HI-Sen: Why the blogosphere should care
by PsiFighter37, Sun Aug 13, 2006 at 06:14:49 PM EDT
(cross-posted at Deny My Freedom)
Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii has had a long and distinguished career of public service for America's 50th - and arguably most beautiful - state. After serving 7 terms in the House of Representatives, he was appointed to his Senate seat in 1990 to serve out the last 4 years of the late Spark Matsunaga's Senate term. Since then, he has won re-election twice handily. However, this year, Akaka is facing a serious challenge - and not from the Republican Party, which is virtually nonexistent in Hawaii with the exception of Governor Linda Lingle. Instead, similar to what recently occurred in Connecticut, Akaka's serious challenge is coming from within the Democratic Party. Unlike Connecticut, though, Akaka faces a challenge from the right in the form of Ed Case, who currently holds Akaka's old seat in Hawaii's 2nd District. There have been some valiant folks in the blogosphere, such as schultzy and Shliapnikov at Daily Kos who have been trying to get the race the attention it deserves. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Daniel Akaka has been reliably liberal - and more importantly, a reliable Democratic vote (with the exception of ANWR, but that is a separate issue) on the important issues of our time.
If we can step up and lend a great deal of time, money, and support to Ned Lamont, surely we can spare some for a sitting senator who is the better Democrat in his race.
Recently, Akaka and Case made their second joint appearance together during their bitterly contested primary. While the setting wasn't that of a traditional debate, the two had a chance to showcase themselves:
Akaka, 81, squarely addressed the issue of his age, saying the elderly should not be cynically dismissed as frail and disposable but valued as kupuna who have wisdom and experience.
The senator also embraced his role as a liberal who has challenged President Bush on the war in Iraq, the USA Patriot Act and tax breaks for the wealthy, suggesting that the moderate Case would not stand up to the administration.
"Who is going to do that for us in Washington, D.C.? Who will be the alternative voice, that persistent conscience?" Akaka asked. "Will it be Republicans? Or even individuals who claim to be Democrats but vote to the contrary?
"Or will they just rubber-stamp the administration's decisions?"
Case, 53, acknowledged that the primary is a difficult and emotional choice for many but asked people to look honestly at the need for leadership transition. He said planning for transition is routine in business, the military and in many families and warned that it would be a mistake for Hawai'i to fail to recognize its importance in the Senate.
Akaka is speaking truth to power here. If one looks at Case's record as recorded by Progressive Punch, he is ranked 163 out of 435 in the House of Representatives. Considering that there are currently 202 Democrats in the House, this means that he is near the bottom within the Democratic Party - something that should not happen when one is the representative from a deep blue state. While he has a perfect record on reproductive rights, he has a relatively low percentage on matters of civil and criminal justice, housing, and most importantly, the war on Iraq. Case was not a member of the House when the vote was cast, but Akaka was one of 23 senators to vote against the Iraqi war resolution in October 2002. Akaka's Progressive Punch scorecard ranks him 11th in the Senate, or in the top quarter of Senate Democrats. His lowest ranking is on the environment, in no due part because of his votes for authorizing ANWR to be opened up for drilling. However, those votes are part of a special relationship that Alaska and Hawaii have as the two non-contiguous states in America. It is not reflective of an open hostility towards environmental issues.
Case is using Akaka's light legislative heft as a weapon against him - something Time Magazine said when they ranked Akaka as one of the five worst senators in the country. He made no bones about saying that it was Hawaii's other senator, Daniel Inouye, who is responsible for getting anything done for Hawaii:
Case said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, is responsible for most of Hawai'i's influence in the Senate and claimed that Akaka's three decades in the House and Senate have "not been marked by significant achievement."
Case cited as an example the procedural vote in June against Akaka's Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill, which the senator had sought for six years, as "clearly a failure of effectiveness on the floor of the United States Senate."
"There have been no markers of national leadership in a 30-year career. There has been a 'don't make waves' approach," Case said. "That's not going to get our national problems solved. If we're just going to kind of go along to get along, we're never going to dig our way out of the problems that we face."
The bill Case is referring to is the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which would have given similar provisions of sovereignty to some parts of Hawaii that are currently enjoyed by Native Americans. The bill failed to get cloture, falling short by the 4 votes necessary (2 of which would have been provided by Rockefeller and Schumer, had they been present) to break a filibuster. As you can see, the two Alaskan senators, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, voted for this bill, even though the rest of their party was widely against the measure. This isn't a failure on Akaka's part; instead, it's simply the problem when you're a minority party by 10 seats - it's very difficult to flip that many Republicans to vote with the Democrats on an issue they see no reason to. Case, being a member of a House of Representatives that is run like a dictatorship, should understand just how difficult it is to get anything done in a GOP-controlled chamber.
The main difference of opinion, of course, rests on Iraq. Akaka was one of 13 senators to vote for the Kerry/Feingold resolution, which calls for our troops to leave Iraq within a year. Case, on the other hand, advocates the same open-ended committment that the GOP has been offering, saying the situation has to be stabilized before we leave. Given the continuing chaos in Iraq, it's becoming increasingly clear that our continued occupation of the country is not serving to advance any sort of progress. The last thing we need is to gain a senator within our own party who could very well become the next Joe Lieberman, echoing GOP talking points on how we need to 'prosecute' the war. We gained a potential Democratic vote in the Senate with Lamont's primary victory. Let's make sure we don't lose it due to Case knocking off Akaka.
It's hard to gauge just how close this race is. In the latest Rasmussen poll, Akaka only holds an extremely narrow edge over Case, with both easily beating the Republican challenger.
According to the most recent Rasmussen Reports election poll, Sen. Akaka leads Case 47% to 45%. That's a surprisingly narrow margin for the incumbent war veteran who has represented the Aloha State in the Senate since 1990.
Akaka and Case are both viewed Very Favorably by 23% of the states' voters. Case slightly edges out Akaka on overall favorable ratings, however,
Regardless of which candidate wins on September 23, it appears that the seat will remain safely in the Democrats' hands. Assuming Akaka is the party's candidate, 58% of voters surveyed prefer him to Republican Jerry Coffee (30%.) Should Case succeed in unseating Akaka, 63% say they'll vote for him over Coffee (21%.)
The reason I say it's hard to really tell what is happening in this race is because of what other polls say. In the most recent Honolulu Advertiser poll (done in July), it shows Akaka ahead 51%-40%. However, in a poll of likely Democratic primary voters, Akaka has a wide lead, 55%-35%. The Rasmussen poll was a poll of all voters in Hawaii, which has an open primary taking place on September 23. One should be able to run in the primary on the strength of their Democratic credentials, but it seems like Case, like Lieberman is now doing in the general election in Connecticut, is trying to appeal to non-Democratic voters:
U.S. Rep. Ed Case is asking all voters who want change to pull a Democratic ballot in his September primary against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, a strategy political analysts consider a gamble because it suggests Case will attract independent and Republican voters to help contain Akaka's advantage among establishment and progressive Democrats who are more likely to vote.
Case said he is not specifically targeting independents or Republicans in his U.S. Senate campaign but says his message of change and the need for leadership transition appeals to mainstream Hawai'i.
"We certainly believe that our candidacy is universal," Case said. "It doesn't matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, some other party or independent, to understand the need for transition, to want change, to want better performance in the U.S. Senate.
Supporting a stay-the-course strategy can hardly be called a movement towards change, Mr. Case. In addition, the liberals and progressives who are voting in the primary are strongly supporting Akaka in his race. Even Dennis Kucinich, who placed 2nd in Hawaii's 2004 Democratic presidential primary (behind John Kerry), will be coming to campaign for Akaka. The folks on the ground are making sure that the truth comes out about the candidates - Akaka is the true progressive/liberal candidate, whereas Case is merely a milquetoast DLC member (who is strangely disavowed by the group, despite being a member) who is not representative of his constituents. Take a look at Case's campaign website, and the only visible link to policy issues is the environment. Nothing about Iraq - hell, nothing about much of anything besides Case's public appearances and mentions in the media. Akaka has a whole host of issues that he discusses, even his undoubtedly unpopular stand on ANWR.
While the blogosphere basks in the post-primary glow of the victory in Connecticut, don't forget about the primary in Hawaii that is less than six weeks away. It's imperative that Daniel Akaka remains the junior senator from Hawaii. Whereas Ed Case has been a voice of cautious, DLC-style moderation that no longer works in today's environment in Washington, Akaka has been a strong supporter of liberal and progressive causes during his 16-year tenure - causes he shares with the netroots. Let's ensure that he goes back to Washington for 6 more years, a senator who truly represents not only the Democratic Party, but his constituents - the residents of Hawaii.