Monday, June 05, 2006

Daniel Akaka's Noxious Opus

This week the Senate is expected to vote on the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act -- the "Akaka Bill" named for its sponsor, Democrat Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka. The bill is a reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling in 2000 that Hawaii's law allowing only "Native Hawaiians" to serve as and to vote on trustees of the powerful Office of Hawaiian Affairs (which controls a $3B budget for the state) violated the Constitution.

Akaka wants to set up a separate set of laws for "Native Hawaiians" -- people with as little as 1/256 blood in common with the islanders who lived in Hawaii before it became a US territory. The Akaka Bill would privilege one race over another, pure and simple. John Fund (link in title) shows the reasons:

The Akaka bill was born out of an angry reaction to the 2000 case of Rice v. Cayetano, in which the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, declared unconstitutional a system under which non-Native Hawaiians were barred from voting for or serving as trustees of the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Fearful of losing control of the rich patronage pot that the office, with its $3 billion trust fund, has become, its supporters decided to up the ante and try to skirt the 15th Amendment's mandate for equal voting rights by requiring that the federal government recognize Native Hawaiians in the same manner it recognizes separate governments for American Indians and Alaskan Eskimos.

Akaka is a non-entity -- a 16-year Senator (he filled out the last four years of his predecessor's term) with no significant legislation to his credit, no prominence outside his home state and no purpose other than this bill. That's why he's drawn a strong primary challenge this year within his own party.

He is also, at his core, a radical racial separatist with strong anti-American leanings as Fund shows:

Supporters of the Akaka bill refuse even to disavow the idea of secession from the United States. Last July, Rowena Akana, a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, told National Public Radio that "if the majority of Hawaiian people want secession, then that's the way we'll go." That same month, NPR asked Sen. Akaka about the possibility of secession, and he said, "That is something I leave for my grandchildren to decide."

As Duncan Currie notes in a rare strongly stated column:

There are an estimated 400,000 people scattered throughout Hawaii and the broader United States who identify as either partly or wholly Native Hawaiian. (Though that number would likely swell if the Akaka bill became law.) Unlike Indian tribes, they are not geographically segregated--quite the opposite. They make up about 20 percent of the Hawaiian population, but are sprinkled across the archipelago. Widespread intermarriage has further attenuated the strength and cohesion of Native Hawaiian culture.

This raises serious constitutional questions. Everyone agrees that Congress can recognize existing Indian tribes. But can it create a new "tribe" at the behest of a particular ethnic lobby? Probably not; and if so, only in the rarest of circumstances. Surely there are Hispanic separatists in the American Southwest who would love to get their own sovereign "nation" as reparations for the Mexican War. The Akaka bill would encourage them to press their case.

It would also designate a privileged caste of Hawaiians who could feasibly be subject to a different legal regime than their next-door neighbors--all on the basis of race. The racially chosen Hawaiians might enjoy special tax and welfare benefits. They might be able to petition state and federal officials over land and natural-resource spats, which would no doubt trigger an avalanche of lawsuits. And their new government would presumably be exempt from important bits of the U.S. constitution, as Indian tribes are.

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The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act remains a noxious affront to E pluribus unum, and to anyone who gives a fig about colorblind justice and equal protection. As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded last month, it deserves an emphatic rejection--if not from the Senate or the House, than from President Bush.

The Monk is disgusted that this noxious legislation that clearly violates the Constitution is co-sponsored by FIVE Republicans in the Senate and supported by Hawaii's first Republican Governor in ages, Linda Lingle. The House is also likely to approve a similar bill. And the President won't veto anything. Too bad none of those actors are listening to Hawaii itself -- two-thirds of the Aloha Staters are against the bill, and that disapproval is uniform across racial lines.

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