The Democratic Party of Hawai‘i was formed on April 30th, 1900 by supporters of the Queen. The meeting brought together five men: John H. Wilson, John S. McGrew, Charles J. McCarthy, David Kawānanakoa, and Delbert Evener Metzger. The group believed that it was necessary for a party in Hawai‘i, now a region of the US, to have a national counterpart to survive and established the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i. The intention of the party was to promote Jeffersonian philosophy and home rule. The first convention of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i was held on May 16th that year and was attended by 500 people. Later that year, Kawānanakoa attended the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City, becoming the first royal attendee. At the convention, Kawānanakoa formed an affiliation between the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i and the Democratic Party of the United States.
The Blue Revolution
Throughout the first half of the 20th century the Republican Party enjoyed a comfortable control of Hawai‘i. This dominance would continue until the conclusion of World War II. Following World War II, a local movement to empower laborers in Hawai‘iwas formed. Honolulu Police Department officer John A. Burns began organizing the plantation laborers, especially the Japanese Americans and Filipino Americans he came to know while on his police beats. He began what would be known as the “Burns Machine”. He believed grassroots organizing and the power of elections could overturn the corruption and unfairness of the Republicans in power. The movement received its biggest boost when Burns successfully influenced Japanese American veterans who fought in World War II to become involved, notably Daniel Inouye. During the Burns movement, the party shifted towards egalitarianism. Burns’ efforts culminated in his election to the governorship after attaining statehood, heralding a new era of Democratic rule in Hawai‘i. For the first time in Hawaiian history the Democratic Party won in a landslide. John Burns won the governorship, and with him a legislative majority: 22-8 seats in the State House of Representatives, and a 9-6 margin in the state Senate. The tide had turned.
Party standing in the U.S. Congress was strengthened once Hawai‘iachieved statehood in 1959. For the first time, political representation was fully justified as newly elected representatives were allowed to cast votes. The achievement of statehood had also significantly enhanced the Party’s status within The Democratic National Committee. Democrats have held onto a solid majority since 1962.
The party has remained successful for a variety of reasons, notably grassroots activities. Campaign tactics and promotion of party ideals have been characterized by rice dinners, rallies, door-to-door campaigning, and sign waving in public areas. These activities have helped maintain the party’s large membership and its status as the majority party of Hawai‘i. To this day the Democrats are continuing their efforts to serve the people of Hawai‘i.