PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

March 22, 2017

Is the Democratic Party “Progressive”?

Filed under: DNC,Elections,HI Politics,Legislature,strategy — Bart @ 9:23 am

Someone asked on Facebook if the Democratic Party of Hawaii is more aligned with the progressive views of Bernie Sanders or the more corporatist views of Hillary Clinton. This was my response:

It depends upon what you mean by “the Democratic Party.” Yes, 70% of those who voted in the caucuses last march voted for the more progressive candidate who supports those policies. So if we take a snapshot of that moment and define the “party” as those who showed up then, that would say “yes.” But slightly less than half the delegates to the state convention were Bernie supporters. Democracy is not just about showing up and leaving. It is about sticking around and doing the follow up work.

To be fair, some of the Clinton supporters also support “universal healthcare and free college and a robust education initiative and raising of the minimum wage.” So it is not just Bernie supporters within the Party who hold those views.

Delegates to the state convention elected people to the State Central Committee, which is the top policy group, the “board of directors” for the state party. Unfortunately, Bernie supporters, and progressives generally, are a minority of the SCC. For the party to become more progressive, we must elect more progressives, whether Bernie or Clinton supporters, to the SCC and other party positions. It is the SCC which pushes, or not, for the party to be more bold in pushing for progressive policies AND encouraging participation of progressives within the party.
We have plenty of Regressives within the party. Some can legitimately be called “corporatists, but many of them are more “careerist,” looking for jobs, using politics to advance their careers, feel important, reward their friends, sometimes their employers.

Also at the state convention, the party adopted a very progressive platform. The party adopted support for single-payer healthcare a number of years ago, with the prodding of stalwarts of the Americans for Democratic Action-Hawaii. I remember George Simson, in particular, being an early advocate, insisting we had to use that term. So even before the massive “Bernie Enrollment,” in many ways, the party’s official position on many issues has been very progressive.

This year, the Legislative Committee of the SCC has adopted a very ambitious legislative agenda, trying to turn those “official positions” into legislation, lobbying Democratic legislators to pass them. Our lobbying effort is only as strong as the effectiveness of our ability to persuade lawmakers to support such legislation. That requires we mobilize and train an army of party members as citizen-lobbyists. We are moving in that direction, but we are not there yet.

On paper, we have nearly 100,000 party members, meaning people who not only vote Democratic but who took the extra step of signing a party card. We need to engage those members in party activities, especially in lobbying legislators. There are 51 House districts. So, on paper, we have about 2,000 party members in an average district. Can we develop a dozen party members as citizen-lobbyists in each of those districts, responsible for developing effective lines of communication with their representative? That will mean volunteering to help their campaigns, maybe even attend their fundraisers (or bartend at one). It means watching what they do, asking them questions and become a “player,” a potential ally (or a potential critic, if necessary) in their district.

Because we have vestiges of genuine democracy left in our electoral system, one of the most effective means for “persuading” reluctant legislators is to support another Democrat as a challenger in the primary election. A word here, some new party members think there is value in running a challenger against any and all incumbents. That is naive thinking. Progressives have limited resources and must set priorities, Not every incumbent deserves to be fired. Those who have not only voted “right” but who have proven effective in getting progressive legislation passed, or junk legislation blocked, DESERVE to be re-elected.

Some party members, impatient at the gap between the progressive platform of the party and the legislation coming out of the Big Square Building, despite six decades of Democratic control, want to use the Rules of the Party as a cudgel for punishing Democratic lawmakers who vote contrary to the party platform. In general, that is not a good idea. THAT is worthy of another discussion in itself. The problem is a POLITICAL one. And we must create the political conditions, in each House and Senate district, that “allows the better angels” in each legislator’s heart to flourish, to dominate their calculations. Or, we have to have enough support in that district to replace them with someone better.

The upcoming county conventions provide an opportunity for party members to become more active, to learn the rhythms, the personalities, the forces, within each county party, as well as to network with like-minded people so we can strengthen our political and social ties and become an effective team. It would be VERY helpful if we can elect a progressive, or at least a FAIR chair on each county. One who is transparent and who encourages participation from those members who want to get more involved. There is a lot of energy, a lot of progressive energy, available, waiting to be tapped. But it also has to be trained, guided. So long as that “training” is not intended to stifle initiative and slam the door in the face of new members. If a district or county leader consistently says your help is not needed–and we saw a LOT of that last spring as Bernie supporters tried to volunteer to help with the caucuses–that leader should be replaced by someone who is able to find a way for you to get engaged. And to learn.

So the “Democratic Party” has the potential to be progressive, has strong progressive tendencies inherent within it, but we have to do the hard work to actualize that potential. We ARE growing.

NOTE: the original FB post can be found here, along with comments from others and further remarks by me:

June 4, 2014

The Return of Political Speed Dating

In July 2006, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii (PDH), in partnership with the Americans for Democratic Action, Hawaii Chapter (ADA), sponsored a brand-new format of political forum, Political Speed Dating. The field of candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Second Congressional District was huge, ten people. On the one hand, this created a need for voters to find a way to meet all ten candidates and get a feel for both their personalities and their position on the issues.

So PDH and ADA decided to hold a public forum. But were stuck with a dilemma. So many candidates made it difficult to hold a convention panel discussion. With ten candidates, sitting side by side, answering the same question, in turn, the audience would fall asleep between questions. And, the later candidates had an unfair opportunity to steal the best replies from the many candidates speaking before them. One of our members came up with the idea of “speed dating.” I will admit, I was one of those who rejected it as a silly idea. Come on, try to be serious. So we agonized over different, more “serious” formats until, (snap!) it was obvious Shannon’s idea was not “foolish,” but a brilliant solution to a difficult problem.

This year, with a slightly smaller field of candidates (6) in the First Congressional race, we are planning to once again, hold a candidate Speed Dating event. We are hoping the candidates will be good sports and help the voters get to know them better. So far, there have not been many opportunities for a voter to hear all the candidates at the same time. We hope to provide that opportunity.

Stay tuned.

Here is a KITV News story of the joint PDH/ADA Speed dating forum for the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race:


Here is a print news story of the 2006 Congressional forum from the Star-Bulletin:


May 28, 2014

Brian Schatz v. Colleen Hanabusa: Who Represents “Change”?

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,US Senate Race — Bart @ 1:57 pm

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

US Senator Brian Schatz

Note from Bart:

The comments here represent my personal views and may not be shared by all (or even by many) other members and officers of PDH.

I have been criticized for writing lengthy comments for other online websites, but rarely for the PDH Blog. So I am posting here an extended comment I wrote on Civil Beat in reply to a reader claimed Schatz should not be seen as a candidate for change because he is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” and, therefore, the choice of the “establishment.” That reader appears to be a Tea Party rightwinger. I got a sense of that from his comment. But because some Tea Party “logic” is often found among confused voters who do not see themselves as Tea Partiers, I tried to not simply dismiss his remarks but tried to take them seriously, with the recognition his views are not unique to him or to the TP crowd, but are being pushed by some Hanabusa supporters as well.

Here is the article on the Civil Beat website, a report on the latest poll which shows Schatz leading Hanabusa by 5 percentage points. The original article, of course, is more worthy than my lengthy comments, so feel free to leave here to go there.


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Johnny, Let me take a moment to address your comments.


First off, I suggest the assertion Schatz is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” is not useful for analyzing what is going on. It may be useful as a weapon for attacking Schatz by trying to taint him with the faults of Abercrombie. But it does not reflect the facts. Many of us hold politicians in contempt for “spinning” the truth, playing loosely with facts to make themselves look better and cast blame on their opponents. I suggest we are no better than that if we resort to the same tactics in our “anti-establishment” zeal.
Where does this claim about Schatz come from? OK, Schatz was Neil’s LG. Sorry. That does not provide any support for your claim against Schatz. In Hawaii, the primary voters pick the LG, not the Governor. The people of Hawaii cast almost twice as many votes for Schatz as for Bobby Bunda, his nearest rival in a crowded field.

Abercrombie did not support Schatz over his primary opponents and Schatz was very careful to steer a middle path between Neil and his opponent, Mufi Hanneman. In fact, some of Neil’s people saw Schatz as a Mufi supporter at that time. And, when Schatz was elected LG, he appointed A.J. Halagao, Mufi’s campaign coordinator, to run his office.


Perhaps Schatz is “Abercrombie’s guy” because the Governor picked him to become the US Senator? The Democratic Party’s “board of directors,” the SCC, a group of about 80 people from across the state, had the responsibility for presenting 3 names to the Governor from which to make that selection. I was part of that process and we wrestled with the question of whose names to move forward. There was no uniform set of criteria for evaluating the names. But, in broad terms, these are the kind of considerations we weighed:First, the pool was limited by law to Democratic party members. Second, we gave weight to whether the nominees would be able to mount an effective campaign in 2014, when the appointed term comes to an end. Some people suggested a “placeholder” appointment of someone who would NOT run in 2014 and those arguments were also considered.I do not know how conversant you might be with the pool of potential Democratic US Senators from Hawaii. It is not a large group of names. We did not necessarily limit ourselves to current officeholders, but that was a good place to start. Former elected officials were also considered, including ex-governors. Shinseki’s name was floated. At least one prominent businessman. We interviewed everyone who submitted their name or whose name was submitted by others, with their approval. Some were delusional “vanity” candidates, IMO.

In the end, we came up with Schatz, Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina. I would defend those choices. And each of them received the support of a majority of the SCC members, even though each had their own base of supporters who favored them as the first choice. There was a significant gap in support between the third and fourth place name. I am giving away no secrets in sharing this. It can be gleaned from news accounts from the time.

A strong case could be–and was–made for each of those three nominees. But it was up to the Governor to pick. I honestly could have supported whichever one he chose.


The strongest argument made against Abercrombie’s selection of Schatz–and when I say “strongest,” I mean the most politically effective argument, not the most logical– is the accusation he should have “honored” Senator Inouye’s dying request that Hanabusa be appointed. (I do not hear you making that argument). I think that argument is cheap and disingenuous. And, ironically enough, disrespectful to Senator Inouye, by suggesting he be treated as a dying king wanting to name his own heir. The insinuation Inouye saw himself as the top political boss, even as an “Emperor” of Hawaii politics was a recurring accusation coming from the political right which Democrats had fought against for years. Yet here, just as Senator has died, this is how his closest operatives are insisting we should view Inouye? Forgive my French, but WTF? I had rejected that charge from the Right and was not willing to fall for it from people trying to retain control of the power which was now slipping from their grasp.Senator Inouye DID want Hanabusa appointed. In his view, she was the one most likely to hold together the team of people he had assembled over the years, the so-called “Team Inouye,” a group of staffers, close allies, lobbyists, defense contractors, campaign contributors and political insiders who wanted to continue both his policies and the stream of “pork” he had proudly brought back to the state and had distributed with them largely determining where it went and who got it. But Inouye was only offering HIS advice, not issuing a decree, not assuming his “dying wish” must be obeyed by the Governor. The way top banker Walter Dods and HECO chair Jeff Watanabe played up the letter to Abercrombie, with top Inouye staffers standing barely concealed in the shadows, was disrepectful to both democracy and the Senator, in my view. (I say that knowing it will anger people I would rather NOT have angry at me).

At the time, Senator Hanabusa was clearly the more experienced legislator than Schatz. I said at the time, she would probably be better equipped to “hit the ground running.” But, contrary to your impression, Schatz is no “empty suit.” If you are unaware of his qualifications and achievements, let me suggest that reflects more on your lack of familiarity with Hawaii politics, the legislative process and the world of non-profits. It is not your fault you are unfamiliar with these things. But I think you make a mistake when you rely upon your lack of knowledge to make bold statements.
The argument that Schatz is young enough to acquire significant seniority for the benefit of Hawaii may be distasteful to you. But it arises from the nature of power in the Senate and is not something invented by Brian Schatz or Neil Abercrombie. It is ironic that Hanabusa’s campaign, which brags about her political “Real Politic”–her ability to operate in the “real world” of hard-nosed politics, should now feign indignation that “seniority” should be considered a legitimate criterion in an election. Both Senators Inouye and Akaka remained in office, unable to retire, because they had acquired so much seniority that their loss of seniority would hurt the people of Hawaii. The decision to convince Akaka to retire was made, perhaps too late, with the hope Senator Inouye would remain in office long enough as Akaka’s replacement slowly climber the seniority ladder. All politically astute Democrats knew this, most definitely including Team Inouye’s top operatives. So it is disingenuous for them to now act as if it is “unworthy” for Schatz supporters to point to his youth and potential seniority as one argument in his favor. “Why do you dislike older people?” (I write this as someone only two years younger than congresswoman Hanabusa).


So Johnny, your view of the “political establishment” and mine are quite different. I see Hanabusa’s base of support as rooted in the Inouye operatives and campaign contributors, but not necessarily those who voted for him. To a large degree, these people also supported the rise of Mufi Hanneman, who had been also groomed for Congress with an eye towards becoming senator. They have supported other ambitious politicians as well. But their top priority at this time is to elect Hanabusa to the US Senate in an effort to re-estblish their web of influence. That is the Old Order. It is crumbling. They are trying to shore up the structure, but I suspect most voters are eager for a change. Schatz is not beholden to that network. Nor is he beholden to Abercrombie’s network. He was in Abercrombie’s view, the best choice of the small pool available for appointment. But that does not make him “Neil’s Boy.” He is his own man, with his own network of support emerging, both locally and nationally. As with any political network, he will have allies I do not necessarily like. But, on balance, I prefer for the “Ancien Régime” to crumble away and allow for new possibilities to emerge.

I suspect your political commitments do not allow you to see the “establishment” in these sort of terms. But I have shared my perspective in the hopes that maybe it will cause you to question the idea that an incumbent US senator might not be “the establishment” politician and the fact Abercrombie appointed him does not make him Abercrombie’s puppet. I suspect most Hawaii voters, while not expressing their views in as longwindedly as I have just done, will see past the superficial and agree with the broad outlines of the framework I have spelled out here. And there is no contradiction between voters supporting David Ige because they want to replace Abercrombie and many of those same voters supporting Schatz’s election because they do not want a return to the “staus quo ante” domination of Hawaii politics by the Old Boy Network.

Voters want new possibilities and change. I think Schatz represents those possibilities. I read both this poll and that by PPP as saying most voters agree.

NOTE to PDH Blog readers:

Feel free to post your comments either here or on the Civil Beat site. The CB site gets more eyeballs (by a long shot). But comments posted here are likely to remain on the web for longer than those on Civil Beat. My comments on Mike Gabbard’s ties with the Chris Butler Hare Krishna group continue to get hits from people all over the world trying to understand Tulsi Gabbard’s background.

August 31, 2012

Linda Lingle vs. Mazie Hirono

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics — OahuSophist @ 3:00 pm

Representative Hirono was endorsed not too long ago by our friends, Progressive PAC. Mazie is one of the most progressive members of the U.S. House of Representatives, consistently supporting environmental protections, the middle and working classes, and standing as a bulwark against the kleptocratic policies of a House controlled by a Republican Party that is in the grips of ultra-conservative ideologues. Mazie is without a doubt the only choice Hawaii voters have if they are at all interested in holding at by a Senate controlled by those same ideologues.

That’s not to say former Governor Lingle is one of these ideologues herself. But she’s certainly shilled for them in the past. After being passed over for the veep nod from McCain in 2008, she went on the road with nothing but positive things to say about McCain, but more importantly, about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party star child whose 15 minutes of fame is officially over (Fox News didn’t renew her contract as a commentator). Though Lingle was elected as a moderate and in response to a public perception that Democrats had run amok for too long, there is little room for argument that she drifted to the right at an increasing pace as her term as Governor proceeded. A vote for her is a vote for everything the Romney/Ryan Republicans stand for.

The potential consequences of this election are stark indeed. A Romney presidency would, in my opinion, be at least as bad as the second bush presidency, if not worse. And if the Republicans are able to not only hold on to their control of the House, but also gain control of the Senate, our state and our country sink ever further into a future controlled moneyed interests: corporations and individuals whose singular motivation is the collection of more and more wealth, at the expense of our families, our jobs, our economy, and our environment.

Unless this sounds like a future you want to hand to your children and grand-children, don’t vote for Lingle. Even if you believe Lingle is still a moderate, there’s no reason to believe she won’t vote the GOP line if she makes it to the Senate. At the absolute minimum, her very first vote will be against Senator Inouye for the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, something Hawaii can’t afford to let happen.

In the days and weeks between now and the election on November 6th, check back for a breakdown and rebuttal to the recently updated Republican platform and point out just how far out of touch the GOP is on any number of key issues.

June 19, 2012

Mazie Hirono Completes PDH Survey

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,SHAPES platform — frosty @ 10:47 am

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

(No Response)

Foreign Policy

1. What are your thoughts regarding a potential military conflict with Iran? Would you support military intervention against the regime there, why or why not?

We must make every effort to prevent the situation in Iran from escalating into a military conflict. We need to use every tool we have to convince the government of Iran to behave responsibly: from diplomacy to sanctions. At the same time, we cannot tolerate the threat of such an unstable regime’s possession of nuclear weapons.

2. Would you support cutting military spending and redirect the funding to other budget items? If so, where would you suggest redirecting those fundings?


Ed Case Completes PDH Survey

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

The main reason is that most of the American people are currently disenfranchised inside the Beltway. The inside crowd is dominated by political action committees and other special interests dedicated solely to the maintenance of their own interests at all costs to the exclusion of everyone else, and Congress is dominated additionally by the mindset that every debate and policy issue presents a stark choice between political extremes.

All of this results in hyperpartisan, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoners gridlock, and classic alamihi crab syndrome reactions to any attempt to find a better way forward. None of this is representative of the mainstream of the American people. No wonder that, in the most recent poll taken on the subject (Rasmussen, June 2012), only 7% of Americans, crossing all party and other lines, believe Congress is doing an excellent or good job. Please see my Issues Agenda: Fixing Washington.


July 17, 2011

Obama is Not Progressive

Thinking or hoping otherwise will not make this statement any less true. Barack Obama is not progressive. For my part, I never believed he was and one only need look at his time in office thus far for evidence.

Let’s start with health care, if only because the issue is at, or near, the top of my priority list. While it’s true there are some good things in the Affordable Health Care Act, like extending to 26 the age under which parents can choose to continue to cover their children, or eliminating the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition, there’s no denying that when it’s all said and done, it is little more than a massive handout to health insurance companies. (more…)

June 9, 2011

Steering Committee Elections

Filed under: Elections,General — frosty @ 10:22 am

At our July Membership Meeting, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii will be electing the Steering Committee for the next year.  Here is the slate as it stands now:

  • Michael Deweert – Co-Chair and/or Member At-Large
  • Josh Frost – Co-Chair and/or Member At-Large
  • Gail Breakey – Co-Chair and/or Member At-Large
  • Peter Ehrhorn – Member At-Large
  • Alf Malalang – Member At-Large
  • Bart Dame – Member At-Large
  • Mary Guinger – Member At-Large

Nominations will be taken until Thursday, June 16. The final list will be sent out on the 17th.

September 28, 2010

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono Completes Survey

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics — frosty @ 7:40 pm


1. What steps do you think Congress should take to rebuild our economy on a more sustainable, yet economically viable basis?

We need to make sure that people have jobs, and we need to make sure that the measures we pass have a proven economic benefit. I voted for the Recovery Act because it would produce jobs. And in spite of the Republican rhetoric about the Recovery Act, “not doing anything,” the fact is that the Act has brought over a billion dollars back to Hawaii and put firefighters and police and construction workers and teachers — all here in Hawaii — back to work. I voted for the extension of unemployment benefits because statistics show that it would — far more than tax cuts to the rich — help stimulate the economy.

Stimulating the economy is also about preserving and diversifying our economy here in Hawaii. For example, I voted for a bill that provides tax incentives to the solar energy industry. I met with people working in that industry here in Hawaii, and they told me that if this bill didn’t pass, then they’d have to lay off many of their employees. So I helped pass the bill to help preserve that local “green” industry. (more…)

August 11, 2010

Progressive PAC Announces Endorsements

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,Legislature — frosty @ 10:16 am

The Progressive PAC, made up of members of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii and Americans for Democratic Action Hawaii, recently released its list of endorsements for this election year. Of all the PAC’s endorsements, there are a handful of candidates that will receive financial assistance from the PAC.

After much examination of candidates’ position on civil unions, emergency contraception in the emergency room, job security, progressive taxation, renewable energy, education, we have targeted our support for the following candidates who are in key races.

Neil Abercrombie for Governor
Gary Hooser for Lt. Governor
Michael Golojuch for 19th State Senate District (Oust Gabbard!)
Representative Blake Oshiro in House District 33
Linda Ichiyama for House District 31
Jason Bradshaw for House District 43 (Oust K Pine!)
Cynthia Rezentes for House District 44

The Progressive PAC, to fund its donations to candidates, will be holding a fundraiser on Saturday, August 21. at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, 1730 Punahou St. from noon to 2:00pm and tickets are a suggested $60 donation. We need your help to support these candidates to ensure they win their primary races! (more…)

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