One of the more absurd of Yogi Berra’s non-sequiturs was that “nobody goes there any more- it’s too crowded.”
When it comes the field of “acceptable” candidates in this year’s elections the ballot is anything but crowded. That’s the case up and down the ticket on Kaua`i but it’s exemplified by the County Council election where a record low nine people are running for seven seats.
The key word there is “acceptable” because the way democracy has combined with capitalism in America we’ve managed to define “acceptable” as “corporate-funded, duopoly selected.”
But that has little or nothing to do with the reason why Hawai`i in particular is at or near the bottom of the list in voter turnout. This week a six-part series by blogger/journalist Ian Lind in Civil Beat tried to explain why through statistical gymnastics that, while we’re sure are true, seemed anything but insightful.
One thing missing in Lind’s report is the “sun and surf” factor.
Stay with us. Hawai`i is the home of the tourism-industry crummy jobs that cause all members of the family to work at least two close-to-minimum-wage jobs apiece. With the cost of living higher than other places in the US, people just don’t have time to pay attention to politics and certainly want to spend their leisure time doing something other than figuring out who to vote for.
Even though we political junkies don’t see the logic in that, it makes more sense when you add in that “immigrants” don’t exactly flock here to get involved in politics, which also goes for those born and raised here who have usually chosen to “stay home” after they finish school.
Most people are here one way or another because they can surf, hike, snorkel, fish and do all the things that make living in the islands unique. If anything, they came here- or stay here- because they are actually running away from places obsessed with politics and the like.
Then of course there are also those who aren’t particularly interested in participating in what they see as the central activity that an “occupying nation” uses to justify their military control and “make the world safe for democracy.” Though it’s not a vast number who think that way, it’s more than most people think.
But if you really want to know why few among the remaining are voting it may be the simplest reason of all: there’s “no one” running.
Why vote when all the Democrats and Republicans are greedy power mongers who are all, in one way or another, on the take?
While there are exceptions that prove the rule like Mina Morita or Gary Hooser (who, maybe not so coincidentally, are both currently out of office although Hooser is seeking to return to the county council) it’s been like pulling proverbial teeth to get people to run for office these days.
We just spent a year and a half recruiting candidates and didn’t find a one. We even lost a couple at the last second.
We approached almost every “community activist” we know, even some we disagree with because we knew that at least they fight for things they actually believe in. And every one said “thanks but no thanks,” some adding “why in the hell would I want to do that?”
Indeed running for office is a daunting proposition. Just the prospect of having to ask people for money makes many back off. The idea of spending every spare moment for a year going door to door, attending every gathering and being subjected to more scrutiny than a prize pig at an auction is not one that makes one’s heart go pitter-patter.
Surprisingly many say that actually serving- crafting legislation, guiding it through, going to meetings and all that intriguing stuff- is what they want to avoid because they’d have to deal with all the a-holes in office who, for the most part, actually enjoy all the back-stabbing political gamesmanship that got them into office and keeps them there.
Can you imagine having to sit there with Mel Rapozo or Dickie Chang- and not just sit there at a meeting but actually negotiate with and schmooze them? Are you going to listen to Jay Furfaro go on endlessly about his delusions of success or try to figure out why Kipukai Kuali`i would be aligning himself with Rapozo and the Queen of Spleen, Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho- and then actually come up with equally sinister plans to oppose their evil schemes?
What fun. Who’d wanna go surfing when you can listen to a three hour report on some incomprehensible, unattainable, feel-good plan to spend a million bucks to spruce up the county building parking lot?
So there you have it– an electorate that’s already got better things to do and actually came or stayed here to get away from the backstabbing political culture on the mainland. And if they do take a look at the local political culture they see nothing but a bunch of moronic and vicious bozos appealing to what’s left of the electorate. And those that do vote do so on the basis of who went to school with whom and whether they attend the same church… or cock fight.
And it’s only getting worse. Don’t forget the last mayoral election where the only one to run against a punch-drunk, concussion-syndrome-addled, ex-football player was a well-meaning too-smart-for-the-job, haole lady who’d lived here all of ten minutes. And this year, even with the criminally insane, moist-Malaprop-spewing Iseri running for prosecuting attorney against what appears to be a smart, honest and upstanding progressive apparently actually interested in serving justice (imagine that), it’s still a race too close to call because she grew up here and he didn’t.
It doesn’t get any better with our choices for US congress where unlike the Kaua`i state legislative contest, there is one. For the U.S. house it’s a war-obsessed vet who has gotten non-religion and is suddenly bigoted-no-more, running against a slimy pay-for-play veteran who has as much substance as dark matter. And for senate it’s a pseudo-progressive against a pseudo-Democrat in the primaries and the winner gets to take on the Stepford Wife, chameleon ex-governor who has the unique talent for speaking out of all three sides of her mouth.
Those are our choices? Well actually not. Because even though we have convinced ourselves that we can only vote for one of them, there are others on the ballot, many of whom aren’t corrupt caricatures of public servants. It’s just that we’ve convinced ourselves we’re not allowed to vote for them.
The fact is that people believe in the cockamamie “two party system” that has created a fraudulent scheme where legalized bribery is compulsory, corporate billionaires do the bribing and everyone is too intimidated to vote for the candidate they actually like because no one else will.
Maybe Yogi had it right: there’s nobody running- the field is too crowded. In other words, why would you vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein? She’s too popular.