Colin Moore Finds Hawaii Politics Unusual but Fascinating

By Tangonan, Shannon | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, March 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

Colin Moore Finds Hawaii Politics Unusual but Fascinating


Tangonan, Shannon, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Colin Moore describes local politics as fascinating -- the players, the one-party system, the low voter turnout, even the sign-waving.

On the mainland, where political billboards are the norm, people don't line the highways holding signs emblazoned with candidates' names and slogans.

"In an American political system where the temperature runs so hot right now, to have Gov. (David) Ige, who is such a calm presence, is refreshing."

Colin Moore

University of Hawaii professor of political science and director of the UH Public Policy Center

"It's one of my very favorite things about Hawaii politics, that tradition" of sign waving, said Moore, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii who also heads UH's Public Policy Center.

But even after teaching in Hawaii for about five years, he still hasn't figured out the proper response to sign wavers when you're not a fan of their candidate.

"It's always a bit awkward when people are waving signs for someone you don't support," Moore said. "Do I wave? Do I just ignore them?"

Sign waving signals the start of election season here, a time when Moore puts on his analyst cap for local news media, surveying the poltical landscape -- both locally and nationally.

This political season, Donald Trump's strong presidential bid has made fools of political scientists like himself who predicted the billionaire's campaign would eventually fade into the background.

Moore, 36, said Trump's support in large part comes from disenchanted Republicans.

"You see this gaping divide between the party establishment and rank-and-file Republicans, and this seems to have caught them completely off guard, but Trump has managed to tap into people's genuine frustration with the Republican party," Moore said.

Moore grew up in Redding, Calif., earned his bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia and his doctorate from Harvard University.

He grew to love Hawaii during the month he spent here doing research for his Harvard dissertation, which is also the subject of his book, "American Imperialism and the State, 1893-1921," which will be published later this year.

"I always said if I ever had a chance to come back, I would in a heartbeat," said Moore, who lives in Manoa. "I love Hawaii."

Question: Could you tell me about your work here?

Answer: I just started as the director of the UH Public Policy Center in January.

Prior to that I was a political science professor. I still am. This is just half my job.

Half my job is back in political science. ... I teach the American Government class. I teach the class on elections, which is a ton of fun. I teach the Political Science Methods class, where we do public opinion polling and stuff like that. ... I also teach an introduction to public policy at the graduate level.

Q: What for you is the most fun to teach?

A: My very favorite class to teach is the elections class, because it's an elective and the students are excited about it. They end up thinking about politics in slightly different ways.

You can see them become much more sophisticated consumers of news over the course of the class. And it draws them into some other things. People who wouldn't otherwise be interested in statistics, for example, but who love politics, all of a sudden see the relevance. ...

In that class ... every student has to work volunteering for a campaign. They can pick anybody, but just to get a sense of what it's like, what are campaigns like. Most of them are a little reluctant to do it at first, but after they've done it they really enjoyed the experience. They get to meet some cool, dedicated people.

I think more than anything, for a variety of reasons, I think millennials can be very, very cynical because they are children of the Great Recession and they see politicians as controlled by a special interest or corrupt. …

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