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Hawaii and the politics of war jitters

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

And Ige will not be helped by reports last week that the still-anonymous "button pusher" who mistakenly sent out the alert is refusing to cooperate in three investigations of what happened.

Hawaii politics is distinctive in many respects, and not only for its exceptional ethnic pluralism. (There are not many places where analysts discuss the influence of the politically potent Japanese-American community's Okinawan subset. It is likely to come to the defense of Ige, one of its own.) In no state is the Democratic Party quite so dominant. There is not one Republican in the state Senate and only five in the 51-member House of Representatives.

Bill Dorman, the news director of Hawaii Public Radio, says the state's political system bears a certain resemblance to Japan's. The long dominance of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party means that nearly all substantive battles are factional fights within the majority party. That's what happens here, too.

Ige's informal faction in the state legislature was called the Chess Club, a group of policy wonks. Ige explained that the bloc was named by the daughter of one its members who said their seriousness brought to mind the spirit of her high school's chess club.

Ige conveys a sense of serenity about being the underdog in his re-election fight, but he is not so serene about Trump's threats against North Korea. "We are very concerned with some of the statements made," he said with characteristic restraint, adding: "We would look forward to the day when we don't have to worry about sirens and warnings, and that everyone in the Pacific can live in peace."

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They were the words of a politician who has learned the high price extracted by rumors of war.

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E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


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