Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Home, as a concept

Over the past three weeks of September 2022, I have been prepping to go on the road, traveling on said road, or returning and recovering from traveling.

For the record, I traveled from Hawaii to Irvine, California, and then to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The trip took me to see family, and attend a national convention for JCI USA (United States Junior Chamber) where I wore another hat and helped a friend successfully be elected as the movement’s national president.

(More on that next year, as I am now his “Jaycee political” advisor).

While on the road, you meet different people, either for a minute, or reuniting after a long while. In three of these interactions, I got asked an interesting question that made me think of what Hawaii is, as a concept to me

The Author in front of his transpacific plane at Kona International. The only airport in Hawaii where they still board the plane by stairs, from the tarmac.
PC: Stan Fichtman
One of the few photos I took in Irvine, of course in front of a Trader Joe’s. Later on, to the post office.
PC: Stan Fichtman

THE FIRST QUESTION came from a van driver for a rental car company in Santa Ana. The woman picked me up and after a little bit started to converse with me. And most times, these conversations are light, typically turning to where I am coming from, and then asking me some basic questions as to how busy the company is, or how the weather is.

But this time around, the questions from the driver were provoking. When I told her I was from Hawaii, she turned around and asked “what’s it like there, for you”, meaning how was it to be a person who lives in Hawaii, how it is to live there.

I had to admit to the driver, after a pregnant pause, I never thought about Hawaii in such a way, and that I didn’t know how to answer. She gave a little foundation to her question by mentioning that it’s probably like everywhere else – you have life to live there like everywhere else.

I responded to that in the affirmative, noting in several ways Hawaii has the same challenges as everywhere else, some more so than others, but that it is my home first, and what comes as issues, we just deal with.

MY SECOND EXCHANGE about Hawaii came, from all people, my sister. Her approach to the question as to how I see Hawaii took a bit of a different angle but boiled down, it once again asked a question as to how I see Hawaii.

In this exchange, she asked me “if you couldn’t live in Hawaii, where would you live?”. My first answer, because I didn’t hear the question correctly was “well, Hawaii is my home and I can’t think of anyplace else to live”. Once I realized that she asked where’d I like to go if, say, Hawaii disappeared, I then answered, “well, most likely Taiwan” (where I lived in the early ’90s and dig the place when I took my wife there in 2018).

That exchange once again reaffirmed to me the concept that Hawaii was not only home for me, but the only home I could pin my soul to. To me, when it came to thinking of “anywhere else but Hawaii”, my mind went right back to Hawaii, which was reaffirming considering all the issues we continue to deal with as residents in the state – both good and bad.

THE THIRD DISCUSSION on this idea of Hawaii as a concept to me came from a group. At Virginia Beach, after an event, I stepped out of the lobby to the outside, where there was a group of Jaycees from Wisconsin standing around, smoking. Knowing a couple of them, I joined the group and just got into small talk. As we familiarized ourselves with what parts of the world we were from – them from Wisconsin and me, of course from Hawaii – the discussions went from small talk to delving into how our lives are in our relative places. Of course, being from Hawaii, there was a lot of questions on how it was “there” which led to the third delving into what Hawaii meant to me as a concept.

As the discussion went along and comparisons were made between experiences in Wisconsin and Hawaii, I noted in the conversation that, while one may think Hawaii is immune to the issues of life everyone experiences, the opposite is truer. That we, as residents of Hawaii, experience issues even more, or more often. For instance, the challenges of doing certain things, making ends meet, or dealing with policies and politicians than ideal.

In supporting the JCI USA national presidential candidate Nate Martin (the guy with all the lei) the delegation posed with the Hawaiian flag. The author is second from left, first row.
PC: Eve Epitome

IN ALL THREE INTERACTIONS, happening with people who have an outsider concept of Hawaii, to a person who was born, raised, and has lived here all my life, it brought a new perception of what Hawaii is to me, and how to express that to others.

And this is important because these days the people of Hawaii are looking at our leaders, and others, and asking an important question – who are we and what can we do here? While the current Governor’s race is not anywhere close to answering these questions, the people still want that affirmation that, indeed, Hawaii is still worth the time we all put into it to make it our home.

The three questions, and the answers I gave, helped reaffirm to me the notion that, yes, this place we call home, either in our heart or as a concept, is still worth the investment we make into it.

It still is worth it.

Even when we deal with the “fleas and ticks” that we in Hawaii recognize, we should keep in mind, everyone seems to face similar things. From politicians that lie to constituents (or ignore them) to policies that more hinder than help, to make any improvement that we want, we should invest the time.

Because to someone like me, I wouldn’t know what else to do, since Hawaii, as a concept, and in my heart, is and will always be my home.

Potentially joining the club

With the primary election in Hawaii pau, we now know the makeup of the major races for the General. Of course, we are all aware of who will be on the ballot for Governor/Lt. Governor — Josh Green and Sylvia Luke vs. James “Duke” Aiona and Seaula Jr. Tupaʻi vs Keleionalani Taylor and Charles (Kale) Keoho (Nonpartisan, we include all here at PHwSF).

Of the top two, we will shorthand it to Green vs. Aiona, there is an interesting angle that most have not picked up on. Typically, we don’t talk about age, let alone generational labels about our leaders, but this time around, maybe we should at least acknowledge what we are choosing through that lens.

For the Aiona team, we have as a choice a candidate for Governor that is a Baby Boomer, with a Lt. Governor that is just at the end of the X-generation (we’ll get back to the age range on that in a moment). For the Green team, both Josh and Sylvia are from the early X-Generation (Josh is 52, Sylvia is 54).

The “X-Generation” is the first one that has not been defined by a phrase (quiet generation, baby boomer) but by just a letter, undefinable and wholly subject to the eye of the beholder. PC: “X-Men Insignia Pin” by JD Hancock is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

So, one way or the other, depending on who is elected, we will have Lt. Governor a person from the X-Generation, and, potentially both Governor/Lt. Governor also. If Aiona gets in, it will be a continuation of a Baby Boomer governor, which started with John Waihee in 1986 (he was born in the first year of the Baby Boomer era, 1946).

And potentially, this could be the time Hawaii gets added to the list of Governors who are X-generation in the United States.

CURRENTLY, THERE ARE 14 governors, 2 territorial governors, and the Mayor of Washington DC, that are the X leaders of the nation, making up 28% of the leaders of our states. The average age of this cohort is about 50 years old, which makes 1972 the year that the average X leader was born. Overall, there are 65.2 million identified as X-generation in the United States.

The age range of what is called the X-generation, is currently 42 years as the youngest, to 57 as the oldest. If your wondering, here is the list of the 14 governors that are in this generation,

Gavin Newsom, California, 54
Jared Polis, Colorado, 47
Ron DeSantis, Florida, 43
JB Pritzker, Illinois, 57
Eric Holcomb, Indiana, 54
Andy Beshear, Kentucky, 44
John Bel Edwards, Louisiana, 55
Gretchen Witmer, Michigan, 51
Tate Reeves, Mississippi, 48
Chris Sununu, New Hampshire, 47
Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma, 49
Kristi Noem, South Dakota, 50
Spencer Cox, Utah, 47
Glenn Youngkin, Virginia, 55

With the X-generation on the move, winning more elections for governor, it might not be long before the United States will experience this generational shift at the White House. As you can see from this list two governors — Gavin Newsom of California and Ron DeSantis of Florida — are being talked up now as potential 2024 nominees of their party for the presidency. With a potential X leader in 2024, that would mark the end of a string of Baby Boomer presidents that started with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992–32 years.

Will we hear the same level of high political rhetoric as we heard when JFK made his speech, announcing the dawn of a new era with a new generation leading it? PC: “John Kennedy’s Goal” by NASA APPEL Knowledge Services is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Now whether the political rhetoric (speeches, and statements) will reach the level of what was said when the Greatest Generation (with John F. Kennedy in 1961), let’s see what JFK said at his inauguration on this,

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

It remains to be seen.

Strength in numbers

Is the Hawaii Legislature becoming a major player in who gets elected to Hawaii’s higher offices? They are currently 1 and 1 on the record.
PC: “Hawaii State Capitol with dramatic cloud” by Eric Fischer is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A factor in every election, no matter what office, is the actions of certain players, and whether they “buddy up” to provide support to one candidate or cause. Of course, we know how labor and public worker unions utilize their substantial bank accounts to provide support. And with the development of the Political Action Committee (PAC) by organizations, serious muscle is put behind any candidate outside of the more-traditional contribution avenues.

But going back to those traditional avenues, one who had their ear to the rail this last primary election cycle would have realized that a player who never advertised their activities came out in a big way for Sylvia Luke for Lt. Governor.

That player turned out to be members and “friends of” committees of several Hawaii state legislators currently in office. Their ability to “hui up” (come together in Hawaiian pidgin) and provide a healthy number of financial resources to Sylvia Luke raised the eyebrow of at least this humble blogger.

And with that eyebrow raise, an evaluation of who gave what to Luke confirmed a theory held that, indeed, the “legislature” is now working to become the main player in elections in Hawaii.

IT WAS REPORTED IN 2018, in the last days of the primary race for Governor, a call by David Ige’s competitor, Colleen Hanabusa rallied several legislators to give and give big to Hanabusa’s campaign.

From Civil Beat’s coverage of the race at that time, they reported,

“Hanabusa held an Aug. 9 fundraiser — a sign that her campaign needed more cash in the primary’s final days. Campaign spending receipts show that several state lawmakers — including top legislative leaders who vociferously supported Hanabusa’s bid — heeded that call for help.”

The article reported that key leaders of the legislature, from Representative Sylvia Luke to Senate member Donovan Dela Cruz, both of who were chairs of powerful money committees in each chamber, showed their support for her in ways that led others in the legislature to also show some love.

And yes, she lost. But that didn’t mean the exercise of putting support behind one candidate was a failure. Their actions as a combined unit helped fortify them for the next election cycle, of which one of their own was about to compete– Sylvia Luke.

So the legislature as a player in the election was ready.

WHILE THE PLAYERS THE FIRST TIME AROUND didn’t all play in this round, the concept of working together came early in the race. Going back one year – to campaign finance reports from July 2021 to the present, it shows that some legislators started their contributions to Sylvia Luke early for her Lt. Governors race. Early contributors like Senator Glenn Wakai and Representative Della Au Belatti, gave Luke 4-figure donations in 2021, with other legislators coming in (some big) in 2022.

(Note, on the link, click on Luke’s name and then look at “Schedule A – Contributions Received” for each of the time periods. A summary of donations by legislators to Luke is attached to this article at the bottom for download)

In all, one out of five house members donated to Luke’s campaign (totaling 10 members) and a full 20% of Senate members also donated (5 Senators). While the numbers of people don’t seem significant, another analysis of their contributions – again from July 2021 to the last report – showed that these legislators gave $62,412 to Luke.

Furthermore, the campaigns of Senator Gil Keith-Agoran, and House members Scott Nishimoto, Aaron Johanson, and Kyle Yamashita, all maxed out their donations at $6,000, mostly during the 2022 campaign season. Another four, again Kyle Yamashita along with Representative Mark Nakashima, and Senators Karl Rhodes and Michele Kidani, all gave a reported $4,000 a piece during the reporting times examined.

Unlike the last time, the body supported a candidate, legislators who supported Luke this time decided to not only give money but also show support on social media and even put their names on “friend to friend” postcards. One received by this blogger from his Representative affirmed that this was a signal that they were “all in” for Luke.

A “Friend to Friend” card was sent by a legislator to one of their constituents in support of Sylvia Luke. Typically these come from friends or family.
PC: Stan Fichtman – PHwSF

And putting bets down on Luke this time around may pay off for the donors, and the body, as she was the winner of the Lt. Governor Primary, becoming the Democratic nominee on a joint ticket with Josh Green, the nominee for Governor from said party.

THIS LEVEL OF UNIFIED SUPPORT begs the question of whether the legislature should now be seen in the same light as entities like labor unions (public and private) along with well-heeled donors of influence. While it’s not new that a legislative body would use monies to support other candidates, and that it was one of their own that they supported, the unity of the body to support one candidate should not be dismissed as a “one-off’.

If leadership at the legislature stays generally the same (Scott Saiki as House Speaker; Ron Kouchi as Senate President) one may surmise that outcomes like what happened with Luke, working with legislators for support, could embolden the body to become even more influential in elections to come.

And if that were to happen, then voters may need to factor in not only who the person is that wants to represent them, but whom, in turn, will they support in future elections for other offices. The body could also become cocky in their support and their influence abated through bad calls, similar to how some are saying the PAC “Be Change Now” made bad calls in their advertisements against Luke in this last primary election cycle.

Only time will tell in answering that question.

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!

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The Atlantic

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Civil Beat (Hawaii on-line newspaper)

Honolulu Star Advertiser (mostly paywalled, but you get free headlines)

Beat of Hawaii (Tourism based news source from Kauai)

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