Could our outcomes be different?

So here is a theoretical question for everyone in Hawai‘i: If we had political leaders that were not career politicians, would we be seeing the same outcomes from the COVID saga in Hawai‘i?

Let’s explain further. In the beginnings of the American Republic, there was a tussle between Federalists and Non-Federalists on the structure of the government. Would we have representatives from the various classes coming to serve out of a sense of patriotism? Or would we have a government filled with careerists who would help form a stronger centralized national government?

Let us transpose this theory onto Hawai‘i. Since even the days of the Monarchy, Hawai‘i has by and large been ruled and run by individuals whose whole livelihood was attached to being in government. Whether it was by the divine (the Monarchs) or by “just being there, serving” (most of the Territorial Governors along with all the state governors that served) it become apparent that we are being run not by the “people” but more like “a few people”.

Would outcomes fundamentally change, though, with a different kind of leader? Would the COVID situation be handled differently if, instead of career politicians, we would have been led by people who were from the private sector or general society (nonprofits and such) and understood the issues from their perspective, rather than just from a purely political perspective?

File:Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii Josh Green (cropped).jpg
Hawaii Lt. Governor Josh Green.
PC: “File:Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii Josh Green (cropped).jpg” by ChelseaLockridge is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Well, right now, we have three political leaders, all three being political careerists, leading the charge – Governor Ige, Mayor Caldwell, and to a lesser extent (because he still works at his hospital every weekend) Lt. Governor Josh Green. When you hear about how they have reached out to “the public”, meaning to private industry and the people itself, the perspective of one angle seems to be overwhelming to any others.

This was demonstrated on Wednesday the 26th of August when Sherry Menor McNamara, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i, said in a television interview that she only heard about the shutdown of the island like the rest of us, on television.

Would a leader who came from another sect of society (meaning non-political) treated the Chamber in that way?

Let us ask another question, would a person who came from another sect of society that was not as connected to politics as, say, Lt. Governor Green, make statements as he has for the last couple of weekends advocating for a shutdown? Would that person, knowing how the message would sound if he heard it, thought to themselves “well, how can I address this without invoking undue anxiety and worry to the people?”

The answer would be variant on “well, it depends” to “no”. But the desired outcome of any of this is highly dependent on the choices that the voters make in choosing their desired representative.

To demonstrate this point, I will use the example of statements made by the Surgeon General of the United States, on his visit to Hawai‘i this week. During his brief comments at the press conference at Kapi‘olani Hospital, his presentation and tone were truly on another level than those of the politicians standing behind him – Ige, Caldwell, Green. He gave sound advice, didn’t pander or insult in their tone, and did seem to “think before he talked”.

Of course, some are going to call him out on his statement on Filipinos, but I digress.

The point is that when we have leaders whose first job is not to just get re-elected, it seems that real dialogue between all parties can take place. When you have a leader focused on just the political or just their career, the tone and attitude to everyone are quite different.

So the question, if we as a public chose people not because they were career politicians and that they were just going for a higher office, would we have a different outcome on the COVID saga in Hawai‘i? Well, in conclusion, the careerists that are in office now – and we can expand that to government leaders in big cities across the mainland – have provided the people this level of competency.

The founding fathers thought it was better to have a government-run by citizens than careerists. We’ll leave it at that.