Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst

Will Hawaii’s candidates on the 2022 campaign trail follow through on their promises?

Policy solutions that the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been promoting for years are quickly gaining steam — and the election underway is proof. 

Exempting or reducing the general excise tax on food and medicine, for example, has become a popular stance among candidates in Hawaii’s two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

In the primaries, Democratic candidates for the governor’s race such as Josh Green, Kai Kahele and Vicky Cayetano all voiced their support for this change, and so did candidates BJ Penn, Duke Aiona and Gary Cordery in the Republican race.

When it comes to the Jones Act, a candidate’s political party affiliation has never been a clear determinant of his or her stance. 

The federal maritime law, after all, is named after Republican U.S. Sen. Wesley Jones from Washington, who was looking out after the shipping interests of his own state when he introduced the bill into Congress.

In Hawaii, in the U.S. Senate race, both Democrat Brian Schatz, the incumbent, and Republican challenger Bob McDermott oppose reform of the 1920 protectionist maritime law.

Only candidate Feena Bonoan of the Libertarian Party has taken a stand against it.

Ed Case, the Democratic incumbent for the 1st Congressional District, has been a long-time ally in the effort to reform the Jones Act, which restricts shipping competition between U.S. ports and increases the cost of living for Hawaii residents.

On the other hand, his unsuccessful Democratic primary opponent, Sergio Alcubilla, staunchly opposed any reforms. 

Among Republican congressional candidates, Joe Akana and Patrick Largey supported scrapping or modifying the Jones Act. 

Happily, at least some of the candidates recognize the need for change, with research from the Grassroot Institute probably having at least a little something to do with it. 

The direction of policy discourse is promising, but the perennial question remains: Will those who get elected keep their promises? 

From the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s point of view, it would be better if some of the promises being made were not kept. 

But in any case, politicians are masters at crafting excuses. They often fail to follow through on the promises they made on the campaign trail. 

The rule of thumb seems to be that the things politicians swear will never happen tend to materialize, while promises of action often do not. 

The odds of seeing meaningful change are even worse in Hawaii, where the political environment breeds complacency on the part of our elected officials. 

Can we blame them? 

General elections in Hawaii are not exactly nail-biter events. When having a certain letter in parentheses next to your name can almost guarantee you a campaign victory, there is little incentive to perform once you’re elected.

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