Hawaii's House Republican leader, Beth Fukumoto, has resigned from the GOP because of President Donald Trump and the party's reluctance to advocate for minorities (video below).
"This election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments towards women. So, when I listened as our now top office holder refused to condemn the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, speaking out didn't seem like a choice," said Fukumoto, a Japanese-American, in her resignation to the GOP. "A little over a year ago, I was in Washington D.C. with a group of Republican friends talking about my concerns with Donald Trump’s candidacy and, more specifically, his suggestion about a Muslim registry. They told me it was just rhetoric. I reminded them that a registry was only one step away from internment camps. Less than an hour later, we saw the breaking news headline, 'Trump says he may have supported Japanese Internment.' As a woman and the only Japanese-American in our (then) seven-member caucus, I had something valuable to add about why our party continues to lose."
She continued: "My Japanese-American grandparents owned a small grocery store in Hawaii during World War II with a small house attached to the back where my father's family all lived in cramped space. When word spread through the community that the government was placing Japanese-Americans in internment camps, my grandpa destroyed everything written in Japanese, smashed my family's beautiful Japanese dolls, and buried everything else that would make them look 'less American' in the backyard."
Fukumoto went on to say that, from her experience as a Republican, she has found other members resistant to diversity and inclusion, adding: "...a little more than a year ago, a fellow caucus member told me 'We are the party of middle America. I don’t care if the demographics don’t fit.' He declared that Republicans are the national majority and that it is our responsibility to represent 'middle American' values here in Hawaii. It was in that moment that I was finally able to identify the colonial mindset I’d unknowingly run up against for years."
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Pointing out that more than 70 percent of Hawaii's population is non-white, Fukumoto said that the GOP should have spoken out against racist sentiments within the party.
"But for years, the party allowed it, fearing Democrats, primaries and third-party challenges," she said. "With electoral successes across the nation, concerns about disenfranchising minority voters are being buried. The party has ended conversations about how Republican rhetoric and actions threaten any ability to win amongst an increasingly diverse electorate."
In a media statement, Fukumoto said she will seek membership within the Democratic Party.
"In serving my district at the Legislature, I've found significant common ground with my Democratic colleagues. Enough common ground that I believe that we can fit comfortably in the same tent," Fukumoto said, according to NBC News. "For me, I think the Democratic Party of Hawaii allows enough diversity of opinion that the values and ideas that I've always held can find a home there. Democrats that want to change the status quo in Hawaii are still fighting to do it, and I want to help them."