Harris weaves unneeded conspiracy theory
By Bob Dye
Kailua-based writer and historian
The number of conspiratorial acts directed specifically against Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris grow greater by the week, he says.
Next, Harris intimates that a faction in the Democratic Party is out to get him. (He is opposed by two challengers in the Democratic primary election.)
Later, we learn, retired Judge Walter Heen, during his tenure as head of the Democratic Party in Hawai'i, had fired off a "scathing" letter to the Democratic National Committee, complaining that Harris had bypassed the state party to deal directly with them, to the tune of $100,000. (Heen sent a copy to Harris, so it was no secret.)
Now a former state District Court judge, Russell Blair, says Harris should have resigned from the mayoral office when he filed campaign organizational papers with the Campaign Spending Commission, and should not wait until the final day of filing, as others have done. (Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna agrees.)
Of this last indignity, Harris said he thinks that "obviously there's been a concerted effort to throw as many tacks in our path, as many stumbling blocks in the way of this campaign, as possible.
"This is one more stumbling block," he said. "We recognized early on that this was an effort to divert our attention and divert our resources to an extraneous issue, and to try to slow down the momentum of the campaign."
So Harris is a victim, who bears no responsibility for the fix he is in.
A reporter asked the mayor to name the conspirators who orchestrated the series of events. He answered that it is the job of investigative reporters to find them out.
However, he assures us that, despite the slings and arrows, he will soldier on, taking the high road instead of campaign contributions, until a higher court decides the date of his last day as mayor.
Any politician who uses political conspiracy as a motive force is in dangerous waters, especially if he is the one and only victim of unnamed conspirators. The great risk is that voters might conclude the candidate is more delusional than victimized.
Weaving a conspiracy theory to achieve a political end, or to explain away a blemish, is not new in Hawai'i politics. One of the most successful political appeals here to paranoia came in 1920. Japanese field laborers had struck for a wage increase of $1.25 a day. Some planters and others said the defiant strikers were part of a conspiracy by Japan to take control of Hawai'i by weakening them.
The dramatic incident that supposedly proved there was a Japanese conspiracy was the dynamiting of the plantation house of Juzaburo Sakamaki, the interpreter at 'Ola'a Plantation on the Big Island. It ignited an anti-union, anti-Japanese crusade that brought about passage of the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 and later contributed to the internment of patriotic and loyal Japanese Americans in 1941-42. That sad chapter in our history is documented in "The Japanese Conspiracy" by Masayo Umezawa Duus.
A paranoid conspiracy, still fresh in my mind after half a century, is the political rampage of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The creator of the Red Scare said: "How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principles shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men."
Here it led to the Smith Act trial of the "Hawai'i Seven."
Professor Richard Hofsteader wrote in a book back in the 1960s called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics": "In the paranoid style, as I conceive it, the feeling of persecution is central, and it is indeed systematized in grandiose theories of conspiracy. But there is a vital difference between the paranoid spokesman in politics and the clinical paranoiac: Although they both tend to be overheated, oversuspicious, overaggressive, grandiose and apocalyptic in expression, the clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him; whereas the spokesman of the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others."
Are voters buying that conspirators are the cause of these parlous times for the Democratic front-runner for governor?
So far, the only righteous cries of moral indignation have come from Harris campaign bosses and hired guns.
Folks know there are people who don't want Harris to be governor. D.G. "Andy" Anderson, John Carroll, Ed Case and Linda Lingle come to mind. But that's politics. They remember that four years ago Harris didn't want Ben Cayetano to be governor, until he compromised.
And so it goes. Stand for office and there is a line of guys wanting to knock you down.
But there also are folks who cheer you on and share your vision.
No axis of evil exists here, Mr. Mayor. So chuck the conspiracy and start the campaign. What do you stand for?