Hello, 2014 … What’s Mufi Gonna Do?
Ah, the new year is upon us: full of hope, full of cheer, full of … foreboding. Which will it bring?
“You wanna get a sense of the political year ahead?” asked one of my 11 regular readers on the eve of the University of Hawaii’s Christmas basketball tournament. “Let’s go see how the crowd reacts to President Obama when he arrives to watch his brother-in-law’s basketball game. (For nonhoopaholics, Obama’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, coaches Oregon State’s team.) Do they rise to their feet? Sit in protest? Cheer? Boo?”
So we went early to the Stanley, passed through security, got wanded, told where we couldn’t sit and waited for a game that held little interest for us – all just to watch the president arrive.
Eventually, he did – a skinny guy in a dull-looking sports shirt. Without fanfare, he, Michelle, the girls and Grandma Robinson slipped into their seats.
To cheers? To boos? Naaaaah. Neither. The crowd did rise: to take pictures of the poor dull-shirted president with their cellphone cameras. Then applause. But the president soon got lost in the game, and my presidential jock-sniffing buddy left at half-time.
Oh, that 2014 could be that kind of year for Obama. No jeers, government shutdowns, health care IT failures of monumental proportions, tea party calls for his impeachment or debt ceiling crises. Nope. Just cellphone picture-takers and polite applause.
But it could be worse, far worse: 2014 is not a presidential election year. That means voter turnout across the country will be 10-15 percent lower than it was in presidential election years 2008 and 2012, when Obama eked out electoral majorities and two presidential terms.
Who won’t be voting in presidential-year numbers in 2014? Young people and minorities, Obama’s constituencies. That means Republicans will hold onto the House of Representatives and may very well gain control of the United States Senate, making the last two years of Obama’s presidency a living nightmare.
Or perhaps not. Economists have been predicting for some time that 2014 finally will bring some relief from the high unemployment rates of the Great Recession.
The last national unemployment number of 2013 was down – to 7 percent. So, for a change, maybe the economists will be right, thus rising employment, a more vigorous economy and more Democrats lending the president support on Capitol Hill.
Closer to home, the big political question of 2014 is simple: Wither Mufi? Within the last three weeks, I’ve heard three different opinions from three normally akamai politicians. “He’s going to run for his old City Council seat,” says one. “He’s already talking about cooperation with some of his old colleagues on legislation.”
“First District Congress,” says a second akamai politician. “It’s a crowded field, six Democrats so far. Mufi could win the nomination with 25-30 percent of the vote. He’s certainly got that big enough of a base left.”
“Nope,” says another of the akamai. “Mufi’s going for governor. Against Abercrombie and Ige, his base-plus could get him a spot on the general election ballot.”
So we await Mufi. At least, as a not-so-akamai observer of the scene, I do.
Wherever Mufi lands and despite spirited races for the House, Senate and governorship, 2014 will be about construction. Hawaii is building again: housing developments, Kakaako condominiums, rail – with all the going up, stretching out and lawsuits they entail.
Happy New Year.