Political Radar

Evoking Lincoln

April 16th, 2013

Former Gov. Linda Lingle acknowledged on Tuesday night that Republicans were understandably disappointed with her election loss for U.S. Senate last November but should not give up on their goal of a competitive two-party system in Hawaii.

Lingle told Republicans at their annual Lincoln Day dinner said that she, too was disappointed in her loss to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, but can live with the defeat because she gave the campaign her best effort.

“And if you saw me on television on election night, or you have spoken with me since that night, then you know I am sincere when I say I can live with a lost election,” Lingle told hundreds of Republicans gathered at the Koolau Ballrooms and Conference Center in Kaneohe. “What I can’t live with, what you shouldn’t be willing to live with, is throwing the towel on our goal of a strong two-party system of government for Hawaii.

“This is not the time to give up, because our cause is the right cause, and because what we are striving for is in the best interest of all the people of Hawaii.”

Lingle evoked the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who she said took positions that were right, not always easy, and criticized by name the many Republicans in Hawaii who have switched political parties and joined the majority Democrats after being elected.

“These party switchers are an adult political version of high-school students abandoning lifelong friends because they want to hang out with the cool kids. They want to fit in. They want to be popular,” she said. “And besides, it’s easier to be a Democrat in Hawaii. You might get to chair a committee. And lobbyists and special-interest groups care more about your position on pending legislation.”

Lingle, who serves on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s governor’s council and the U.S. Energy Security Council, said after her keynote speech that she does not plan to run for political office next year.

The Hawaii Republican Party, which for more than a decade has been the party of Lingle, is in transition.

Like majority Democrats, who have had to adjust to the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the state’s most powerful politician, Republicans are preparing for their next chapter without a dominant leader.

The GOP has no immediate contenders for governor or for U.S. Senate next year, likely the two highest profile campaigns, and few prospects for U.S. House.

The decision by state House Republicans to form a leadership coalition with House Speaker Joseph Souki and progressive Democrats could complicate the argument that the GOP represents a distinct alternative to the majority party.

House Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson (R, Fort Shafter-Moanalua Gardens-Aliamanu), however, believes voters are looking for lawmakers willing to seek common ground.

“I think people do want to get involved in politics. They just end up feeling so disenchanted with the level of hyper-partisanship, that they feel like it’s not worth their time,” he said. “But I think what’s actually happening in the House is probably going to encourage a lot of people who want to run, whether as Republicans, or independents or Democrats.

“People who might be excited about the prospect of getting involved in something that seems far more constructive and affable than Washington, D.C.”

David Chang, the state GOP chairman, said the party would build on the youth movement represented by Johanson and the other young Republicans in the House.

National Republicans, Chang said, are committed to helping state parties with grassroots organizing and data-driven outreach. But Chang acknowledges that it will take time for a party that currently only holds seven seats in the state House and one seat in the state Senate.

“It’s going to take time,” Chang said. “I’m not looking at a two or four year plan, I’m looking at a 10 to 20 year plan of developing the infrastructure. And once people see us united, our issues – we’re doing it in a way of drawing people in – there’s no doubt in my mind that people will start popping up,” he said.

Local Republicans, Chang said, have to develop a better brand to break the Democrats’ hold politics.

“In Hawaii, Democrats don’t need to run on issues, character, they just need to say `I’m not a Republican,’ and they win,” he said.

7 Responses to “Evoking Lincoln”

  1. Chicken Grease:

    Repubs are just, mercy, they're in a state of ineffectiveness and epic fail already. Even the conservative radio hosts sound stupid in this Obama 2nd term. Give credit to the president -- of whom a Grease voted! [!]. All he needed to do was win to shut these out-of-touch bloateds the heck up (a Grease included). He's moving the country forward. Things are pretty darn good right now (don't give me Boston as a foil against Obama; Superman himself couldn't have prevented that).

    All Repubs appear to do is complain, complain, complain. Their need to get in better touch with, at least, those who vote? Still a footnote whose print is beginning to fade at the bottom of the page already.

    Pray for Boston.

    Happy birthday freshly ex-Pope Benedict, 86 yrs. young!!!! 4/16, his b-day.

  2. Kimosabey:

    Until the GOP has a real difference of choice without the moderates being in charge the people of Hawaii will still have 40%+ not voting. A real choice with real conservative, ethical, and principled candidates will make a difference. The party does not give voter list to candidates, they are helping the few not the many who are then left out to dry. The chir only points out the number of candidates but has no real message to the party of a new direction for the state. He helped his wife get elected and cow tows to Lingle sapping all the resources from legislative and senate candidates. Even the party is not helping to organize the districts as those with historical GOP elected officials are kept in the dark to the list of those 10,000 who voted in the caucus last year. They gave that list to the Lingle campaign but covet it as their own resource. That is the problem inside the party.

  3. Sayer:

    I think having 2 viable parties can be a good thing but let's face it, the Republican party needs to get its act together if they are going to be a viable party in Hawaii. Their message is too negative - cut this, cut that. You always know what they are against, but what are they for?

  4. Bart:

    I appreciate that Lingle recognizes all the "cool kids" are Democrats.

    I have to agree with others that Chang does not appear to have a clue as to how to move forward. A ten or 20 year "plan" still requires an actual, you know, plan? Though I do appreciate he escapes having to produce any immediate results if he sets the bar so, er, remote.

    I think there is a path to relevancy, and it passes through the space now occupied by Aaron Johanson: moderation and cooperation rather than perpetual, polarizing attack. I know some of my Demcratic activist buddies will get their underwear in a knot, but there are two paths "forward" for the local GOP. They can either consolidate themselves around the Tea Party, "movement conservative" base and remain a bitter, reactionary, minority OR they can act moderately, assume more responsibility for fashioning policy and maintaining civility in debates with their Democratic colleagues, while maintaining the right to make principled, but civil criticisms.

    What Democratic hyper-partisans have to recognize is the quality of legislation passed, including DEMOCRATIC legislation, improves when there is a viable two-party system instead a monopoly. In the absence of PRINCIPLED disagreements and the resulting alliances, you have UNPRINCIPLED disagreements and alliances. Political power and debate will tend to fracture on a binary basis. Either between parties or, absent a second party, within the dominant party.

    As a visceral opponent of monopolies, I welcome the survival of a SANE Republican Party. And if a moderate Republican Party arises, I expect we will see some defections of some Democrats to their ranks, people who are not aligned with the Democratic Party for reasons of principle anyways. Let them go.

    By following the Johanson, moderate and civil approach, the GOP is unlikely to become a majority party anymore than should they remain steeped in the Tea Party rhetoric. But they will be much easier to deal with, to debate with and to bargain with. Those who fear the GOP might gain more support be appearing to be reasonable, well, d'uh! So what is the preferred alternative? That they remain crazy, bitter, isolated and small? And that ambitious conservative political aspirants continue to run as "Democrats" because that is the path to power?

    Not my preferred future, thanks anyway.

  5. ohiaforest3400:

    "'In Hawaii, Democrats don’t need to run on issues, character, they just need to say "I’m not a Republican," and they win,' he said."

    Wow, if that's all it takes to beat a Republican, Mr. Chang, then your party, it's candidates, and it's members have much longer to go than the 10-20 years you suggest. Apparently, your candidate's character and issues are not enough to overcome a party label, and that says something damning about your brand.

    In the meantime, you'll have to settle for small cvictroruies like your wife's win over Marilyn Lee, which most anyone -- Republican or Democrat -- should have been able to win since Lee won her previous election by only 13 votes.

  6. Goober:

    Maybe another super hero would have.

  7. Hawaiian Bob:

    The Hawai'i Republican party needs to be more vocal about what we stand for: Less regulation for one (Hawai'i is ranked dead last for over regulation by freedom watch ). Republicans can also point to our failure of a school system in Hawai'i and stand for independent, locally controlled school districts as a solution (Education taxes in Hawai'i are among the highest in the nation, but because of the doe's bloated, top heavy bureaucracy, little of that money actually goes to educating our children!) Don't forget the move by Lingle toward independent school districts actually gained some traction among voters and some lawmakers and the doe continues to slog along with little or no improvement. These are just two of many areas which I feel the democrats are vulnerable.

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