Society and Culture
Hawaiian Republican Leader Ousted for Opposing Trump, Now May Leave the GOP
Until Wednesday, Republican State Representative Beth Fukumoto was the youngest female caucus leader in the United States, as House minority leader in Hawaii. But after breaking from her party on President Donald Trump, the young Hawaiian Republican may now leave the GOP.
At age 33, Fukumoto represents a younger and more moderate faction of the Republican Party. Trump’s comments about women and minorities did not appeal to her, and she chose to express her concern with the direction her party is heading by joining the Women’s March in Honolulu on January 21.
While giving a speech at the event, she talked about how she tried to explain to her eight-year-old niece why a room full of grown-ups were yelling insults at her, after she said at the Republican convention last summer that she thought Trump was being sexist and racist. She said,
It doesn’t matter to me who you voted for. People cast their votes for a lot of different reasons. But, no matter who your choice was, the fact remains the same. A man won the White House with anger and hate, and our kids watched it happen.
But the same words that generated cheers at the women’s event made her Republican colleagues so upset that they ousted her from her position. Fukumoto said that within 24 hours of her speech, party members were calling her, asking her to resign for speaking out against the president. On Wednesday all but one, State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, voted for her to be removed. “God, I’m sorry to lose our Minority Leader, someone I so deeply deeply respect. She’s the face of Republicanism as it should be, but won’t be anymore,” Thielen said after the vote. Thielen also spoke at the Women’s March in Honolulu.
Fukumoto said the party had told her that if she wanted to stay on, she would have to promise not to criticize Trump for the rest of his time in the White House. “And with what we’ve been seeing in the news with the different executive orders coming out every day, I didn’t believe I could make that commitment,” she said. She believes the Republican Party as it stands doesn’t tolerate people who speak up. “It seems to be punishing dissent, and when you have a political party, you need dialogue,” she said.
Now Fukumoto feels ready to leave the GOP and is considering joining the Democratic Party instead, but wanted to ask her constituents first, as they were the ones who voted for her. In a letter sent this week, she is asking for their opinions before making an official decision. She is not the only young Republican to switch parties. Her predecessor, Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, left because he felt that the party had become too narrow in its “demands for ideological purity.”
And according to a new study by political scientist Gary C. Jacobson, young Republicans are much less conservative than older ones. Not only do younger Americans tend to be more liberal generally, but Jacobson also found a significant split between young and old Republicans on almost all topics. He also found that fewer young Republicans than ever before are willing to identify as conservative. This could help change the Republican Party and decrease the growing ideological divide between the parties. But on the other hand, many young people who identify as liberal choose to join the Democratic Party instead, meaning it could be harder to actually change the GOP if there is only the older, white, conservative base left.