawaii. Current senators have run both into the ground to avoid cuts elsewhere in government that would mean trimming the public work force.

Bullet Sacrifice. Founding Democrats wanted above all to make a better life for their children, even if it meant sacrifices on their part. Those ungrateful children who now run the state are intent on hogging it all for themselves and leaving their own kids to pay the tab.

Democrats won't find their roots until they reclaim the Senate from the special interests who now have it under their tight control.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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