Voter apathy may lead to new Dark Age

Kauai’s recent Democratic Presidential Preference Poll, in which the island joined in a statewide burst of Bernie-mania, and developments over the last few days say a great deal about our politics and our overall sense of reality.

It’s no secret that Sen. Bernie Sanders beat former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders took 69.79 of the statewide vote and 77.09 percent on Kauai, although we lost to Maui County (78.52) in the race to boast the highest Sanders support in the state.

I had time to reflect on how this was going down as I stood in the line with a couple of hundred other people at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center waiting to vote. It was a true cross-section of Kauai, heavily populated by healers, anti-GMO activists, anti-vaccine partisans and the usual run of what one comes to expert from politics on the island.

A total of 314 Kilauea voters turned out — short of the 468 at one Kapaa precinct and 338 in Hanalei. Polling station workers said the turnout, while large, was not equal to that for the 2008 poll, in which President Obama trounced Clinton.

Things start to get interesting when you look at how the vote played out around Kauai. It was Kilauea, not Hanalei, as might have been expected, that gave Sanders the highest victory margin in the county: 86 percent. The North Shore, unsurprisingly, was the most overwhelmingly Sanders real estate: 78 percent among Hanalei voters, 81 percent among Anahola voters, and 83, 76 and 82 percent in the three precincts of Greater Kapaa. The North Shore voter turnout was also the highest in the county, with Hanalei, Kilauea and the one Kapaa precinct bringing out more than 300 voters each.

Democratic Party officials and observers with long experience in Kauai elections were not surprised. They credited voter turnout drives on the North Shore.

It was very different elsewhere. Starting with Hanamaulu, and going through four Lihue area precincts ending with voters whose normal polling place is Koloa Elementary School, Clinton’s margins climbed substantially, to her high-water mark of 48 percent in Hanamaulu.

Indeed, among the remaining precincts, the Sanders fest was unabated, with the curious exception of Waimea, where 36 percent went for Clinton.

But an unfortunate other distinction all of these more Clinton-centric precincts had was that turnout there was dreadful. In stark contrast to the North Shore precincts, only 64 Democrats bothered to show up from the Hanamaulu precinct, 34 from the Koloa Elementary School precinct, 41 in Waimea and 45 in Kekaha. In all, 2,618 Kauai voters went to the polls and everyone else, essentially, surrendered their political futures to the comparatively high numbers from Kapaa north to Hanalei.

But even with the North Shore doing comparatively well, voter turnout here — as statewide, where about 35,000 people voted — could best be described by two words: “appalling” and “pathetic.” Given the vast difference between the numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans, the GOP contest here, which drew more than 13,000 voters and handed a very un-Hawaii victory to Donald Trump, Democrats on Kauai and all of the other islands expressed a deep and troubling indifference.

That Trump prevailed prompted local blogger and columnist Luke Evslin to nurse a Trump hangover the next morning and lament: “Last night nearly eight out of every 10 Kauai Republicans voted for either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. There have been a few moments in my life where a deeply held fiction was taken from me — like learning that Santa Claus isn’t real or when an understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust changed my perspective of humanity.”

Which gets us to a frightening place politically, since Sanders supporters seem to be so irrationally opposed to Clinton that many refuse to say whether they’ll vote for her if she wins the nomination and perhaps more say they’ll vote for Trump if Clinton is the nominee.

This is the man who, just a couple of days ago, insisted that women who have abortions should be punished under the law. He’s the guy who wants to ban Muslims from even entering the United States as tourists. He wants to deport nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants and has a fantasy about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, for which he irrationally claims Mexico will pay. He supports torture and seemingly wants to see everyone carrying a gun.

When Trump made his mind- boggling remark about punishing women who have abortions, I posted an item to a Kauai Facebook group hoping that everyone on island would be as appalled as I was. Not so. Several people came out of the woodwork to say that it doesn’t matter who wins, as long as it’s not Clinton.

I asked if people agreed with Trump or with Clinton, who remains consistently pro-choice. A typical response: “How many people appalled by Trump are comfortable with the criminal Hillary? Why hold back on feeling appalled? All I know about abortion is that it won’t be limited to what happens in a woman’s body, and we have Obama himself to attest to that.”

To that, someone responded: “You’re not making any sense.”

Indeed. If someone is prepared to let either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz take the White House to deny victory to Hillary Clinton, it will mean the U.S. Supreme Court is lost for a generation, women and all minority groups will be besieged, the rich will get richer and, especially if it’s Trump, there might be nuclear war.

Really, Sanders supporters, is that what you want? I’ll disclose here that I voted for Clinton (so my wife and I canceled each other out in the caucus) but I will vote for Sanders if he is the nominee. If Kauai, Hawaii and all Democrats can’t at least get on that same page, our country must prepare for a new Dark Age in which fascism, racism, sexism and right wing thuggery will consume us.

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Allan Parachini is a former journalist and PR executive. He is a Kilauea resident.

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