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One Year Under Trump: Hawai‘i Republicans

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In his first six months in office, Mr. Trump appointed a Supreme Court Justice, fired his FBI director, and withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.  The country has new tax rules and President Trump's appointees have restructured key government agencies, or changed long held practices, all amidst allegations of collusion with the Russians and unprecedented staff turnover.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports Hawai‘i Republicans are feeling a lift.

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(l) Jennifer Anderson, Hawaii Republican Party Secretary, and (r) Hawaii Republican Party Chair Shirlene Delacruz Ostrov.
Extended interview with Shirlene Ostrov and Jennifer Anderson.

It was an eventful first year for President Trump, starting with his swearing in and the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”  He appointed a Supreme Court Justice, fired his FBI director, withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, and in his United Nations speech Mr. Trump promised, if provoked to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea.  The Charlottesville white nationalist rally exploded, Hurricane Maria flattened Puerto Rico, there was the Las Vegas massacre, the #MeToo movement, the new tax plan, and actually much more, with each event laying bare deeply held beliefs about America and who we are as a nation.  

Jennifer Anderson says she wanted to know more about the Hawai‘i Republican Party, so she just jumped in, doing data entry at the headquarters on Kapi‘olani.

Anderson:  Instead of just looking at the media, why don’t I get involved and see what they actually are doing here in Hawai‘i.  Because the media, for young people like me, its hard to believe them all the time because you get so confused.   Seeing volunteer one on one and things coming down from headquarters you can have your own opinion, you can have your own voice, that was very important for me, to make my own decision.

After only two years with the party, Anderson became became the vice co-chair for Team Trump Hawai‘i and found herself celebrating at the Trump inauguration in Washington D.C.

Anderson:  You could see all the people just waiting outside for the inauguration, in the cold, but with this joy and pride and patriotism that you don’t really see every day.  It was a refreshing moment.

Anderson says when president Trump called it “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” she figured he might have meant witnessing online or elsewhere.  To Hawai‘i Republican Party Chair Shirlene Delacruz Ostrov, however, the claim was inconsequential.

Ostrov:  From my point of view, I’m looking at the substance of what he has accomplished.  Whether it was the largest inauguration or not, I’m like, okay, start working and tell me what you’re going to do.

Ostrov:  I’m a military person.  We have ISIS almost defeated in only eight months, people don’t talk about that.  The Dow is at record highs.  Here in Hawai‘i there are several companies that have, because of the tax cuts, put more money into the pockets of American families.  As a conservative woman I look at those things.  As a daughter of immigrants I look at the immigration policy.  I like it.  I like it a lot.  Our laws should be respected.  We are a country of rules and laws that should be respected.  If we don’t respect the laws that are in place today, then what are we?

Regarding laws that have been changed under President Trump, environmental regulations, for example:

Ostrov:  I believe in conservation, not the environmental laws, which are totally political, but I am a conservationist so there are things I don’t agree with totally.

Ostrov is not fond of all the tweet messaging, but, like Anderson, she believes it allows him to speak over what the media may be saying.

Anderson:  It’s his way of trying to go over the fake news and say what he wants directly.   Its may be a little to the point and raw the way he says things but it’s open to the people’s interpretation.

Anderson and Ostrov feel the media obsesses on superficialities when important things are getting done.

Ostrov:  The immigration, the strong defense, the way we are transforming the judiciary back to interpreting laws and not having activist judges legislating from the bench.

Ostrov says there’s a new brand of Republicans coming out, people more libertarian in nature who are fiscal conservatives, and socially liberal, who feel comfortable with this new Republican national leadership.

Ostrov:  We just had an open house this weekend, half the people we’ve never seen before, signing party cards.  So we’re excited that there is a new energy.  I think people are glad to see a little bit of tax relief for sure.

For five years, anyway, though under the new tax plan, corporate tax cuts are permanent.  Ostrov contends high taxes are the cause of Hawai‘i’s high cost of living.  She published an editorial on the subject last week.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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