There are bound to be some awkward moments at the Democratic Party’s Unity Breakfast this morning.
The traditional gathering is meant to provide a transitional moment between the interparty beefing of primary election skirmishes and the solidarity of purpose heading to the general election.
But it’s hard to imagine some of the adversaries dropping grudges they’ve nursed for months and making nice over eggs and rice. It’s going to take some Academy Award-worthy acting because this time around, it was all personal.
With few Republican challengers and the most discordant Hawaii Democratic Party in recent memory, the primary election brought out animosity between candidates vying for the same spot on the general election ballot. It was Dem vs. Dem rather than Dem vs. them.
True, there have been more overtly brutal races in Hawaii’s past, and in some races — for example, lieutenant governor — the candidates expressed amity and mutual respect for one another.
But because actual issues took a backseat to perception of personality, things got mean.
Though most of the dirty campaigning wasn’t all that dirty — with the exception of the bombastic road signs that seemed to drive Clayton Hee out of the governor’s race — it was nevertheless an election marked by petty resentments, juvenile tactics and a lack of issue-oriented campaigning in favor of superficial projections of image: Candidates getting their children to voice campaign ads to show how human they really are. Candidates posing with children who aren’t even theirs. Candidates caught on video stealing their opponent’s campaign literature. Candidates up in arms because someone used a city Instagram account to hit “like” on their opponent’s post.
When Dems took the high road, it seemed like the exception, as when Marilyn Lee, candidate for state House District 36 from Mililani, posted this on Facebook the day before the election:
“You will not see me with signs tomorrow. I will be at the Disaster Prevention class from 8-9, the Friends of the Library Sale from 10-2 and a book signing for a friend’s daughter in the afternoon. Best wishes to all the Mililani candidates who never went negative and who all are qualified to win this race.”
At the 2014 Unity Breakfast, vanquished incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie managed to swallow any animosity along with his coffee and took the high road when he stood before the assembly and addressed the primary victor, David Ige.
“David, and anybody else who’s a candidate, can count on me to be behind them, shoulder to shoulder,” said Abercrombie as the room broke into applause.
Of course, that team spirit and pledge of support didn’t last long, but at least Abercrombie rose up in the moment to speak the words.
In her concession speech Saturday night, Hanabusa spoke of beginning the “healing process” starting with that Unity Breakfast. She even sounded like she meant it.
Good luck with that. Those scrambled eggs had better be spectacular.
And hanging over the whole business, was the sobering reality that more people don’t care enough to participate.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.