This blogpost was first published as an OpEd in the Honolulu Star Advertiser Wednesday Feb 10, 2021.
Tweets from the Hawaii Republican Party’s official Twitter account defending the patriotism of the Proud Boys and extolling the “high quality” analysis of a Holocaust denier have been deleted, then followed by the resignations of first, the Communications Vice Chair, and then the Chairperson of the Party, Shirlene Ostrov. It is worth remembering that one of the January 6 insurrectionists had been embraced by the Hawaii Republican Party as a candidate for the State House of Representatives. This week, as the nation watches the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, Hawaii has a right to expect the state Republican Party to make absolutely clear where it stands.
Republican Senators like Rand Paul were highly visible on the Sunday talk shows arguing that it was “unconstitutional” to try a President after he has left office, despite multiple scholars asserting otherwise. By contrast, Representative Liz Cheney was very clear about the former President’s role in inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.
“The single greatest threat to our republic is a president who would put his own self-interest above the Constitution, above the national interest. President Trump claimed for months that the election was stolen and then apparently set about to do everything he could to steal it himself.”
Speaking on the House floor, Cheney, who voted to impeach, said, ““There’s no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.” For honoring her oath to defend the Constitution, Cheney faced, and withstood, a challenge to her leadership role. Her Wyoming Republican Party censured her.
Five people died in the insurrection on January 6. More deaths and grave injuries were announced in the days that followed. The public has not yet been given a full understanding of an event that had among its goals the murder of Speaker Pelosi and the hanging of Vice President Pence. The gallows the insurrectionists erected made clear their intensity of purpose. The huge crosses and signs– “Jesus 2020” –made clear how religion was bent to political purpose.
What is brewing in Hawaii?
The Hawaii Republican Party has praised Ostrov for attracting funding from national sources and for growing membership by 60%. In a recent OpEd, Ostrov urged the people of Hawaii to turn to the Republican Party because “seventy years of the Democratic machine has left our state limping when it should be soaring.” (“After 70 years of Democratic failings, turn to Hawaii GOP,” Island Voices, Star-Advertiser, Jan. 25).
Trump won nearly 200,000 votes in Hawaii in 2020– about 34% of all votes cast. There are MAGA voters still asserting that the elections were rigged. If the Party once defined by Lincoln wishes to be taken seriously in Hawaii, every elected Hawaii Republican needs to publicly disavow the conspiracy peddlers. They need to state at least as clearly as Rep. Liz Cheney did, how they view Donald Trump’s role in inciting the insurrection that has left many in Congress fearing for their safety, not from an external threat, but from “the enemy within,” to quote Speaker Pelosi.
Will Hawaii’s Republican Party and its elected officials state plainly this week where they stand on the President’s role in starting and fueling conspiracy theories about a stolen election, and inciting a deadly insurrection? The people of Hawaii deserve to know if the cancer of these conspiracy theories is metastasizing – or being excised from our local body politic by a Party whose website still advertises the Trumpian claim that it is “Working to Make Hawaii Great Again.”