It was late on Election Night, and I was borracho out of my mind in SanTana. I had just spent the evening covering the Republican Party's celebrations in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, where Dana Rohrabacher's acolytes became bro-ier as the Trump train rolled. Now I was trying to comfort young Chicanxs, many of whom were bawling at the reality of a president-elect who wants to deport them and their families.
As Trump gave his victory speech, I got a call from my friend at the Associated Press. We both cursed the results, and he cursed his feckless Democrats for pushing Killary instead of letting Bernie Sanders win. "But at least OC finally went blue," he offered as consolation.
That's when I really started cussing, blasting a lamestream media that remains clueless about us. Sure, Orange County voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 80 years, the last time being when FDR beat some guy named Alf Landon in 1936. This year, Hillary Clinton won by about 5 percentage points, helped by local party registration that have Democrats just 4 percentage points behind the Republicans. The prospect of Democrats taking over Orange County—The OC! The land where we have an airport named after John Wayne! Where Ronald Reagan said all the good Republicans go to die! And Richard Nixon!—has been a national story all year, and Clinton taking us blew away people like my friend and others in the media. The Los Angeles Times, in particular, tripped out at the news, assigning three reporters to one story that determined OC is turning blue because of minorities and college-educated women—what a revelation!
"But what good is Orange County blue," I ranted to my pal, "when the Dems are as big a bunch of losers as the Republicans?"
It's the truth. In a year when a large number of Republicans in Orange County refused to vote for Trump, when the Democrats had a motivated electorate to come out and defeat anything GOP, the Dems swung for the fences and got to first base on a dropped third strike. Election results haven't been verified by OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley as of press time, but Democrats seem to have lost nearly all of the races that would've indicated a true blue wave in OC. Ling Ling Chang is ahead of Josh Newman for a state Senate seat, First District Supervisor Andrew Do easily beat Michele Martinez, while Congressman Darrell Issa is comfortably ahead of opponent Doug Applegate. And in Anaheim's first district elections, a golden opportunity to take over OC's largest city, the Dems only mounted serious challenges to one of four seats (and more on the winner in a bit). This is a party on the rise?
The donkey squad does seem to have scored one important win (Sharon Quirk-Silva is on the verge of taking back her Fullerton-area assembly seat from Young Kim, who took it from her in 2014), but that doesn't change reality. Turning Orange County "blue" or even purple isn't our salvation. We all know the evil that is the OC GOP, which still allows Rohrabacher to run every two years, but people forget how bad the local Dem operation is.
For too long, party officials supported OC's two dirtiest mayors, Irvine's Larry Agran and Santa Ana's Miguel Pulido. While the Democrats nationwide want to veer left, county leaders still ridiculously think that staying centrist is the way. They still promote dinosaurs such as Coast Community College District trustee Jerry Patterson (who first held office in 1969) and Jose Solorio (who carpetbagged his way back onto the SanTana City Council after a decade away) instead of fostering fresh faces. When they could've gone with a firebrand progressive for Loretta Sanchez's seat in Congress with former Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) instead endorsed Lou Correa, who's such a vendido that he told the Times, "[Trump] is the president, and we have to work with him." (Does that mean Lou will mix the cement for Trump's border wall?)
All you need to know about the OC Dems is this: In a county that's been majority-minority for nearly 15 years, outgoing DPOC chair Henry Vandermeir and other leaders still think the future of their party is Anaheim city councilman Jordan Brandman, a gabacho who resembles Fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color and is a protégé of the ever-evil Curt Pringle. A new generation of progressives is supposed to support that?
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In our 21 years, the Weekly has shown that blind party fealty is not only toxic, but also unproductive to Orange County. That's the point I tried to make years ago, when the DPOC asked me to give a keynote during a party fundraiser at La Hacienda in SanTana. Former OC Sheriff Mike Carona had just been convicted, and it was my task to help everyone feel good about themselves with schadenfreude. Instead, I recited a roll call of Democratic officials convicted of corruption during the 1970s. My was Ozymandian, a reminder that no party or individual is immune from evil, but the crowd wouldn't have it; longtime Democratic chairman Frank Barbaro, in particular, looked as if he wanted me to join Ron Caspers in the deep blue sea.
Enough of this blue-red bullshit. It's time to start a third party in Orange County—not Green or Libertarian, but Naranja (because "Orange" would just be lame). Something that encapsulates Orange County at its best: pro-immigrant, pro-indie business, anti-authority, anti-drug war, anti-hack. Not addicted to campaign donations. Multicultural. Done with the two-party system. Committed to putting Orange County, instead of political machines, first. And a party embracing the Left and Right—call the Naranja Party the Unitarian-Universalists of politics.
Such radical bipartisanship has happened before—and worked wonders. In Fullerton, a coalition of libertarians and leftists took down a decrepit Fullerton City Council majority in the wake of Kelly Thomas' killing by the city's police. And it occurred in Placentia more than a decade ago, when suburban liberals and conservatives booted out council members who nearly bankrupted the city (unfortunately, as a group of GOP council members aligned with mayor Jeremy Yamaguchi eventually took power and slept while millions of dollars were stolen from Placentia's coffers). And a similar phenomenon won this year's City Council election in Costa Mesa, when a coalition of good Democrats and Republicans, public and private sector workers, Latinos and whites alike finally broke the regime of Jim Righeimer. These voters re-elected GOP councilwoman Sandy Genis and sided with Democrat John Stephens. In all instances, citizens put their ideologies and parties aside for the greater good—a downright revolutionary concept these days, yet one with results.
The Republicans gave Orange County hate; the Democrats offer nothing revolutionary. The Naranja Party? A future we can look forward to. It's a preposterous idea, I'll admit, but so were the presidential prospects of a human Cheet-o a year ago—and here we are.