Divisive Rhetoric Pushes Hawaii’s ‘Rising Star’ Out Of Republican Party (VIDEO)
Eight years ago, Japanese-American politician Beth Fukumoto thought she could change the Republican party. Turns out she was wrong. The increasingly divisive rhetoric of the GOP in 2016’s acrimonious campaign led the state lawmaker from Hawaii to resign from the party.
Hawaii is nothing if not diverse, so it may seem an odd choice for the member of an ethnic minority to put her trust in the Republican party in the first place. Fukumoto herself acknowledges that the scales needed to fall from her eyes. In her letter of resignation to the party, she wrote:
A little over a year ago, I was in Washington, D.C. with a group of Republican friends talking about my concerns with Donald Trump’s candidacy and, more specifically, his suggestion about a Muslim registry. They told me it was just rhetoric. I reminded them that a registry was only one step away from internment camps.
The lawmaker had more reason than most to fear the specter of such camps, which Trump’s divisive rhetoric has raised. Her grandfather was detained during World War II for the ‘crime’ of being Japanese-American. Fortunately, he wasn’t placed in a camp, but he destroyed everything that reflected his ancestry in order to appear more American.
Fukumoto further wrote:
I was finally able to identify the colonial mindset I’d unknowingly run up against for years. No ethnic group in our state is a minority, and more than 70% of the population isn’t white. But our Hawaii Republican Party leaders wanted us to adopt ‘middle American’ values instead of holding on to Republican principles that also reflect our own local values, such as responsible stewardship over things like wealth and power.
Oddly enough, Fukumoto was among the party leadership, having served in many capacities, including party chair and Minority Leader in the Hawaii House. As she awoke to the terrible destructiveness of Donald Trump and the Republican Party, she ran into increasing trouble with her colleagues. Fed up with the demonization of minorities and the demeaning comments toward women, the legislator began speaking out. She soon found out that the Republican Party “seems to be punishing dissent.”
Having the audacity to attend Hawaii’s Women’s March in January, Fukumoto also made a speech confronting Donald Trump for his racist and sexist remarks. She lamented the fact that her niece had to watch a bully win the election for President of the United States with such divisive rhetoric, saying:
The fact remains, a man won the White House with anger and hate and our kids watched it happen. Now it’s our job to let them watch us fight back.
The repercussions from her fellow Republicans were immediate, as described in her letter:
Within 24 hours, calls for my resignation or censure abounded. My caucus told me that they would remove me from leadership unless I promised to not criticize the president for the remainder of his term. That was a promise I simply could not make.
Instead, the legislator spent two months asking for and listening to feedback from her constituents. Of those who responded to a questionnaire, 76% said they would support her regardless of what she chose to do.
This week, Fukumoto chose to leave the Republican Party. For her, that is the only way to fight for diversity, the right to dissent, and the protection of women and minorities. She sees the GOP becoming a super minority if its members remain unwilling to address the problems that are at its core.
Hawaii is an excellent representation of what the future may hold. Fukumoto was considered a rising star in the Republican Party. With her resignation, the state’s GOP has exactly five elected officials remaining, all of whom are in the Hawaii House.
The state party is in its last gasps. May the same prove to be true of the national party as well.
Watch Fukumoto’s announcement that she’s leaving the GOP here:
Feature photo, Hawaii state lawmaker Beth Fukumoto, via @bethfukumoto on Twitter.