"Lucky you live Hawaii" and the progressive politics of the Aloha State

"Lucky we live Hawaii" is what the kama'aina (long-term residents) say to each other, especially this time of year when the U.S. mainland is suffering extreme inclement weather. But there are other reasons for progressives to be grateful they live in the Aloha State. Yesterday the Washington Post published an article on how Hawaii's politics is very much in line with Obama's policy vision.  (Honolulu is also my hometown although I now live in NYC.) As reporters Rucker and Goldfarb write, many of Obama's long cherished policy priorities that he could not successful implement at the national level have already been or are on their way to being implemented in Hawaii.  They write:

Four decades before Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Hawaii enacted its own sweeping health-care mandate. To lift the economy, the state has poured billions of dollars into rebuilding highways and infrastructure, bringing the unemployment rate down to an enviable 4.4 percent. Gay marriage is legal, immigrants are welcomed, labor unions are strong and — if the governor gets his way this year — universal pre-kindergarten will be the law of the land.

There are of course many reasons for this situation. The main one is due to the political composition of the state at the local and national level institutions. Not only is there no Tea Party, there is also no real GOP opposition because the state is effectively a one-party state with liberal Democrats holding the State Legislature and national offices as well. The Post article, though, also points out the heavy reliance of the 50th state on federal spending, namely federal military spending that comprises 13.5% of the state's economy.  Until his death, the state also benefitted greatly from Daniel Inouye's seniority in the U.S. Senate and his abilty to bring home the bacon.

Still, federal spending cannot account for the high level of racial and ethnic tolerance of the state, which is rooted in the ethnic/racial diversity of the state and the geopolitical location of the state that serves as a gateway for Asia to the U.S. mainland. The state always has been majority-minority long before that term even came into being.

The state has no immigration problem. As the Post article reports, Governor Abercrombie said recently, “We don’t have this border problem...We don’t worry about that in Hawaii. We welcome people coming because the hospitality industry in particular— we’re ready for immigrants to come in because everybody works, everybody wants to succeed.” The main industry of the state is tourism. Being an island state, there is no long land border with Mexico or Canada. That fact combined with its ethnic and racial demographics of the state mitigate any anti-immigrant sentiment.

Indeed, "lucky you live Hawaii."