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The State of Hawaii Hawaii's contemporary political life is oriented by a distinctive political culture that is, simultaneously, highly progressive and like a traditional, Old Boy dominated, southern American state. The rich ethnic fabric and dominant political "style" are inter-woven, each reflecting historical forces. What emerges from this interweaving affects virtually everything that happens in Hawaii (Goldfarb 1447). By the late 1940 s, the direction of the long- and short-term forces made change likely, and it occurred dramatically in the fall of 1954. The Democratic party, virtually invisible in the five decades before the war, gained control of the legislature and began to use the apparatus of government to alter the direction of social and economic policy. Referred to in subsequent years as the "Revolution of 1954, " this election previewed the power of a party that re-created itself by appeal to groups marginalized under the preceding regime (Kaufman 14).
The "revolution" gathered support from disaffected Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians, Chinese, Portuguese, and Filipinos, but it was overwhelmingly based in the numbers, loyalty, and solidarity of second and third generation Japanese Americans. The new Japanese-American leaders were "of modest means, progeny of the plantations, distrustful of the entrenched wealth of the few" (Kuykendall & Day 112). The torch bearers of a new social agenda, they vanquished the Old Guard of the Republican party as well as its "new" wing, whose members had, by the 1950 s, recognized the necessity of advocating social policies with broader appeal (Kuykendall & Day 105). Democratic control over statewide elected offices was not complete until 1962. In that year, increased voter turn-out helped elect John Burns the first Democratic governor and re-captured the state Senate, temporarily regained by Republicans in the 1960 election. The party of the haole business class rapidly declined and then disappeared as an effective political force, overwhelmed by the new alignment of electoral players.
Between 1962 and 1996, Republican candidates did not come close to controlling either house of the legislature, and did not win the governorship. The sole Republican representative was Hiram Fong in the U. S. Senate, ironically one of the new Chinese entrepreneurs who helped to break the economic power hold of the Caucasian elite (Mead, 271).
John Burns was the architect of this coalition of former outsiders. In his earlier career as a Honolulu police officer during World War II, he was assigned surveillance duties over Japanese-Americans, people authorities suspected might pose a security threat in any conflict with Japan. Burns' contacts with individuals in the Japanese-American community fostered a sympathetic familiarity that led him to champion social causes, such as the reform of the territory's labor and education policies, with which they, and others who felt excluded, could identify (Buck 72). Electoral success also paved the way for one of the major targets of Burns and his allies: statehood.
A statehood proposal first had been introduced in the federal Congress in 1921, and in 1947, 1950, and 1953, statehood bills had passed the House of Representatives, but not the Senate. The haole elite, with some notable exceptions, had opposed these attempts, arguing that Hawaii society was not ready for it. Statehood was overwhelmingly favored by Japanese-Americans. Other groups, especially Hawaiians, were ambivalent or negative. To achieve statehood, its proponents had to defuse Cold War-era charges that the islands were run by Communists who controlled the labor unions. Burns and his allies successfully won control of the party from the powerful International Longshoreman's and Warehouseman's Union (ILWU) in the late 1940 s and early 1950 s.
He pushed for statehood after being elected territorial delegate to Washington in 1956, arguing forcefully that subversion simply was not an issue (Beardsley 485). Advocates for statehood also had to contend with mainland fears of a "Japanese menace, " anxieties reflecting prejudices in America that earlier produced exclusion laws for Chinese and Japanese and had been refueled by World War II. Rather than play down the issue, or argue defensively, Burns contended that Japanese-Americans, by cultural values as well as demonstrated loyalty during the war, had shown themselves to be the best kind of citizens. In June 1959 voters in the former Kingdom opted overwhelmingly for statehood.
In the years following the Revolution of 1954, legislatures passed, governors signed, and courts upheld a remarkable stream of policies shaping social and economic life, measures that stood in sharp contrast to the narrower definitions of government's responsibility held by earlier regimes (Pratt & Smith 49). In terms of how wealth and power were concentrated in the islands, however, these changes could be seen as more appearance than reality. Where sugar earlier had dominated the economy, tourism came to account for one third of the state's income. Where there had been a one-party political system dominated by Republicans, the Democrats now occupied all but a few seats in the legislature.
Where there had been a monarchy and then a territorial plutocracy, there was now a centralized system of government that rejected most forms of local representation and only grudgingly gave powers to the four counties. Where Caucasians had had interconnections that enabled them to dominate, now it was Japanese-Americans who had an unspoken closeness, made deals with business interests that had been their enemies, and filled expanding state offices with people from whom they expected loyalty as a primary value (Pratt & Smith 51). By the late 1960 s, one disenchanted member of the 1954 Revolution dejectedly noted, "Now they have a slice of the pie and they are getting fat... Hawaii has gone full circle, from the closed society of the plantation days to a new closed society run by the Burns clique" (cited in Buck 74) Social and political life seemed to be headed in two directions, both consistent with the islands' historical legacy, but hard to reconcile with each other. One path was toward greater institutional openness and a more pluralistic system with multiple centers of power and policies intended to solicit broader public involvement.
The other path was the familiar combination of privileged insider relationships that reward loyalty and punish dissent, use centralized authority to serve specific interests, and promote economic activity at the expense of community integration and self-determination (Goldfarb 1443). The ethnic and intercultural mosaic of the islands, and the political culture that has been formed around that mosaic, have helped shape both of these directions, permitting them to exist as parallel futures, in tension with one another. Contemporary Hawaii society displays a remarkably rich diversity of cultural groups whose origins are outside of Western traditions. Within this setting, no group, including Caucasians, holds anything approximating a numerical majority. In addition, Hawaii is much less affected by the two minority groups that have had a dramatic influence on communities and cultural relations elsewhere in the United States: Blacks and Hispanics. The islands' ethnic relations and politics contain very little of their history and concerns, or of the responses of other groups to them (Beardsley 487).
The judiciary in Hawaii - the state courts - reflects the combination of novelty and familiarity that characterizes much of what is found in Hawaii Organizationally quite similar to state judiciaries found throughout the United States, there is a great deal about the Hawaii judiciary's history and outlook that is unique to the islands. Consistent with the political culture that it both reflects and creates, it is the Hawaii Judiciary's orientation to legal policy that has most distinguished it from counterparts in other parts of the country. In many ways, the Hawaii courts, symbolized by sober and serious people attired in black robes, have been, in relation to most of their colleague's elsewhere, quite radical. That radicalism originates in efforts to blend principles from traditional Hawaiian society with more conventional Western-oriented legal philosophy. Its greatest impact is on the meaning given to property rights (Pratt & Smith 211). The Supreme Court of William Richardson has gone to the greatest lengths to fuse into Hawaii law the traditions and cultural values that historically most distinguish the islands.
The courts that have followed appear to be less interested in following this path, and their comparative conservatism may reflect changes in the social and political landscape as well as the personalities of the particular justices. The Judiciary is an independent branch of government by constitutional provision. The monies it receives are not part of the budget put together by the governor, and budget requests are acted upon directly by the legislature. This fiscal autonomy from the executive branch is highlighted during budget crises when the governor, acting through the Department of Budget and Finance, can restrict or withdraw the funds of state departments, but may only "request" that the two independent departments, the Judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, follow suit. As each makes clear, they are under no legal obligation to do so (Mead, 277).
Hawaii's chief executive shares many characteristics with the governors of other states. At the same time, consistent with the state's institutional evolution and political culture, the Hawaii executive branch and the governor embody centralized power and the dominating presence of state government to a degree not found in most other states. The governor's power comes from several sources, but the role played in budgetary matters and the capacity to define public issues and forge responses are particularly important. Even with these powers and a legislature dominated by his own party, the governor must deal with an administrative structure that is resistant to change from any source.
This is nowhere better illustrated than in efforts at reform and reinvention (Mead, 278). The departments of Hawaii state government can be categorized into three groups, based either on function or size. As is true for other states, most of these have grown partly by acquiring functions not directly related to their constitutionally established purpose. Often this has resulted in duplication or overlap between agencies.
An example of this is environmental protection, for which at least six departments have responsibilities (Pratt & Smith 139). Under the "Dillon Rule, " set forth in an Iowa Supreme Court decision in 1868, all local governments are creatures of the state in that they possess only those powers given directly to them by state government. As numerous observers have pointed out, the kinds of creatures that have been created vary a great deal (Beardsley 486). In Hawaii, there is less local government than anywhere in America. In stark contrast to states where the counties, cities, towns, townships, districts, and other jurisdictions number in the hundreds, or even thousands, there are only four in Hawaii. Each of these is a county, and none existed until the first decade of this century.
This unique situation is a direct reflection of the state's history. Consistent with that history, throughout the twentieth century, the status of these few "local" governments has been the subject of an on-going tug-of-war with a succession of elected and administrative state officials (Pratt & Smith 99). In recent years, demographic shifts toward the re-population of the Neighbor Islands have strengthened long-standing attempts to increase the authority of country governments or create municipalities capable of raising taxes and controlling land use within their boundaries. As questions about the desirability of more "home rule" are debated over the coming years, Hawaii will continue as a novel American orientation toward blending centralized authority and democratic politics (Beardsley 488). Unlike differences between the counties, there is little variation among them in their functional relationship to the state. As might be expected from the top-down manner in which institutions have evolved, state government performs many of the functions handled by towns, cities, and counties in locations where government emerged from local communities.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is public education. The responsibility for almost everything from kindergarten to grade 12 belongs to a single elected Board of Education whose policies are administered through the statewide Department of Education. Other functions that belong to the state include the public library system; the courts; prisons and detention centers; airports and harbors; and all public sector collective bargaining involving both state and county employees (Mead 275). Some functions are shared between state and county jurisdictions. These include public housing, water management, hospitals, parks, and land-use planning. In some functional areas, this is, at worst, only a minor nuisance, but in others, where the stakes are higher, such as housing, land-use planning, or the development of water resources, there is recurring conflict (Beardsley 489).
The functions left to the counties include fire and police protection, the sewer system and sewage treatment, refuse collection and disposal, public golf courses, mass transit, motor-vehicle registration and issuance of drivers licenses, liquor control, and the prosecution of traffic and criminal charges (Mead 273). Within the context of this comparatively short list of functions, there is an on-going tug-of-war between the counties and the state over the degree of autonomy the former should have in meeting their responsibilities. As John Kincaid observes, there has been "almost a century of experimentation and of pulling and tugging between state and local officials... Although virtually every state has experienced such pulling and tugging, the situation in Hawaii has been more acute in many respects because the counties are so constitutionally and fiscally dependent on the state" (cited in Mead 274). Works Cited Beardsley, Felicia. "FROM A NATIVE DAUGHTER: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i. " Pacific Affairs 73. 3 (2000): 485. Buck, Elizabeth.
Paradise Remade: The Politics of Culture and History in Hawai'i. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993. Goldfarb, Carl E. "Allocating the Local Apportionment Pie: What Portion for Resident Aliens? . " Yale Law Journal 104. 6 (1995): 1441 - 1472. Kaufman, Herbert. Politics and Policies in State and Local Governments. Ed.
Robert A. Dahl. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Kuykendall, Ralph S. , and A. Grove Day.
Hawaii: A History: From Polynesian Kingdom to American State. Revised ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Mead, Lawrence M. "State Political Culture and Welfare Reform. " Policy Studies Journal 32. 2 (2004): 271.
Pratt, Richard C. , and Zachary Smith. Hawai'i Politics and Government: An American State in a Pacific World. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
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