Denby Fawcett: I’m grateful that voters chose sanity this year

I’m grateful that the Republicans-predicted “red tsunami” failed to take power at midpoint. One of the brightest points of the election was the GOP’s rejection of Donald Trump’s handpicked, underperforming candidates.

Democrats squeezed through to have minimal power in the Senate, and while the GOP may lead the House, it’s only a handful of seats. Most importantly for future election stability, Trump’s abstainers have lost their candidatures for attorney general and secretary of state in key battleground states.

“This was a gut test of Americans’ sanity, and luckily we passed (though not with distinction). There was just enough recognition that the country could not succumb to paranoia and violence,” said Bruce Cain, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

And on the ground, it was uplifting to see that instead of “same old, same old” Democratic dominance, a few Republicans would break through the blue wall and emerge victorious. A rise from five to eight Republicans in the legislature was not a red wave, it was definitely an ebb.

Now Hawaii will have the highest number of Republican lawmakers in office since 2014, when there were nine. It doesn’t matter that 22 Republicans were elected in 2000.

As political analyst Neal Milner says, “It’s a small step forward in saving the Republican Party from extinction here.”

It is encouraging to think that voters took the message that this election was about protecting the future of democracy. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

The party takes all the credit for carefully strategizing to win in Oahu‘s purple counties, though two of the GOP wins were likely attributed largely to Democrats Sharon Har and Matt LoPresti’s failed campaigns, which started earlier this year Year after her unrepentant claim, drunk driving cases were dismissed.

Hawaii is unlikely ever to become Republican, but a tiny loyal opposition like the one that has emerged this year offers hope for a critique of the status quo. A few Republican officials – unafraid of political backlash – might be brave enough to prevent the state from being drowned in another sea of ​​corruption.

Although his unlikely Hawaii will ever plummet again to its current depths, as former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha is serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison, his assistant district attorney’s wife is also serving 13 years, and two Honolulu police officers are in federal prison for killing the Kealohas helped the mailbox conspiracy.

Then there are the three city officials charged with conspiracy over their alleged role in a $250,000 payout deal for the disgraced Chief Kealoha. A state senator jailed for three years for taking bribes and a member of the House of Representatives awaiting sentencing in January on similar bribery charges.

Four current and former employees of the Honolulu Department of Public Works pleaded guilty to taking bribes, and former Maui County official Stewart Stant was charged with taking more than $2 million in bribes.

GOP newbies lack sufficient numbers to pass their own laws, but they can stink when Democratic bills calling for tougher prison sentences for corruption are shelved.

“Tackling corruption and building trust with voters are our most important goals,” GOP state chair Lynn Finnegan said in a phone call on Friday.

GOP Chairwoman Lynn Finnegan cheers as election results show Hawaii Republicans making easy gains. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

Finnegan regrets that the GOP hasn’t pushed harder on the corruption issue throughout the election cycle, but says it will be different going forward.

“Corruption is a good issue for us,” she said.

However, nothing will change the way local governments deal with corruption – no matter how many new laws are passed – unless there is a will to enforce them and oversight commissions are willing to do what they are told.

A key problem in curbing corruption in Hawaii is repeated over and over again in interviews by former federal defense attorney Alexander Silvert. Silvert says Hawaii has no more or less corruption than other areas of the country, but lacks whistleblowers and introspection.

On the national front, it’s heartening to think that voters have embraced the Democrats’ message that this election was about protecting the future of democracy — a plea that pundits on both sides have wrongly predicted was would lead to a massive defeat for the party.

Another positive aspect was voters’ push to protect abortion rights in states where abortion was a voting issue. It was moving to see men and women rally in the face of continued attacks after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case turned on its head nearly 50 years of federal protections for women’s rights.

The country is just as divided as it was before the election, but the fact that things could have been a lot worse is enough to leave the tiniest glimmer of hope for better days.

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