America’s youth goes to the polls: Interview with first-time voter, Lanson Hoopai

Danny de Gracia interviews a first time voter fresh out of high school, Lanson Hoopai for perspective on the youth vote. Photo: Lanson Hoopai

HONOLULU, August 16, 2012 – Much has been said about the role of the youth vote in this year’s presidential election, but just what does the average eighteen year old, first time voter think? Wanting to get some perspective from the next generation, I sought out Hawaii resident and recent high school graduate Lanson Hoopai and asked him some tough questions ranging from his thoughts on such heated and controversial topics as Obamacare, the Bush era tax cuts, climate change policy, participation in the United Nations and, irresistibly, who his choice for President is.

Full of enthusiasm over the chance to vote for the first time, highly opinionated and not one to pull punches, I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with this incredibly intelligent pundit-in-the-making.  If Lanson is any example of the generation that will replace me, I think America is clearly in good hands. Here now is a transcript of our interview, with light edits.

Danny de Gracia: Lanson, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you feel about this year’s election which is, in fact, your first election ever!

Lanson Hoopai: I’m eighteen years old and I just graduated from high school and my freshman, sophomore and junior year I was very involved in politics, especially in the 2010 election where I volunteered in signwaving, campaigning – pretty much if you name it, I did it. That got me real interested in voting because even though I was participating in all these activities, I couldn’t vote yet.

This year is a very exciting opportunity for me because all the talk that I had been told over the years about how important it is to vote, how important it is to compare candidates against each other, finally getting the chance to actually vote for the first time is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time. This is going to be a great experience.

DDG: How would you describe your political alignment or party affiliation? Are you a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent?

Hoopai: I’m a Republican.

DDG: Okay. So in terms of voting in this election, how many of your other friends of voting age that you know of are actually planning on going to the polls this year? Would you say a lot of them, or only a few of them?

Hoopai: Most of them, most of them that are of voting age. There are a few I know that aren’t for personal reasons, but most are because they feel it’s their duty to.

“The argument that I commonly hear against the Bush era tax cuts is that they don’t let “rich people” pay their fair share in taxes, but I think that’s false” -Lanson Hoopai (AP Photo)

DDG: So what would you say are the most important issues in this election?

Hoopai: The important issues in this election for me personally? First of all the economy. It’s just stagnant and it’s not something that America can operate off of. It needs to improve if America is going to continue to have its place in the world.  The other thing that is important to me is abortion. I’ve had friends that have had personal struggles in this area, and it’s something I feel very strong about. Those are my top two.

DDG: So when you talk to your friends that are in their teens, what are some of the things that they’re talking about? What are the issues that your friends and peers are interested in this election?

Hoopai: Well, eighteen years old, a lot of my friends are conservative and the foremost issue on their mind is going to be same sex marriage.

DDG: Wow.

Hoopai: Yeah. A lot of my friends. And either way they cast their vote – a lot of friends are opposed, a lot of friends are supporting – but that is the voting issue for them.

DDG: So a lot of people your age are concerned about same sex marriage?

Hoopai: Quite a few, actually. If they don’t know anything else about politics or any other political issue, that’s the one thing they’ll have a position on. They might not know about the cost of government, they might not know about inflation, they might not know about the Federal Reserve, but they know all about same sex marriage and they know the full policy implications of it.

DDG: Speaking of same sex marriage, what was your thoughts about the Chick-fil-A boycott?

Hoopai: Well everyone has their rights to free speech and the boycotts are perfectly legal. Dan Cathy said what he thought was right, what he thought was moral, people don’t like that and they don’t want to buy from the company, that’s fine, but that’s also a form of free speech. People also chose to support Chick-fil-A by going there in droves, that’s also a form of free speech.

The whole fiasco is a free speech issue, for me.

DDG: You’re basically the future of America, you’re going to be the guy who inherits all the stuff that basically my generation messes up … so (laughing) if you could list maybe a couple of things you would like to see changed or improved in America by the time you’re in your thirties, what would some of those things be?

Hoopai: Some of the things I’d like to see changed? First of all, I’d like to change the view that Christians are an intolerant bunch. Because just the issue for me – and this is a personal pet peeve – the definition of tolerance has been so skewed that instead of meaning respecting everyone’s viewpoints, it’s turned into “if you are different than us and you don’t agree with us, then you are intolerant.” Which is not the same. You can have an opinion, you can articulate why you don’t agree, but you can still respect the guy, that’s politics. Now, if I call you names because of it and I degrade you, that’s intolerance.

DDG: So then do you think that America is becoming more of an “intolerant” country?

Hoopai: In what sense?

DDG: Do you think that America is a place where people get offended easily where it’s a “my way or the highway” kind of country?

Hoopai: I’m not going to say that it’s not and that it doesn’t happen, but I think it happens much less than other countries. And looking at it from that perspective, I think America is one of the more tolerant countries in the world.

DDG: If you could change anything about our government right now, what would you change?

Hoopai: Term limits. If I had the power, I would institute term limits.

DDG: So let’s move on and let’s ask some quick questions here. Who was your favorite president?

Hoopai: My favorite president? George Washington!

DDG: Have you made up your mind for who you’re voting for in November?

Hoopai: Pretty much, yes. I’m voting for Mitt Romney. Not because I agree with him one hundred percent – I don’t – and some his policies seem to be Keynesian in nature and I disagree with that, but politics is the art of compromise and sometimes a choice between two evils. I believe that President Obama has not done beneficial things for the American economy or society in general. I think Mitt Romney would be the better choice, and that’s why I’m voting for him.

DDG: So what do you think about the SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare?

Hoopai: I was shocked at first that Justice Roberts would give an opinion that was very contrary to what everyone else wanted. However I think that Roberts’ vote was very shrewd in that it gave a lot of ammunition to the conservative side in terms of the election. There was a really great article I think in the New York Times which talked about how the decision cost the Republicans in the short term but gave them more ammunition for the war in the 2012 presidential election.

If Romney does get elected, I think that Obamacare has a much lower chance of surviving.

DDG: What do most of your friends think about Obamacare? Do they like it? Do they oppose it?

Hoopai: Most of my friends oppose it. Even if they consider themselves independent, liberal or moderate, they don’t like the Affordable Care Act in its present form. They either want it completely repealed or dramatically improved and I really don’t know anyone off the top of my head who likes the ACA in its present form.

DDG: There are some people who say that the Bush era tax cuts should be repealed, there’s others who say that it should remain, what do you think? Do you think we should raise taxes or lower taxes?

Hoopai: The argument that I commonly hear against the Bush era tax cuts is that they don’t let “rich people” pay their fair share in taxes, but I think that’s false for a couple of reasons. First, the top five percent pay almost forty percent of American taxes as a whole. I think that’s more than fair. Taxing the rich people, the top five or whatever you want to call them, that de-incentivizes people from producing jobs. It’s incredibly important for economic growth that they be able to keep their income. That’s why I think communism doesn’t work because it doesn’t reward hard work. That’s just one of the biggest benefits of capitalism. It increases the incentive to make money. I think they should stay in place.

As for the deficit, even though people in Congress like to blame the Bush tax cuts for creating a shortfall, you have to remember that from 2003 to 2007 government spending grew exponentially. You can’t really say with certainty that it was a major factor into deficit growth because government spending grew during that time period that tax cuts had their biggest impact.

DDG: Do you believe that global warming is real and that the United Nations should set climate policy?

Hoopai: Global warming is a very ambiguous term. I don’t believe in “global warming” as its commonly used in propaganda, I don’t think it’s real or has been proven substantially. I haven’t seen evidence that says that it’s so. That being said, I don’t think that any organization should set climate policy. It’s a sign of more government inefficiency and that’s not wise.

DDG: Do you think we should get out of the United Nations?

Hoopai: The United Nations is largely ineffective in many ways, but the United Nations is the United Nations. It’s the biggest body of all the major countries in the world and even though I personally do not like what they do or the scope of their involvement, but the United States should still keep some presence within that organization.


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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