Thursday, February 21, 2008
I had the very good luck of living on Oahu for four lovely years of balmy breezes, magnificent foliage, turquoise waters, and that peaceful, easy-going aloha spirit.
For part of that time, I worked on an election campaign and then for the Hawaii State Legislature. So I had a sense of the rather calm approach residents take to politics. & They weren't exactly disengaged, just not terribly active. This I fully understood since the pleasures of Hawaiian life can have a calming effect on high emotions. And often, politics elicits high emotions. &
Island people, as I knew them then, seemed to inherit their affiliations with political parties. You could trace the Democratic or Republican lineage through the generations along with the racial origins. So, elections were fairly predictable. & For example, 83-year-old U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, elected in 1962 shortly after Hawaii became a state, is still in office. He was a World War II hero who lost a limb fighting in Italy as part of an all Japanese-American battalion, and is still a hero to his constituents who send him back to Washington decade after decade. Now, he is a super delegate to the Democratic convention and has endorsed Hillary Clinton .
I wasn't with Senator Inouye Tuesday night when almost 40,000 registered voters descended on Hawaii's caucus sites to layer 76 percent of the votes on Barack Obama, leaving the Senator's choice with just 24 percent. The numbers are even more impressive: 28,347 & ndash; Obama; 8,835 & ndash; Clinton. The venerable Senator had to have wondered if this was really Hawaii & It wasn't so much the lopsided vote, as it was how very many people participated. voting.
For example, in 2004, 4,000 voters registered their preference. This time, 10 times that number voted . Now, it must be noted that Obama was born in Hawaii, went to school there, and still has a grandmother and a half-sister living there. So there's definitely a close connection and the wave of Hawaiian enthusiasm might be considered a one-time event. & But it's clear from the results of post-Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses throughout the nation, that Obama is igniting election fever well beyond Hawaii's shores. He has come out ahead of Clinton in all ten states in the last two weeks. The Obama team is circulating a table of pledged convention delegates indicating that their candidate is well ahead of his opponent. &
But the race continues, with Republican John McCain joining Hillary Clinton in putting the pressure on Barack Obama as the delegate-rich states of Texas and Ohio prepare for their primaries. & Aloha spirit may not reach into middle-America. But election fever could.