By: T. Jeffersonian
Turning Hawaii into a Republican state presents significant challenges. This challenge is personified by Hawaii having only gone Republican in two Presidential Elections in 1972 (Nixon) and in 1984 (Reagan) and by Hawaii having had only two Republican Governors – William Quinn (1959-1962) and Linda Lingle (2002-2010). In the most recent Presidential Election 2020, President Donald Trump increased his voter turnout in Hawaii by 2,7 percent but still lost to his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, by nearly 30 percent. Hawaii has four Electoral College votes which in the grand political scheme of things, is not a lot. It would cost the Republican Party a lot of money here and for the amount spent, only four electoral votes may not be worth the cost. Comparatively, the same money spent in Hawaii, could be spent in a Battle Ground State where many more Electoral Votes are up for grabs and if obtained can shift the Presidential Election one way or another.
Jim Carville was the Presidential Campaign Manager for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign. In a speech at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2001, Carville described politics in Pennsylvania as being “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between”. In quite a few ways, Carville’s Pennsylvania comment applies to Hawaii. In Hawaii, you have Oahu where the majority of the Hawaiian population lives and then you have the rest of the islands. The rest of the islands combined do not have a population equal or exceeding Oahu. Even if the rest of the islands all turned Republican, half of the voters on Oahu would have to also turn Republican in order for the entire state to switch. Linda Lingle, the last Republic Governor in Hawaii, unsurprising was a politician from Molokai and Maui.
Perhaps the initial phase of turning Hawaii Republican should begin on the other islands. This is less threatening strategy to Democratic lawmakers on Oahu. So what if Maui and Kauai are Republican as long as Oahu remains Democratic? Building Republican momentum in the other Hawaii islands, sets the stage for decisive actions on Oahu. To build Republican momentum on the other islands first, we again have to take a look at Jim Carville’s 1992 Talking Points for the Clinton Campaign:
1. Change, not more of the same.
2. It’s the Economy, stupid.
3. Don’t forget about Medicare.
Change is a difficult talking point to grasp and apply anywhere, not just in Hawaii. The real change needed can best be summed up by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Campaign, “Are you better off than you were four years ago”? Politics and bureaucracy as usual typically lead this answer to being “No”. The answer cannot be “We have elected a Republican but the results are the same because of the bureaucracy”. Bureaucracy is a dinosaur in the age of the internet. People have instant access to information, to products and services. Because of this instant access, people expect government to be just as fast. It is this expectation on which the
Republican Party in Hawaii must focus. Focusing on providing instant results was a tactic that benefitted Hezbollah in South Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War. When the Israelis caused damage, Hezbollah was faster to provide aid and assistance than was the Lebanese government. Hezbollah had shadow government ministers and departments inside South Lebanon. Through these shadow ministers and departments, Hezbollah was able to mobile and provide faster services. The faster services and responses caused the Lebanese people to back Hezbollah and allowed them to transition themselves into a legitime political party inside the Lebanese government. Perhaps the Republican Party in Hawaii can mimic Hezbollah by providing faster assistance to the Hawaiian public and through these faster services grow legitimacy and support.
The greatest support provided right now during the Coronavirus Pandemic would be economic and follows Carville’s second talking point, “It’s the Economy, stupid”. If the Republic Party wants to turn Hawaii red in future elections, the Republic Party through its shadow government and departments, needs to quickly help Hawaiians get back to work or to help them find new work. Whichever party can put legitimate money in voter’s pockets and help them keep that money, will get their votes. Whatever the Republican Party can legally do to help Hawaiians file taxes, secure benefits, and obtain grants or loans. The Republican Party must “Feel Hawaiians Pain” and when they feel that pain, Republican must do something quickly to economically alleviate and remove those pains. These results must be achieved faster than the elected Democratic officials and the sitting bureaucracy beneath them can generate and to the extent possible, the results should not cost the prospective Republican voter anything at all.
Costs brings us to the third Carville talking point, which was “Don’t forget about Medicare”. Repealing Obamacare hurt Medicare and that hurt Republicans in Hawaii. Hawaiians want affordable healthcare for themselves and especially for their families and Republicans simply have to find numerous competitive and quick ways to provide these essential sought-after medical services to the Hawaiian people. Proving affordable medical care is not traditionally a Republican legacy platform, however, that legacy plank does not resonate here. To succeed here in Hawaii, Republicans will have to provide simplified affordable medical care faster than Democrats.
Turning Hawaii into a Red Republican state is a serious challenge but has been done before. In order to turn Hawaii Republican, Republicans must create effective shadow departments on the other islands and then move to Oahu for decisive competition. The shadow departments must provide change that equates solely to providing fast results that endure. The fast-enduring results must focus on the economy and affordable medical care. Economic results must put Hawaiians to work and enable them to make and keep more of their hard-earned income. This hard-earned income cannot then be consumed by expensive private
health care. For Republicans to succeed in Hawaii, they must shear away from their legacy party plank, and provide affordable health care to Hawaiians.