On a day that this blogger was off work and at home watching CNBC (yes because I have investments and want to know what is going on with the market, but I digress) I happened to come upon the hour when they would feature an author who wrote what could be said is the first “real” examination of how government acted during COVID
Titled “The Big Fail”, co-authored by Joe Nocar and Bethany McLean, the book takes a first look at the affects and effects of the nationwide shutdowns that occurred starting in March of 2020 and didn’t end until 2022. The premise of the book is that the shutdowns at the end were not as effective and levied, instead a heavier economic, social, and even health price on everyone that we’ll be paying for years to come.
Noting that the data was pretty clear way sooner than the end of 2020, there was a sense of who should be protected from the virus (the elderly) and who was paying the cost of the shutdown (society, especially children’s education), according to the book.
One of the last statements that McLean said in the interview, that CNBC did not include in its online reposting, is a statement as to which group needs to be called out for their failure to manage the shutdowns and a plan through that.
She said (and I paraphrase because there is no transcript or video of this part, but remembered as this nonetheless) that if people are going to blame “someone” for this, it should be the politicians who took in information and direction from subject matter experts like Anthony Fauci and other scientists and added critical thinking of how to either work that suggestion on society or not.
In other words, do not blame the scientists for their suggestions, blame the government leaders who just listened to the scientists but didn’t take into account any societal effects from the lockdowns suggested by said scientists.
It was then that it was noted that this book could be the first “rationalization” of how things went during COVID, and given time, perhaps translated into actions from voters as to who should be in those levels of power going forward.
For Hawaii, though, that re-evaluation of how leadership ran the COVID lockdowns and its effects has already gone through one election cycle. And, perhaps being ahead of the curve, Hawaii made choices based on that.
IN 2022, the election cycle included four key offices across the state, the Governor, Lt. Governor, and mayors of both Maui County and Kauai County. Of those races, three of them were partially decided based on how those candidates handled the COVID issues in their respective areas.
While the Governor’s race was to fill an open seat, with David Ige termed out, the fact that the people of Hawaii did vote overwhelmingly for his Lt. Governor, Josh Green, who turned out to have earned a great deal of goodwill in being a more moderate voice on how to deal with COVID at a societal level.
While he was not perfect, as this blogger pointed out in his August 2020 call to shut down the island of Oahu, he did turn around by 2021 to both reopen the tourism economy and bring back some sort of normalcy in messaging that Ige never was able to master. Ige’s cautious approach was not duplicated by any of the other candidates, but Green demonstrated the best to reject that type of messaging.
As for the mayoral races, there was a split verdict on whether incumbents in their caution were rewarded with the renewal of their mandate.
For Kauai, Derek Kawakami locked down the island at times with curfews and checkpoints on the road, all the while ordering closure of businesses and ordering those who could, to work from home. His stringent policies were countered by what some said was his strong social relationship with the people of Kauai. Sure, there was grousing, but Kawakami was able to blunt it with supporters (like Mel Rapozo) who went online and made it clear that Kawakami was doing the right job. Furthermore, his communication style was effective with the people of Kauai, who kept supporting him.
Kawakami was re-elected and now is serving his second term as Kauai Mayor.
Mike Victorino, the Maui mayor, would not be so fortunate to have a firm grasp of communication, the ability to persuade, and therefore the retention of support. Because of purported missteps in the implementation of COVID lockdowns, and ineffective messaging of those policies, he drew up what turned out to be a formidable opponent in 2022, former judge Richard Bissen, who turned out to be someone “more palatable” to the people of Maui at that time, and won election.
Turns out Bissen is now learning through the Lahaina wildfire disaster that there is only so much one can do in the communication of a disaster before realizing the system may have failed them and the people. But that is an issue that will be addressed in 2026 when the electorate will choose, again, their mayor.
CIRCLING BACK to “The Big Fail” and its premise, at least for Hawaii, the people that needed to be held to account, either through being fired (Victorino), made irrelevant (hear anyone talking about David Ige and his eight years lately?) or being rehired or promoted (Green and Kawakami), supports the premise that the people know “failed,” and concurrently who succeeded – and it was not the scientists.
It was the leaders (and not legislative leaders, who by and large stayed clear of making any decisions during COVID) that have (in Hawaii at least) that have been scored as to their actions during this extraordinary time. We will see in 2024 in the elections of the Mayors of Hawaii County and the City and County of Honolulu whether those who came in the middle of the pandemic earned enough goodwill from the people to stay in office for another term.
Or for that matter, the presidential election in which one nominee looking to come back to the White House was the one that oversaw the initial shutdowns in the first place. Or the incumbent, who came in the middle of it and managed it from there.