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Split Hawaii delegation ready for ‘good’ debate

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    Tim Vandeveer, candidate for the State Party Chair, speaks to the members at the Democratic Party of Hawaii 2016 Convention at the Sheraton Waikiki, Sunday, May 29, 2016.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono is a lifelong Democrat who has achieved her share of political “firsts.” She was the first Asian woman to serve in the U.S. Senate and was also the first Buddhist elected to that body.

She was the first woman elected to the Senate from Hawaii, and is the only immigrant serving in the Senate.

Now Hirono says she wants to see another milestone reached with the nomination and election of Hillary Clinton as the first female president of the United States. That would be historic and important, she said.

Hirono joins the 42-member official delegation from Hawaii at the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week to nominate Clinton. The convention runs from Monday through Thursday, and an estimated 50,000 people are expected to attend.

First lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are scheduled to speak Monday, and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will address the convention Wednesday. Clinton will accept the party nomination Thursday.

Political conventions usually strive to project an image of unity, but Hawaii’s rough-and-tumble primary race this year caused a rift in the party that is reflected in the divided Hawaii delegation.

Longtime party leaders and established Democrats traveling to Philadelphia mostly support Clinton, including Hirono, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Gov. David Ige and former Gov. John Waihee.

But that “establishment” wing of the party was overwhelmed by Sanders supporters during the party’s Hawaii presidential preference polling March 26, when Sanders won 70 percent of the vote.

Based on those vote totals, Sanders secured 17 Hawaii delegates while Clinton won eight. That means most of the Hawaii delegates traveling to Philadelphia prefer Sanders, including newly elected Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Tim Vandeveer, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Democratic National Committeeman-elect Bart Dame.

There is little doubt about the final outcome of the convention, but Dame said splits within the national party and the Hawaii delegation could surface publicly during the convention.

“Most of our delegates were never involved with the Democratic Party before, were swept up by their passion, by their need that Bernie get the nomination, so it is difficult for them, and also for me, to adjust to the reality of math that tells us Bernie is not going to get the nomination,” Dame said.

“Different people have processed this in different ways, and since they are going to Philadelphia, some of them are probably determined to find some way to express the politics that are in their heart and not just go along with the coronation of Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Exactly how that will play out is unclear, Dame said, because Sanders supporters can be unpredictable.

“You’re familiar with the expression that organizing Democrats is like herding cats? In the case of Bernie’s people, we’re talking about feral cats,” Dame said.

Vandeveer, party chairman and another Sanders supporter, said the Sanders supporters have already had a chance to express their “progressive” beliefs through the party platform, which was negotiated in the weeks before the convention.

The Sanders camp successfully pushed hard for platform provisions calling for a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage and expansion of Social Security.

The convention “is an opportunity for us to elevate what became the most progressive platform that’s ever come out of the Democratic National Committee,” Vandeveer said. “That, first and foremost, is a way for us to express ourselves, by discussing that.”

The delegates also have opportunities to show their support for Sanders and his agenda in a roll-call vote, and through their efforts to press a resolution that was approved at the Hawaii State Democratic Convention in May calling on the party to abolish superdelegates, Vandeveer said.

Clinton secured the party nomination with the critical support of superdelegates, who are often elected officials or party insiders. Superdelegates can vote for any candidate they choose regardless of the outcome of party primaries, caucuses or preference polls, and Dame describes their use as “a mechanism that frustrates actual democracy.”

Another subject for discussion will be proposals to modify or abolish closed primaries in states such as New York that require primary voters to declare their party affiliations weeks or months in advance if they want to participate in the primary, a practice that Dame said tends to suppress turnout by independents.

Vandeveer said he is not worried that the party will appear divided as those issues play out in committee meetings or on the convention floor.

Those kinds of disagreements are “reflective of what our party is, and that is a diverse and dynamic group of Democrats who come under a very big tent and do what is typically done at a convention, which is debate, which is argue, which is advocate, which is respectfully engage in discourse in order to make our party stronger,” he said.

“The debate is good. As long as we conduct ourselves civilly and, being from Hawaii, with aloha, in my opinion we’re going to be stronger coming out the other side,” Vandeveer said. “That’s not something you can say for the other party. The other party, as you saw at their convention, was very divided, very divisive … and they’re not able to have that debate. They’ve had, I think, a crisis of confidence, and that’s how you ended up with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.”

Of all of the Sanders supporters, it might be most uncomfortable for Gabbard to politely fall in line behind Clinton. Gabbard, who represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House, essentially framed her opposition to Clinton and her support for Sanders as a fundamental issue of war and peace.

Gabbard is a veteran of the Iraq War and says Clinton has repeatedly shown she is all too willing to use military force to achieve her objectives in international relations.

Gabbard announced it was Clinton’s record of “interventionist, regime change policies” that prompted Gabbard to resign as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in February to endorse Sanders.

In a February interview on CNN, Gabbard described Clinton as a champion of the Iraq War, and “the architect” of the effort to overthrow the government in Libya that resulted in “tremendous loss of life and chaos” in that country. Clinton supports a similar escalation of U.S. involvement in the conflict in Syria, Gabbard said, including establishing a no-fly zone in that country.

At the Hawaii Democratic Convention in Honolulu in May, Gabbard sparked raucous cheering from some delegates by calling for an end to the “counterproductive regime-change war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.”

She told the crowd that said while the U.S. must fight terrorists in Syria, the regime-change effort in Syria is fueling a brutal civil war and strengthening the enemies of the United States. Gabbard did not mention Clinton by name in that convention speech, but listeners obligingly shouted out “Hillary!” to fill in the blank for her.

Even when it was clear in June that Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination, Gabbard told CNN she was still not ready to endorse the former secretary of state.

Specifically, Gabbard cited Clinton’s “commitment to continue this interventionist regime change policy in Syria that is proving so disastrous.”

Gabbard was unavailable to discuss her views on Clinton and the convention despite repeated requests for comment last week.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui was selected as a convention superdelegate by virtue of his status as chairman of the Lieutenant Governors Association, but Ige’s office announced Saturday Tsutsui would instead remain behind to serve as acting governor while Ige attends the convention.

Tsutsui had been looking forward to the national gathering of fellow Democrats at the convention, and issued a statement in March announcing he was “truly honored to have this unique opportunity to help make a difference in the future of our nation” as a superdelegate.

However, Tsutsui said he decided last week not to go to the convention. It would have been the first time that both Tsutsui and Ige were out of state at the same time, and Tropical Storm Darby was approaching the islands, so Tsutsui opted to remain behind.

Tsutsui said it is up to national party officials to decide what to do with his superdelegate vote. His decision to stay home and the death of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai last week reduced the number of superdelegates allocated to Hawaii to eight from 10.

No matter how events play out in Philadelphia this week, there is little doubt about the outcome of the presidential election in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Poll earlier this month showed Clinton has a large lead in the presidential race among Oahu voters, who make up the bulk of the state’s heavily Democratic voting population.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters said they would vote for Clinton if the election for president were held that day, while Republican nominee Donald Trump was the top choice of 25 percent of Oahu voters. The poll found that 6 percent of those surveyed said they did not plan to vote in the presidential race this year.

That means Hawaii will be supporting “the most competent, experienced person,” Hirono said.

“It’s not only that Hillary is a woman, but as President Obama has said, she’s probably the most qualified person running for president in anybody’s memory,” Hirono said. “Here she is, a former first lady, secretary of state, senator. Lets’s face it, that is a lot of experience.”

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  • The Hawaii delegates for Sanders each set up a GoFundMe account on the internet begging for money to pay for their airfare, hotel, and meals for the convention in Philadelphia.

    That’s what Democrats do — especially Sanders socialists. They expect other people to pay for what they want. Cry tears that it’s important but you can’t afford it; then hold out your hand and expect the largesse to flow. Those rich donors can easily afford to give it to you. Besides, you’ve made them feel guilty for having excess cash. They really owe it to you; it’s a matter of “social justice.”

    But their go-fund-me begging violates their socialist platitudes in several ways, displaying their hypocrisy.

    As believers in collectivism they should have established a single account to pool their resources. But instead each candidate set up his/her own individual account thereby in effect competing against each other for donations. Individualism and competition are capitalist concepts, quite contrary to socialist ideals. So why did these delegates not create a single GoFundMe account to benefit them all, and then divide the proceeds equally? Or perhaps divide the money according to who needs it most? You know, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    They should have gotten a discount by buying a block of airline tickets and a block of hotel rooms together. Better yet they should all sleep together as a group on the floor in some social-justice church in Philadelphia that would be happy to host them — that’s what anti-war protesters did when they hired buses and slept on church floors for their march on Washington circa 1968.

    • Slippery Ken, why do you have time to make snide comments about hotel rooms and plane tickets, but no time to address questions about your apparent acceptance of pervasive white supremacy throughout US history? Try focus on the big picture first.

      • Stooped troll Danno, why don’t you grasp the point that there are no white supremacists in Hawaii. None. Zero. There is only one ethnic group in Hawaii which has some of its leaders working hard to set up a racially exclusive government — only one ethnic group which recently held a convention and wrote a “constitution” for their future government in which they explicitly said all the lands, waters, and air of all the Hawaiian islands belongs exclusively to people with a drop of the magic blood, and they have a right to rule over everyone else. Racism to the max. And it sure ain’t Caucasians doing that. So crawl back into your hole and pull the rock back on top to protect you from the sun.

        • “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
          Margaret Thatcher, late Prime Minister of the UK.

          Bernie the Bitter and company, are you listening?

        • There are actually a lot of white supremacists in Hawai’i who write on this comment board. Don’t you read?

        • 68% of WE THE PEOPLE think HiLIARy is dishonest. Now let’s talk about her classified emails. Holy moly the Russians may just have them. Trump 2016 by a country mile. Lock her up.

        • Kenny asks, “why don’t you grasp the point that there are no white supremacists in Hawaii?”

          Very slippery response, Kenny… you again evade the historical issues upon which so much of your propaganda has been based. Instead, you again refuse to correct your distorted, white-washed version of American and Hawaiian history. You apparently lack the integrity to face the major historical facts. Perhaps you are incapable of honest self-reflection, and candid debate. This suggests you cannot defend your position.

          Here is my response to your question:

          1) I suspect Hawaii has many white supremacists. The comments off several regular SA commentators indicates that there are at least a few.

          2) Hawaii clearly had a white supremacist ruling class for half a century, and the leaders of that group are your stated heroes. Just last week you were singing the praises of one of them, Lorrin Thurston.

          This is what you have been challenged on, and which you continue to deny and evade.

          This is one of the reasons so many people consider that you hold white supremacist views. If not, then why haven’t you acknowledge the truth and disavow these men?

          Can’t you see how the refusal to do so discredits your constant whining about Hawsiian sovereignty activists?

          The essential question you cannot escape is this: if Thurston and the other white supremacists were not really racists, then what’s so wrong with those who are simply working within the US Dept Interior’s required framework for nation within a nation?

          Can’t you see the contradiction and hypocrisy in your criticism of the latter and praise of the former?

          Why do you say Turston and the other conspirators were heroes for betraying the nation they swore to defend, for seizing power, and for setting up a white supremacist oligarchy?

          Who is really hiding here, Kenny?

    • Absolutely correct, Ken. True Socialists only expect other folks to follow the tenants of socialism; they don’t believe the tenants apply to them. Kind’a like giving advice: it’s the things you tell other people they should do that you’re not willing to do yourself.

  • Is tsutsui running the state from Maui or Oahu?? Plus why get an opinion from him? He is nota factor in anything and is just a self serving elected official. Wahine is also a loser- he is the one responsible for almost doubling the state work force whe he was in office. Also waiter is just John Waihee and the former gov is just rubbish. Like calling secretary Clinton is not right. Why is that people just want to have the former hang in there. The is no insult by addressing “John Waihee” as such

  • We need to vote Lazy Mazie out of office so we can get someone in there who can actually do something for Hawaii, rather than pass out snacks to the miscreants in the lower chamber.

  • Mrs. Islamophobia herself Tulsi Gabbard who insist on using the term Islamic terrorism which is an attack on an entire religion has no business accusing anyone of being a war monger. There is good reason President Obama, Secretary Clinton and even President Bush refused to use the term Islamic Terrorism.

    • Well let’s see, just about every terrorist over the past few decades have claimed which religion? And which religion treats women and homosexuals in the worse manner? I don’t believe Tulsi is phobic of this religion, she just calls it and the one of many sects that follow it, what they are.

      • OldDiver: The term Tulsi has used is radical Islamic terrorism and she’s correct in using the term as evidenced by this statement by a Muslim:

        “It is welcoming to see Congresswoman Gabbard incisively analyzing the so far flawed position adopted by President Obama who fears use of a term such as radical Islamic terrorism might end up profiling all Muslims. Congresswoman Gabbard rightly observes that the clear identification of the enemy and its ideology will actually be beneficial to the vast majority of Muslims who do not adhere to the cult-like sub-sect of Islam responsible for all Islamist terrorism in the world.”
        Source: https://lubpak.com/archives/349466

      • NY Times: “Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years. In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012. Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories. The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the Start Center at the University of Maryland includes 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11. The International Security Program at the New America Foundation identifies 39 fatalities from “non-jihadist” homegrown extremists and 26 fatalities from “jihadist” extremists.”

  • “Most of our delegates were never involved with the Democratic Party before…” So a bunch of outsiders who came in and decided to push out those already there, because of course they knew best, even with no background of how things worked.

    Sounds familiar here in Hawaii…..

  • Memo to those looking for a “good debate”:
    1. Sanders lost
    2. Before he lost, Sanders devoted too much time and energy to attacking the Democratic Party (which he had just joined) instead of campaigning against Trump. And now, after a campaign that often seemed to be aligned with Trump rather than opposing him, his supporters are offended that the DNC did not support him.
    I understand that many of Sanders’ supporters are new to politics, but are they too naive to know that actions have consequences?

  • The story says Mazie Hirono is the only immigrant serving in the Senate, but is that true? Probably not. Mazie was born in Japan to a Japanese father and a native born US citizen mother. Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and a native born US citizen mother. Similar situations, so wouldn’t that also make Cruz an immigrant serving in the Senate? I think so.

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