Corporatists pose as Democrats, really Centrists

Note: This column represents my personal and individual viewpoint only, and does not represent the position or viewpoint of the Democratic Party or any organization I am affiliated with.

It’s not an exaggeration to say 2020 will be, and in fact, must be — a pivotal year of change.

The Amazon burns, we keep children in cages along our borders, mass shootings are commonplace, the rich keep getting richer and the poor, poorer — all while we allow a dangerous, divisive and mentally unstable individual to occupy the White House.

Locally, we have the highest rate of houseless per capita of any state in the U.S..

Nearly half of local families live on the edge, with less than one paycheck in the bank. Working two or more jobs at substandard wages, while sharing a home with family or friends is the norm for local residents.

When factoring in the high cost of living, our public school teachers are the lowest paid in the country.

Hawaii’s natural environment is degraded daily as corporate interests divert our mountain streams and agrochemical companies pollute our coastal reefs and groundwaters.

Our criminal justice system seems based on the principle of mass incarceration in private for-profit prisons with barely even lip service given to rehabilitation and re-entry.

While thankfully our local state government is not overtly unhinged, it is increasingly tone-deaf to the urgency presented by our most pressing problems. Yes, the Hawaii State Legislature deserves credit for the many positive pieces of legislation it passes each year, but they inevitably fall short when it comes to accomplishing the bold systemic changes needed to get out in front of the critical and entrenched challenges facing our community.

The start of each and every legislative session begins always with words of promise and hope, the subsequent action in support of the nice words also inevitably fade into baby steps of incremental change, or more often than not evaporate entirely into a promise of “maybe next year”, or “let’s study this issue yet again”.

While the legislature and/or the governor could convene a special session to deal with these issues, each of which on their own should rightfully be considered an emergency, that is unlikely to happen given the track record of leadership, or the lack thereof. If the need was to support a large construction project or other priority of the Chamber of Commerce and Hawaii’s business elite, the answer of course, would be yes. But for low income working people, the incarcerated, our public schools, or the environment, it is clear such a bold action is not likely.

The legislature could also attempt to resolve the Maunakea/TMT issue which is inarguably the most “here and now” challenge facing Hawaii. A handful of individual legislators have spoken out on this issue, yet the Hawaii State Legislature as a body remains silent.

With literally the stroke of a pen the legislature could grant low income working men and women in Hawaii a much-needed increase in the minimum wage, mandate that excessive stream diversions stop immediately, and require that corporations be prosecuted when their deadly chemicals pollute nearshore waters and aquifers that host our drinking water. They could also deal proactively with the challenges facing our prisons and implement funding mechanisms to ensure our public school teachers are paid what they deserve.

The legislature could also if a call to such leadership moved them — support an immediate moratorium on all new development on Maunakea until the existing obsolete telescopes are removed and issues pertaining to the long term management of the ceded lands are resolved.

But of course, we know there will be no special session. Individual legislators statewide are almost unanimous in professing support for a minimum wage increase to at least $15 per hour, but those in a position of actually making it happen — will find ways to not deliver on their professed commitment and as has happened in the past, will continue to delay the actual passage of any such legislation.

Ditto on the other issues. Either the legislature refuses to act, acts only timidly in baby steps after years of community pressure, or in the case of the corporate water theft bill of 2019 the State House of Representatives actually attempted to give away the store.

It seems clear from a close and sustained look at their words and actions, that a majority of state legislators are in fact Corporatists masquerading as Democrats, attempting to cloak themselves as Centrists.

The keyword here is “majority”. Obviously, there are many legislators now serving that do in fact believe in putting people and the planet first, but a look at outcomes shows that without question, they do not constitute a majority.

Fortunately, we can change this in 2020. Because of the threat posed by the mad King now running the U.S., and because of the new political awareness that has been created by front and center local and national issues — it is possible and perhaps even likely that people from across all Hawaii, will, in fact, show up in 2020 to demand change.

To win in 2020, both at the legislature and at the ballot box, showing up in large numbers will be essential. New candidates from across Hawaii who share the belief that people and the planet must come first, will soon be entering the political arena, and yes more are needed.

The stars are aligning for a win/win in 2020. If the legislature passes a strong progressive and environmentally friendly agenda we win, and if they don’t it actually increases the likelihood of winning for those candidates who campaign on issues pertaining to economic, environmental and social justice.

Bottom line: 2020 starts now.

Now is the time to contact legislators and let them know where you stand on the issues. Waiting means your voice risks being drowned in the clutter and confusion that comes with a new legislative session.

Now is also the time to seek out and support those candidates who support your values, and are willing to fight for them.

And finally, if you are one of those who are on the cusp of deciding whether or not to run — know that your community needs you. If you have roots in your community, if you truly believe in putting people and the planet first, AND if you are willing to work very, very hard — your community needs you now more than ever. If you are going to run, NOW is when you start.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. James Kuroiwa, Jr. September 11, 2019 4:59 am Reply

    Gary, and I disagree with your personal beliefs. Our President, Donald J. Trump, is accomplishing his promise to the United States and is successful in moving the entire Country to the Center-Right, where we must position ourselves. Yes, he has reversed many of what you believe, and it’s Making America Safe and Great Again. Someday, we will have prayer back in our Public Schools, as we did at Kauai High School during my time.

    1. Pete Antonson September 11, 2019 7:27 pm Reply

      “…is successful in moving the entire Country…”

      You’re basing this preposterous statement on his latest approval rating of 38% pray tell?

      1. James Kuroiwa, Jr. September 12, 2019 5:52 pm Reply

        Pete, as of Sept. 11, 2019, the Senate has consented to 152 Federal Judges; 2 Associate Justices, 43 Appeals Court, 105 District Courts, and 2 International Court. These Conservative Judges will be deciding Constitutional issues for the next 25 to 30 years. And, the best is yet to come for the balance of this term, and following the 2020 Presidential election for another four years. Yes, President Trump is successful moving the entire Country to become Center-Right.

  2. manawai September 11, 2019 8:20 am Reply

    Hooser whines, “Locally, we have the highest rate of houseless per capita of any state in the U.S..” “When factoring in the high cost of living, our public school teachers are the lowest paid in the country.” (I should copy the rest of your self-serving tirade here!)

    But Gary, YOU were in the State Legislature. In fact, YOU were the State Senate Majority Leader! What did YOU do about these problems that were growing during YOUR tenure? NOTHING! They grew hugely under your Socialist Democratic regime and philosophy. And now with supreme ludicracy you criticize, and seek to advise, people on how to run this state and even this country? What an astounding hypocrite! All talk and blame, but no action! Take your blindfold off and look in the mirror, Gary.

  3. Jjjames September 11, 2019 3:59 pm Reply

    Gary, THINK! What party has screwed up things in Hawaii ?? And you were part of it. And now you continue to badmouth the most brilliant president that we’ve had in decades. I think we need to find a cure for brainwashing.

  4. Knowitall September 11, 2019 6:16 pm Reply

    Gary Hooser was a Senator for 8 years. . . The irony of what he just said is too much!

  5. behappy September 12, 2019 7:29 am Reply

    You described perfectly what it was like during the Obama years.

  6. CJ September 12, 2019 9:35 am Reply

    Deflection is all the left has to scare you into voting for them. Sad

  7. Dt September 12, 2019 7:31 pm Reply

    I appreciate that problems can be solved with a few individuals stroking a pen and spending many individuals money. So simple. Why can’t we solve all problems so easily?

  8. Debra Kekaualua September 14, 2019 8:47 am Reply

    Hooz had the same fake 8-years that obama had and obama, isnt even a u.s. citizen! I know ive told this to gary, but he continues some 30-years of side steps, tax write off, illegit and bogus return on he and others who have tried to kill the messenger. There is no going back. This is GAME OVER!

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