In the Aloha State, the Presidential election may turn out to have elements of a referendum on the proposed Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (the "Akaka Bill'). (For my views on this bill, go here, here, here, especially here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Barack Obama has promised to sign it into law, while John McCain declared his opposition in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
Q: "Proponents of the Akaka Bill see the measure as overdue federal recognition of the rights of native Hawaiians to form their own government. Opponents see it as a 'Balkanization' of America. Please explain your views on the bill."
A: "I recognize the importance of preserving both Hawaii’s indigenous culture and its unique island culture. Hawaii is the most diverse place on earth, and I honor the extraordinary blend of races and cultures that have made the state such a special place. The Akaka Bill would compromise that special blend of peoples and cultures by creating a race-based separate nation that would differentiate treatment for the inhabitants of Hawaii based on blood type. The Hawaiian government has never been a race-based government, as a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy, a republic or a territory. I believe it would be a violation of King Kamehameha’s principles that — “All men are of one blood” — to divide Hawaii and Hawaiian families along racial lines.
I believe the Akaka Bill would be bad for the economy of Hawaii, all the people of Hawaii and for indigenous Hawaiians. Dividing people by race inevitably leads to racial discrimination and conflict. I am committed to helping those of every race who need assistance, and deeply committed to federal programs that preserve Hawaiian culture and identity for the benefit of all."
Hawaii, of course, is a usually an easy win for the Democratic candidate, and probably will be this time too, especially since Obama was born and raised there. The only Hawaiian poll, taken by SurveyUSA in February, has Obama ahead by 30 points. If McCain does better than expected, the large part of the explanation may be his opposition to the Akaka bill, which appears to be opposed by most of those who understand its provisions.