July 21, 2001 — The way Sen. Emmett Hansen II describes it, his decision to join the Senate majority bloc wasn’t driven by anger, greed or hubris.
No, the way the freshman St. Croix senator laid it out Friday in a press conference, the driving force behind the move was nothing more than boring old pragmatism.
And maybe becoming the "Grand Poohbah" of the Senate Government Operations Committee.
A pragmatist, says the Random House Dictionary, is "oriented by practical action or thought." But for Hansen, as a member of the Senate’s non-majority since being sworn into office some six months ago, not much "action" was happening.
Except for a couple of periphery committees -– and measly budgets -– handed to two non-majority senators, the majority bloc doled out coveted chairmanships -– and subsequently fat budget allotments -– to its members. It even combined the Government Operations Committee and the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee in order to keep a chairmanship out of the hands of a non-majority senator.
So for a half a year, Hansen practiced practical action: He hung in there. He attended almost every committee meeting — whether he was a member or not -– in order to learn the ropes. Being oriented by practical thought, as pragmatists often are, Hansen didn’t allow himself to slip into the petty-politics muck that most of his colleagues wallow in on both sides of the aisle.
Still, as a card-carrying Democrat and member of the non-majority, he could see that not much action was happening. Sure, he was successful in marshaling support for his gun control bill. But it was becoming clear that he wasn’t going to be able to hustle up action for St. Croix unless he had access to — depending how one looks at it – things not so pragmatic: money and power. The clock was ticking.
"One of the things you can’t get back is time," Hansen says. "I’ve tried the other way for six months."
So, to fulfill his campaign promises and bring home the bacon for his constituents, Hansen did what any good pragmatic politician would: He pulled on his rubber boots and made his way across the slippery aisle into the fold of the "Millennium Eight," which is now nine.
"When you have the numbers," he says, "you make the decisions."
Getting the job done
"I have not confined myself to either side of the aisle," Hansen says of his work since being sworn into office last January. Perhaps taking a jab at his non-majority -– and mostly Democrat -– colleagues, he says, "You can’t say you can’t play with these guys [the majority] because you don’t like them."
No, that wouldn’t be pragmatic. After all, the job of a senator in the Virgin Islands is to serve the voters and turn a blind eye to politicking. Hansen says his move to the majority has already allowed him to get his hands on millions of dollars to aid St. Croix. He points to money that will fix the island’s sewage system and roads, and even bring back the St. Croix jazz festival.
And by chairing the Government Operations Committee, and with a $200,000 budget, he is set to do more.
"Now that I have Government Operations, I can deal with the things I campaigned on," Hansen says. "You have the ability to bring immediate relief to the island."
Soon, he says, the houses and women of ill-repute will be gone from Christiansted’s Times Square area. Likewise for current -– or planned –- strip clubs.
"All the bordellos in the area will be gone. I guarantee you," Hansen says with uncharacteristic un-pragmatic fervor. "There will be no strip clubs downtown. That’s not the way we are going."
The real deal?
So far, Hansen has steered clear of the "senatoritis" that inexplicably afflicts those erstwhile upstanding citizens who take the oath of office. While senators have not yet realized that most people in the Virgin Islands aren’t quite as mesmerized by their voices as they themselves are, Hansen has at least avoided the malapropisms and mixed metaphors uttered straight-faced by his colleagues time and again.
Flush from his new committee chairmanship and still a good year away from having to worry about re-election, he appears to be getting the feel of things. Still, no matter what people may think, he says the job and the move to the majority are nothing more than a pragmatic way to help St. Croix up off its knees.
"People expect you to be disingenuous" as a senator, he says. "If I’m going to walk across the aisle, I’m going to do it in public.
"This is not a career for me. I’m not going to be here for a decade. This isn’t calculated for longevity. It’s calculated for productivity."


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