When King Kamehameha III proposed statehood for Hawaii a century ago, he expected the U.S. to agree in about as much time as it takes to say King Kamehameha III. If alive, he would still be waitingand partly because Hawaiian opinion itself is by no means unanimous for statehood. Some influential white residents, resenting the increasingly important part played by Japanese and Chinese in the island's business and political life, point to a postwar Caucasian exodus and say Hawaii would become an "Oriental state." Others argue that Hawaii should not be a state so long as Harry Bridges' Red-led longshoremen hold a death grip on the island economy.
Even so, the vast majority of Hawaii's people are foursquare for statehood, and it is in the U.S. Congress that the opposition, led by Democrats generally and Southerners specifically, has been most formidable. Last week, however, a Southern Democrat set Hawaii's hopes to blooming like the white-petaled pikake.
Louisiana's Senator Russell Long last spring voted with an 8-to-7 majority of the Senate Interior Committee to couple Alaska's statehood with Hawaii's and to hold time-consuming hearings on the qualifications of both territories. Long's vote to delay action on Hawaii was in keeping with his political and sectional background. As a Democrat, he could be expected to insist that usually Democratic Alaska be admitted, along with traditionally Republican Hawaii. As a Southerner, he was prone to the fear that Hawaii would add new strength to the Senate's civil rights forces. It was this combination of political expediency and prejudice that had long made the U.S. Senate a dead end for Hawaiian statehood.
But after the last session of Congress, Russell Long went to Hawaii, concluded that the territory's thorough "Americanization in every respect" made it deserving of statehood. Last week Senator Long defined his new stand: he will vote for Hawaii's statehood (but probably not for that of relatively backward Alaska) both in committee and on the Senate floor. With prospects for final passage good if the bill wins committee approval, Long's vote may be enough to make King Kamehameha's dream come true.