If we were handing out political courage awards, we wouldn’t exactly break out backs trying to carry the ones needed for Hawaii’s political class. Especially on the Akaka Bill. Heck, a three-year-old child could probably handle the load on that one. Hawaii’s Democrats are rather remarkably in lockstep agreement on a fairly controversial issue–which pretty much indicates that the Party has declared its approval and will brook no dissent. Hawaii’s Republican Party (such as it is) thankfully lacks the inflexible message of the Democrats, but makes up for it with party leaders who take a half-measures approach that consists mainly of offering weak disapproval and then caving-in after a few showy are largely meaningless “compromises.” (Yes, there are exceptions. There always are. But not enough of them.) Thus we have Linda Lingle’s shift on the Akaka Bill and Charles Djou’s rather bewildering variations.
Djou, in particular, is an interesting case. Prior to getting elected, he gave some the impression that even if he wasn’t a vocal opponent of the Bill, neither did he plan to promote it. But consider the statement he made in a recent radio interview: “Should the Akaka bill come back to the U.S. House, I’m confident that I’d be able to garner far more Republican support for the Akaka bill — make it bipartisan, make it less controversial, and make its passage far smoother.” It’s hard not to see this as full support for the Bill’s passage.
Then, perhaps sensing that his position on Akaka was gaining him no friends among the Republicans and Independents that he needs in order to win, Djou decided to add a little nuance to his stance on the Bill. Now, he says that he supports public hearings on the Bill and a non-binding vote from the Hawaii people. Needless to say, those who are concerned about the impact of the Akaka Bill feel that the voice of the people of Hawaii on the issue should be a binding one–the current suggestion raises the strange possibility that hearings and a vote could show significant opposition to the Bill only to have it overridden by Congress. Still, Djou’s latest position demonstrates some understanding that the most radical political questions since statehood deserves a public voice. And of course Djou’s opponent, Colleen Hanabusa (a Democrat) is an unreserved supporter of the Akaka Bill (she has mentioned some support for public hearings, but not for a public vote). Clearly, election day this year may have a real effect on what happens next in the effort to pass the Akaka Bill.