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O‘ahu County Convention
May 1, 2004 - Moanalua High School


[adopted May 1, 2004 by the O‘ahu County Convention]

1. The O‘ahu County Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, as it both expands its membership, and renews old relationships, hereby restates its principles.

Democratic governance philosophy
Role of the Democratic Party
Democrats' central choices
Broad approaches to certain governmental concerns
    1 Taxation
    2 Education
    3 State government
    4 Religion and philosophy
    5 Medicine
    6 Indigenous people
    7 Immigrants
Summary comments.

2 Democratic governance philosophy

  1. We shoulder the burdens of others, so that the weaker and injured will not be left behind. This is the most basic human duty.
  2. We insist that circumstances of birth shall not dictate social fate or legal rights. All persons should rise on their merit.
  3. We regard government as a flexible instrument to serve the needs of the living.
  4. We refrain from intruding on others' moral choices. This teaches us the same tolerance that we expect from others.
  5. In matters of policy, we recognize practical experience and history are more important than purity of theory.
  6. We accept a mixture of governmental and private solutions to social problems. We reject the radicalism that permits only governmental solutions, and we similarly reject the radicalism that permits only market-based solutions.
  7. We understand that, although fundamental rights tend to be stated individually in our Constitution, each person also draws purpose and identity from group affiliations of various sorts, and for policy purposes, we consider the needs of groups and their histories.

3. Role of the Democratic Party
  1. Political parties educate and mobilize voters, so that a governing majority may emerge. If parties are weak, citizenship erodes.
  2. The Democratic Party of Hawai'i has a public mission to perform, and a long tradition to uphold.
  3. Elected officials are to the party, as fruit is to the tree. There is no party without a bold and active membership.
  4. Sincere conversation about politics is the lifeblood of the party. The quality of the democracy we create depends on the quality of the conversation that we encourage.
  5. The Party must not be merely a ceremonial organization. It must not be merely a campaign organization.
  6. The problems of the day emerge with unprededented speed, complexity, scale, and risk. Our members' talents and resources should be engaged in collaboration with our elected officials to develop governmental policy.
  7. The Hawai'i Democratic party should not presume to be all things to all people; that results in being nothing to anyone.
  8. 3.8 Decisions on important party matters should be made by the membership of the party, not the unaffiliated general public.

4. Democrats' central choices
  1. In choosing a foreign policy, we stand with those who treat all people as cousins, and remember that enemies are potential friends. Although our nation can defeat anyone or destroy anything on earth, our credibility depends on self-restraint in refraining from doing so. Our relations with other societies must be driven as much by ethics, values, history, law, and obligation, as by commerce. Respect must be extended, if respect is to be received.
  2. In choosing an economic policy, we stand with those who need to work to live. This includes those who labor or want to, those who apply skill, those who invent or design, those who create their own businesses, and those who care for others or create opportunities for others to work. We consider that those who, though in the prime of life, do not need to earn wages, because of whatever good fortune, do not need our help.
  3. In choosing an ecological policy, noting that these islands have more to lose through carelessness than most places on earth, we stand with those creating sustainable technologies and practices, less poisonous or polluting systems, renewable energy systems, and the means of preserving our biological inheritance. In conserving the living systems of the earth, we are also conserving its most valuable expressions, intelligence and compassion. We consider that those who feel no duty to our descendants need to be carefully restrained.
  4. In choosing a role for our state as one of the United States, we will do what the United States ought to do but neglects or fails to do, within the constitutional limits we have established.
  5. In choosing how to protect civil rights through law, we favor permitting more personal and associational choice, rather than less, and we reject both governmental and nongovernmental intrusions into personal matters. We recognize that non-governmental intrusions can be at least as serious as governmental ones. We particularly exercise extreme caution in permitting intrusions purportedly justified by national security, since these have a long tradition of abuse.
  6. In choosing a labor policy, we favor collective bargaining, the proven method of creating a countervailing force in an economy dominated by large companies. Societies that suppress collective bargaining are societies that lack a middle class, and thus lack the stability and community involvement that a middle class creates. We support unions that inculcate the values of democracy in their membership and in the workplace. The web of regulations that protect employee health and safety is necessary to ensure that companies that value their employees are not underbid by companies that do not.

5. Broad approaches to certain governmental concerns

       5.1. Taxation

  1. If government spends, government must tax in roughly equal amounts. In thisway, a budget may be made to balance, and the public can feel the ongoing cost of programs.
  2. Short-term federal deficits for important purposes are acceptable, but not long-term structural deficits that eventually bankrupt the government and destroy the public's financial security.
  3. Under President Reagan, Republicans abandoned fiscal rules, and attempted to vastly overspend, while cutting taxes. It took a decade of serious bi-partisan restraint to undo the damage. President Bush has now gone to a new extreme, by spending lavishly, on wars of his own design, while cutting taxes generally, and trying to removing taxes completely from the hyper-rich.
  4. The Republican intent, other than rewarding their core constituency, is to create a permanent, massive, structural deficit, that will bankrupt the federal government. They see this as desirable, in order to cause the collapse of social programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.
  5. Hawai'i Democrats support our Congressional delegation in resisting that trend.
  6. Within the state, we must insist on vigorous enforcement of tax laws from the top down.
  7. We should also ensure that money from passive investments that sustain the wealthy is not taxed less than wage income, all loads on it included.
  8. Any giveaway by the federal government should be counteracted by the state, to maintain the general progressivity of taxes.
  9. Generally, taxes should support ecological integrity, by ensuring that the price of goods includes the cost of any required governmental mitigation of their impact.

       5.2 Education

  1. Democrats regard public education as rightfully the state's largest expenditure, and its most important program.
  2. The purpose of public education is not to prepare students for jobs, though that is certainly important, nor is it to provide child care. It is not to promote personal satisfaction, interpersonal harmony, or continuation of culture. It is not even for promotion of social equity through equal opportunity. It is not an employment program or a means to retirement. These worthy goals can be reached by other means.
  3. Public education exists to ensure, without fail, that students enter adulthood capable of assuming citizenship in a self-governing society.
  4. At a minimum, this requires: the development of an inquiring mind and distrust of superficial reasoning; skills required to constructively engage in public affairs; and the courage to fulfill one's duty.
  5. Toward this end, student achievement is the critical measure.
  6. All matters of school organization, structure, support, and technique are subject to revision in pursuit of student achievement.
  7. The factors that schools can directly control, however, may be outweighed by socioeconomic and personal factors beyond the school's reach.
  8. The Democratic approach to improving schools therefore includes both appreciation of in-school elements -- such as curriculum and sustaining motivation -- and out-of school elements -- such as parental unemployment or overemployment, stability of the home, nutrition, safety, and parental encouragement.
  9. The University of Hawai'i, the educator of five of six of Hawai'i's college students, is underfunded in proportion to its salient potential. Hawaii's Democrats recognize the University as the single governmental entity that brings more money into the state than its salary cost, as the state's preeminent source of industrial, technical and advanced-skill employment, and as a key institution in any strategy for intellectual, ecological, or economic advancement. Universities, like the judiciary in a tripartite government, respond to global, professional, and traditional incentives that are different than, and ought to be independent of, electoral politics.

       5.3. State government

  1. Democrats favor representative democracy, which consigns decision-making for a term to persons elected by the public. Democrats disfavor routine legislation by direct popular vote, because it encourages decision-making without study, and disfavor government by expert bureaucracy, because it discourages public participation.
  2. For representative democracy to succeed, those elected must have the time and resources to study the decisions they make.
  3. The Hawai‘i Constitution creates a governor, and by extension, an executive branch bureaucracy, with heroic powers that equal or exceed those in other states. Among other things, the governor has excessive discretion to unilaterally alter expenditure priorities, even after they have been enacted into law.
  4. When the executive and legislative branches collide, the legislature is outmatched; particularly when the subject of investigation is the executive bureaucracy itself, or its budget.
  5. The legislature needs improved research and information-gathering capability in order both to stand its ground both against the assertions of the executive bureaucracy, and the information provided by lobbyists.
  6. This imbalance of powers of the branches of government -- excessive discretion on one hand, and inability to review and restrain it, on the other --- is a subtle problem that has been in evidence under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

       5.4. Religion and philosophy

  1. The Republican party seems increasingly in the grip of an apocalyptic creed that holds we are at the end of days. That such people may control military and foreign policy is unnerving, especially if they verge toward self-fulfilling prophecy.
  2. Democrats believe that we are far closer to the beginning of the human journey than its end. As science places into our own hands the fate of the planet, and the means to manipulate the form of life itself, we need to ensure that our descendants, a thousand and ten thousand years from now, don't regret our stupidity, but celebrate our wisdom. Mature comment on our choices is more important than ever.
  3. Democrats believe that religion is a private matter with a large public impact; we neither discourage nor promote any religion, but certainly are careful not to give any sect an advantaged position in the state or in our party.
  4. Democrats therefore invite persons of all faiths and philosophies into the party, to seek a resolution of ethical issues in secular society.

       5.5. Medicine

  1. Rising medical costs burden both sides of the employment relationship, thus reducing available employment, and make the situation of the unemployed or uninsured more desperate.
  2. Government should increase support for public health measures to reduce known and obvious health risks, and promote healthier habits. Including such factors as environmental regulation, improved understanding of nutrition and exercise, and a new look at the ecology of quality food supply, this is a classic case of prevention being much cheaper than the cure. Hawai‘i should lead the world in this area.
  3. Universal medical care remains a necessity, and remains unachieved.
  4. However, even if universal medical care remains for a time unobtainable, catastrophic care should be assumed by the government. Governmental intervention is needed, in the same spirit that we provide fire and police departments.

       5.6. Indigenous people

  1. Democrats recognize that after contact with Western peoples, the vast majority ofthe Hawaiian population was lost to disease, cultural disruption, and despair, as happened in parallel situations elsewhere. Moreover, a great percentage of the Hawaiian ecology was despoiled beyond repair.
  2. Democrats recognize that the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown. They recognize that the subsequent Republic was annexed to the United States under conditions that do not pass modern scrutiny.
  3. Democrats consider that the impact on the Hawaiian people has continued to this day, demonstrated in numerous concrete and statistical ways.
  4. Recognition of the historical problem, however, has not yet led to a universally acceptable solution.
  5. Democrats consider it the duty of government to find ways to ensure that the Hawaiian people are as successful and as comfortable as others.
  6. Democrats offer the so-called Akaka Bill, based on the principle of federal recognition for Hawaiians similar to that extended to other indigenous peoples, in respectful hope that this will set circumstances right.

       5.7. Immigrants

  1. Democrats recognize that one of the United States' best claims to world leadership is the extent to which it has supported the aspirations of immigrant groups.
  2. Hawai‘i's history demonstrates that society gains from the inclusion of and extension of full rights to immigrants.

6. Summary comments.
  1. In 2004, lamenting the Party's recent loss of the governorship on the one hand, yet on the other, buoyed and encouraged by the upsurge in membership caused by the public realization that the national administration is dangerous, we depart from particularization of programs and details to look again broadly at what unites us. We do so not for lack of enthusiasm for detail, but because we recognize that Hawaii and the Democratic Party are in transition, and we must and will create perhaps unexpected solutions, in a rapidly-changing political context, from these basic values.
  2. Particular programs will arise from increased collaboration between the Democratic Party and the officials elected in its name, thus correctly balancing elements of the ideal and the practical.
  3. Our Party commits itself to replacing the incompetent national administration, retaining Democrats' decisive position in the Hawai‘i legislature, and recovering the governorship. We will do this on the basis of our principles, which remain the most beneficial for, and acceptable to, the people of Hawai‘i.

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