The American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, perhaps unsurprisingly, backs a truly bad idea: Native Hawaiian sovereignty. This is an idea that was pushed by former Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and the state Office of Native Hawaiian Affairs. Attempts to conduct elections limiting the vote for the ONHA trustees to those of Native Hawaiian ancestry were rejected soundly (7-2) by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rice v. Cayetano (2000), on the sensible ground that limiting the franchise to members of one race violates the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.
Nonetheless, some activists seek what they call “independence” for Native Hawaiians, as I have noted in 2013, 2016, and this year. This would be more than problematic in practice. The ABA Journal article notes matter-of-factly that Native Hawaiians “compose 6 to 26 percent of the state’s population”—quite a wide range! That’s because there are, thanks to Hawaii’s high historical rates of intermarriage, very few Americans of 100 percent Native Hawaiian ancestry.
In a time when many feel that “identity politics” is tearing the country apart, the Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement is a particularly odious form of identity politics. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Americans had no difficulty understanding that Hawaii was part of the United States, even though it was a far-off territory, rather than a state. The idea of detaching some unknown number of Americans from their country is a profoundly bad idea. Is it a surprise that the ABA Journal looks benignly on it?