Orange is the New Blue
If the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I am certifiably nuts. For a year and a half I have awoken every morning, opened my news app, and looked for the three words “Mueller indicts Trump.” But it never happens. Come on, Bob, it’s got to be a freaking doozy to make us all wait this long. And so, the Sisyphean ritual continues.
But then I remind myself how much worse it could be. Trump could easily have taken us into an unprovoked war by now. Just by one world leader getting under his microscopically thin skin. Or Jerry Brown. But 2020 is when his presidency is on the line, so don’t be surprised if we have an incursion before then. Not only is war good for business, it’s right out of Roger Stone’s playbook for reelection.
But that’s two years away, and Stone will likely be in prison and anyway we have far more pressing things to worry about, like climate change, fires, nuclear waste, homelessness, income inequality, and whether we’ll ever see another movie in Laguna.
Luckily, there’s a new Congress, youthful and full of brio, helped in no small measure by a county that has always hemorrhaged red: Orange County. It’s not just that we turned the county blue, it’s whom we elected for office. A class of superstars!
Who would have thought in our lifetimes that a region considered holy ground for Republicans would flip entirely Democrat in a single election? And that 30-year incumbent Dana “Russia Backer” would finally be taken down by the Fresh Prince of Emerald Bay, Harley Rouda? Rohrabacher is a walking ad for term limits, a man who authored just three bills in his political life (one a decade), called both Charlottesville and climate change fake, endorsed housing discrimination against gays, and amazingly supported offshore drilling in California, despite being a surfer. You and I have paid his salary and benefits for 30 years. Talk about socialism! Harley doesn’t need the money. He’s got a perfectly cushy life, but has been so outraged by Trump that he is giving up the beach for the beachhead.
And what about UCI professor Katie Porter, a newcomer and Elizabeth Warren acolyte, taking the 45th district from Mimi Walters, who stomped to reelection in 2016 by 17 points? Katie is a Yale and magna cum laude Harvard Law grad who is a longtime consumer protection advocate, willing to tangle with Wall Street banks. Far from a dilettante, Katie grew up in Iowa, the daughter of a farmer. She is the first Democrat ever elected since the district was formed in 1953 and has made campaign finance reform the cornerstone of her campaign. In her first press conference since the election, she said she heads to Washington as part of a “class of reformers.” Badass.
Then there’s Gil Cisneros, a first-time candidate of Latino descent who became a philanthropist and activist after he and his wife won $266 million in the California lottery—just after being laid off as a shipping manager for Frito-Lay. Instead of becoming a flashy sybarite with a collection of ostentatious things, Gil put his money back into the community, establishing a substantial endowment for college scholarships for Latino students and went on to earn a Master’s in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. A staunch defender of education for all and universal healthcare, he decided to run in the 39th district after then-Congressman Ed Royce voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He cited his father’s healthcare costs when he contracted Agent Orange in the Vietnam War as a big influencer.
And in the 49th district, long a Republican stronghold, we now have a true climate warrior in Mike Levin, a Lake Forest native and founder of CleanTechOC, a clean energy trade association. A Stanford and Duke Law School grad, Mike could have easily gone the capitalist route, but instead devoted his entire career to clean energy, even confronting then-Congressman Darrell Issa in early 2017 at a town hall to berate him for supporting natural gas and nuclear power plants as the solution to climate change. It warms my heart (and hopefully cools the planet) that someone as informed and on the front lines as Mike Levin is in Washington fighting for carbon reduction.
So, there you have it. A shifting Orange County, full of ethnic diversity and better restaurants, turning out to vote and repudiate Trump’s policies to demonize minorities, reward the rich, and devastate the environment. A group of youthful, engaging, brilliant young minds that have answered the call to serve their country for the greater good. It’s a shift felt round the country, with Democrats adding 40 new Congressional seats and gaining six new governorships. A powerful check on the malignant growth of authoritarianism in our government, and proof that the lawful, democratic system under which this nation was birthed can still work.
But I’ll still be checking my phone tomorrow. Hope—not horror—springs eternal.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX93.5 and can be reached at [email protected].