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Confessions of a centrist and a call for civility

Since the conclusion of the 2020 general election is upon us, I thought it a good time to confess the truth.

The first truth, which should be a shock to no one at all, is that I belong to and strongly support the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. This phrase first voiced by the iconic progressive U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone pretty much sums up where I sit on the left-to-right values spectrum.

While some may prefer other labels such as “progressive,” “lefty liberal” or “Democratic socialist” (gasp), my core values and issue positions are not that radical at all. The second truth is that, essentially, I am a centrist (second gasp).

As proof of my centrist nature, below is a list of values and issue positions that I support. These are not radical nor revolutionary notions. They represent the basic principles of fairness, justice and equality. Coincidentally (or not), these values are also embedded in the Democratic Party national platform.

• Health care should not just be a privilege for some, but is a right for every single American;

• Black lives matter. Structural and systemic racism must be rooted out;

• The mass-incarceration model upon which our criminal justice system is based, must be reformed from top to bottom;

• Protest is among the highest forms of patriotism;

• The U.S. must lead the world in taking on the climate crisis, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and build a thriving, equitable and globally-competitive, clean-energy economy that puts workers and communities first;

• The federal minimum wage must be increased to at least $15 an hour by 2026. Worker benefits must include paid sick days and paid family/medical leave;

• Overseas tax havens and tax loopholes exploited by the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations must be eliminated. The wealthy, those earning over $400,000 per year, must pay their fair share in taxes;

• Environmental justice, economic justice and climate justice must be embedded and at the heart of our policy and governing agenda;

• Every American has the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and live without fear of exposure to toxic waste;

• All children across the United States deserve access to high-quality, early-childhood-education programs;

• The pay and benefits for all educators must be increased in order to help recruit, retain and reward high-quality teachers;

• Public colleges and universities must be tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000. Undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt for this same group must also be forgiven;

• International security should not be predicated by how much we spend on defense, but upon diplomacy and how we spend those defense dollars;

• Every woman deserves equal pay for equal work;

• Freedom of religion and the right to believe — or not to believe — is a fundamental human right. Church and state must remain separate;

• The LGBTQ+ community and all persons deserve to be treated equally and to be able to live with dignity, security and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love;

• We must protect sexual and reproductive health and rights. Comprehensive health services, including access to reproductive care and abortion services, are vital to the empowerment of women and girls;

• Diversity is our greatest strength. Our fates and fortunes are bound to rise and fall together;

As you can see from this list, the values of the Democratic Party are not radical at all. Seriously, are we really that far apart in our beliefs and goals? Everyone wants a better tomorrow. Can we not work together towards that?

To those who disagree with anything on the above list, I ask that you do so with civility and reason.

While the passion and emotions of the moment are higher than perhaps ever before, I am hopeful that ultimately there will be a transition and transfer of power, and that it will be peaceful and orderly.

I believe that good people, people of high character and intelligence, can look at the same exact facts and circumstances and come to different conclusions.

Civility and reason are what are needed now at this particular moment in time. We can and we must agree to disagree, and regardless of our disappointment or our zeal when the final outcome of this election is determined, we must maintain our civility.

So that there can be no misunderstanding whatsoever, agreeing to disagree does not mean turning the other cheek when the personal safety or fundamental rights of my children or grandchildren or friends of color or LGBTQ+ are threatened.

Maintaining civility does not mean that we stay quiet in the face of illegality, injustice or corruption. It is in fact our duty and obligation as citizens to speak out and to resist such threats to our democracy, should they occur.

And, yes, we must march, protest and rise up against hate and bigotry, but we must do so always with nonviolence, emulating the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and, here in Hawai‘i, with Kapu Aloha.

We all want a better tomorrow. Let’s focus on that for a moment. Let’s try to make that extra effort to truly listen to each other and understand perhaps that our goals and values are really not that far apart.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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