Closing The Big Tent To Thielen

Democrats have always prided themselves on being inclusive. They like to say it is the “big tent” party and everyone is invited in. Everyone, that is, unless you happen to be Laura Thielen.

Now, I’m a registered Democrat. That’s no secret. I do not always agree with individual politicians, but I like the party’s official platform positions on the environment, ethics, energy, women’s rights, and human and civil rights.

So I must say I am baffled by the party’s treatment of Ms. Thielen. OK, her mom, state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, is a longtime Republican. And Laura Thielen did work in the (GOP) Lingle administration as director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

I don’t know Laura Thielen personally, but I do know this: Thielen is a Democrat. She’s a party member and no one is actually refuting that. But when she made known her intention to file nomination papers, it was determined that Thielen was not a member “in good standing,” and therefore not eligible to run for the state Senate as a Democrat. Thielen applied for a waiver and was rejected.

Why? Exceptions have been made for other people, after all. Why was Thielen deemed unacceptable to the party?

That rejection caused a stink among some people in the Hawaii Kai, Kailua and Waimanalo district Thielen wants to represent. It also sparked brouhaha beyond the boundaries of that district, with Democrats taking sides for and against.

Now party leader Dante Carpenter says it will not challenge her candidacy in court, but they will look at reprimanding, censuring or even kicking her out of the party for breaking its rules.

Whoa. Nice going there, Dems. Way to nitpick people out of the tent.

Maybe Hawaii Democrats should change that “big tent” description to “big tent, but only for the right people,” or “big tent, but only for nice, obedient folk who don’t question our rules.” Or maybe it should be “big tent, but only for Democrats unsullied by any connection with the GOP.”

Carpenter says the party should be allowed to enforce its own rules, and I do not disagree with that, as long as the rules are fair and reasonable. And I believe everyone needs to step back and examine their motivations and priorities.

In a year when Democrats on the national level face a huge battle to get President Obama re-elected, local Dems are fighting with each other over whether to support, alienate or turn away a smart, passionate and committed woman who simply wants the opportunity to serve.

Is that smart management? Is that smart politics?