Democrats: Rules made for ignoring II

Our discussion about Democratic Party rules and their enforcement (or lack thereof) takes an interesting new turn with the party’s move to discipline Gary Okino with expulsion, censure or reprimand for supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming election, including Cam Cavasso over U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Okino, a Honolulu councilman, is running in the Democratic primary against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444, and Democrats have every right to be up in arms that he’s endorsed a long list of Republicans who share his opposition to gay unions.

But the Democrats also have a pesky little problem: Two years ago, Inouye committed essentially the same infraction when he went against the party’s fight to gain a filibuster-proof Senate majority by campaigning for the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in Alaska.

There were huge issues of national interest at stake in terms of the Democrats’ ability to enact their programs, but we heard not a peep of reprimand or hint of censure against Inouye.

It’s more than a little hypocritical for the party to now come down with both feet on Okino for doing the same thing to Inouye (and others) that Inouye did in 2008 to Alaska Democrat Mark Begich.

If rules don’t apply equally to everybody, a party can hardly call itself “democratic.”

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11 Comments on “Democrats: Rules made for ignoring II”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    When the Inouye/Stevens issue initially came up, a lot of us were very upset. As a relative outsider to internal Democratic Party policy-making back then – and still am – I directly challenged Senator Inouye – albeit politely – for deserting us.

    His response – filtered through several layers of staff – was that his friendship with Senator Stevens trumped everything else.

    On the surface, it may seem like the two incidents are similar, but I don’t. I know I’d probably choose some of the regulars on this blog over Party rules, but that doesn’t make me any less of a Democrat.

    However, I certainly would never publicly support a Republican. What I do with my ballot, however, is my own business.

    Gary Okino is really creepy. As my grandfather once told me about who to trust in politics: Someone with whom you could leave either your 14-year-old daughter or your stuffed-full-of-bucks wallet alone in a room and know that either/both would be untouched when you came back an hour later. Anyone who quotes God as much as he does clearly is trying to cover up something.

    Wish I lived in House District 33 so I could vote against him/for Blake.

    As of this moment, it will all be over in about 130 hours.

  2. charles Says:

    David, you make a very good point but it’s a bit more nuanced than your fairly crude “unless a rule is enforced against everyone, then it shouldn’t be enforced against anyone” approach. That’s like saying if you dump a refrigerator on the side of the road and get caught, you should tell the judge that the police don’t ticket everyone that throws a cigarette butt on the ground so therefore you should get off.

    Yes, someone should have filed a formal complaint against Inouye and let the chips fall where they may. And, yes, there is a double standard at play here.

    But from what I could see, the friendship Inouye had with Stevens was real, long-term and mutual, and was both on a personal and professional level. And it was a friendship that had benefits for Hawaii since no matter which party was in control of the Senate both men believed that the isolation of Hawaii and Alaska was a common thread that they understood needed to be nurtured.

    This does not defend Inouye’s endorsement of Stevens by any means. But look at Okino’s endorsement of Cavasso, et. al. It seems to be based purely on a religious litmus test of whether or not a candidate is “righteous” enough.

    Inouye’s actions violated an internal party rule. Okino’s actions go beyond this and raises the disturbing question as to whether or not Okino knows that we have a separation of church and state.

  3. Haoleboy Says:

    The rules must also apply to Senator Inouye. Most people do not know this but he has a pending ethics complaint against him in the US Senate for not following the rules. It is uncertain if it will be resolved before the November election.

  4. Nikki Heat Says:

    BTW, Charles, you describe: “But from what I could see, the friendship Inouye had with Stevens was real, long-term and mutual, and was both on a personal and professional level. And it was a friendship that had benefits for Hawaii since no matter which party was in control of the Senate both men believed that the isolation of Hawaii and Alaska was a common thread that they understood needed to be nurtured.”
    Wayne Nishiki, then a Democrat, lost a primary for U.S. Senate against Sen. Inouye and then endorsed his long-time buddy Rick Reed, a GOP member of the State legislature. A party member certainly didn’t hesitate to come down on Wayne and file a complaint and drive him over to the GOP (where he actually fit in well on certain social issues like civil unions– which Wayne opposes). The chains Wayne wore at the Party proceeding was a little dramatic but kinda fun, too. I think Wayne’s friendship with Rick Reed was “real, long-term and mutual, and was both on a personal and professional level.”

  5. Michael Says:

    Double Standards, when it comes to “friends”.

  6. Kolea Says:

    Come on, Dave. You “heard a peep” against Senator Inouye. It may not have gone to a reprimand or censure, but “peeps” there were aplenty.

    I peeped about it on your blog and I peeped about it in internal Democratic circles. There were peeps and counter-peeps. The counter-peeps went like this:

    OK, you file a complaint against Senator Inouye and what will happen? It will polarize relationships within the Party, take up a lot of time and even after fair and complete deliberations, if the Party finds against the Senator, what would be the appropriate sanction? A reprimand? A “Dear Senator Inouye, please don’t do it again” kind of letter?

    My response: I agree a reprimand would be appropriate. I think the Party needs to formally note our disagreement with his action. If we do not hold him to account, we will be encouraging other members to ignore the rule. I would hope the Senator would recognize our obligation and accept the reprimand with good grace and wear it as a badge of honor as a tribute to his friendship with Senator Stevens.

    I doubt my suggested remedy reached the ears of the Senator for his consideration. Too many others in the Party thought the conflict was not worth the bother.

    But Okino’s violations are on a scale which cannot be ignored. Okino has endorsed a lot more Republicans than Democrats this election cycle. Surely it is not inappropriate for his fellow Democrats to ask if it Mr. Okino should not be playing for the other team? Had Senator Inouye called for the wholesale defeat of his Democratic Senate colleagues, the two cases might be comparable.

    You might enjoy exaggerating the comparison in order to tweak the nose of the local Democrats, but the two cases are not comparable. Most Party leaders want to avoid the hassle of disciplinary proceedings against members, particularly elected officials. The fact that Okino is a religious conservative actually makes the Party MORE reluctant to move against him because he will undoubtedly try to portray himself as a decent “man of God,” persecuted by the godless liberals for daring to stand up for “traditional values.”

    But the scale of his multiple violations makes them impossible to ignore.

  7. David Shapiro Says:

    Further on Nikki’s point: There was another precedent in 2006 when a party member filed a complaint against Inouye for endorsing Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman against the Democratic candidate after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary and ran as an independent. Inouye resolved the complaint before any action was considered by withdrawing his endorsement of Lieberman.

    In Alaska, Inouye didn’t just endorse Stevens, but went to Alaska to campaign for him. The note Democratic chairman Dante Carpenter sent to people inquiring about what was being done on Okino said:

    Mr. Okino has been notified that he is in violation of the DPH constitution, Article I, Section 8B which states “A member of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i may be expelled, censured or reprimanded for the following reasons: 1) Active support or promotion of a political party or any candidate(s) of a political party other than the Democratic Party.”

    Pretty clearly, the rule doesn’t differentiate between state and federal races or local and mainland races. Backing a Republican is backing a Republican. I’m not defending Okino or going out of my way to give Inouye a hard time for doing what he thought was right, just questioning the credibility of rules that aren’t applied evenly.

  8. shaftalley Says:

    i became a rtegistered democrat when i got out of the army back in ’74 and then during carter-reagan presidential race,i became a “democrat for reagan”.i blonged to a union back then that suddenly switched allegiance from pres. carter to candidate reagan!i think there were only 2 other unions that endorsed reagan(teamsters, and the ill-fated air traffic controllers union)my union national maritime union(nmu) actually passed out buttons to the membership that said “democrats for reagan”!!man those were crazy days.and we all know what reagan did to PATCO(air traffic folks)!the Teamsters didn’t do much better and ended up in gov’t. control for ties to organized crime.our union lost alot of jobs.and it was finally swallowed up by another union.

  9. Michael Says:

    Being born and raised in Hawaii, Is there a different thinking when it comes to Hawaii Democrats or American Democrats? Republicans too!

    This goes for local thinking or mainland thinking.
    This makes me wonder why there is a split in party and party enforcement of rules. Different opinions on what is what.

  10. Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, MSW Says:

    The Democratic Party is under going a return to respecting its rules. Being a Democrat is a choice. There is no reason to abandon our principles to allow those who say they are Democrats but work against the US Constitution, our State Constitution and our Democratic By-Laws and Platform. Everyone has a choice in this facet of their lives.

    While the incident that Shapiro refers to happened, it is not one that we can allow to continue today. It’s a day of democracy to abide by the core values of our party.

    If they can’t abide by the principles of the Democratic Party, then they have a choice. There are plenty political parties for them to choose from or they can create their own just like Frank Fasi did. The Democratic Party of Hawaii voted on their Platform in May 2010 and it was ratified. Now the choice is up to the individual to which party best fits their way of life. This is the choice that is up to them. If we don’t stand up and require that all members abide by the rules, then we are no party at all. May the peace and justice of enlightenment reign.

  11. Peter Ehrhorn Says:

    In regards to democratic rules, let it be remembered that Inouye and Stephens went back decades and they share a lot in common, primarily that they were new senators for states way out in the boondocks without many people. So it was natural for two relatively small states to form an alliance even though different parties represented them.

    Now if Okino can point to a 40 yr. relationship with Cam Cavasso, well maybe it should be considered. I doubt if he could.

    Inouye by supporting Ted, is supporting the seniority system. Ted would be a more powerful ally than a freshman democrat. Can Okino make a similar case?

    The two cases are actually very far apart.


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