I make it a point to read any articles about Orange County written by the national and international press, mostly for the shits and giggles that happen when they're woefully uninformed. So you can imagine the gut-laugh fest I had this morning when reading a piece about SanTana by the usually excellent British paper The Guardian in their series written by grad students from USC about the Latino electorate in the United States, the most-cliched subject in politics imaginable and one that has mystified gabachos since the days of Viva Kennedy!
Written by one Reut R. Cohen (and if that name sounds familiar, it's because Reut was a notorious Muslim-basher while a student at UC Irvine), the piece reeks of Los Angeles' eternal cluelessness about us OC country cousins, the mainstream media's utter lack of knowledge about Mexicans, and commits multiple errors of omission, fact, and hyperbole.
Let's start with the first sentence:
Cohen: Once a Republican citadel which welcomed presidential candidates from Goldwater to Bush, the southern Californian city of Santa Ana is no longer a bastion of conservatism.
Fact: SanTana hasn't been a bastion for the Republicans for decades. Shit, former mayor Jerry Patterson became the county's first Democrat congressman back in the 1970s, a position he held for over a decade. And SanTana was the power base for the Democratic machine via SanTana physician Louis Cella during that same time period. And way back in the day, SanTana was ruled by Democrats in the days when Democrats were officially bigots. If anything, the GOP rule over SanTana from the 1930s through the 1970s was an anomaly, and anomalies don't citadels make. Also? Mentioning Bush is ridiculous--Bill Clinton came here in 1996, so why not mention that?
Cohen: Street vendors hawking soccer T-shirts in their native Spanish outside packed taquerias and panaderias show the diverse face of the city and the size of the challenge to California's declining Republican Party in the heart of its ideological cradle, Orange County.
Fact: Where? The only place in SanTana with legally sanctioned street vendors is Fourth Street--and they're not selling soccer jerseys. Trust me: I was there yesterday. And there's only one real taqueria and panaderia in the district--and they're rarely, if ever packed. This is sheer fantasy created for an audience that doesn't know any better and won't question a scene setter.
Cohen: The city's Republican party is locked in a struggle with the statewide California Republican group, over how it can win back a burgeoning Latino population that has turned the state bright blue.
Fact: SanTana has a city Republican party? It does, but Cohen is overstating the fact and making drama out of nothing. Fact is, the city's Republican Party HATES Latino voters--there is no "struggle" to convince the bigger party to win Latino votes. Their outreach effort was having Meg Whitman set up a campaign office for her disastrous 2010 California gubernatorial campaign...which Latinos protested like crazy. Why isn't that fact in the story? That's right: because it doesn't mesh with Cohen's narrative.
Cohen: The city has shifted from having been the domain of fiery Republican Congressman "B-1" Bob Dornan to being represented by Democrat Loretta Sanchez.
Fact: That story's over 15 years old--time to pull out a new example. And Dornan was based in Garden Grove.
Cohen: The Lincoln Club of Orange County has long been a haven for relatively moderate Republicans.
Fact: HAHAHAHAHAHA! It's never been a club of moderation. This is the club created specifically to ensure the craziest of conservatives were elected--and if you don't believe me, ask the New Majority, which was the PAC created specifically to hew to a more-moderate route than the Lincoln Club.
Cohen: "Republicans and a vast majority of Latinos agree that border security must be the first order of business. It's how Republicans propose to deal (or not deal) with the illegal immigrants who are already here that will either correct or exacerbate the perception that Republicans are racist," wrote Lincoln Club Executive Director Clare Venegas on Red County, a widely-read conservative website.
Fact: I'm not even going to challenge Venegas' ridiculous assertion (she ain't Mexi, by the way, but Filipina) on Latinos and border security. Oh, as for Red County being a "widely-read conservative website"? Maybe five years ago, but definitely not anymore, as it ceased operation this summer and is now offline. OOPS!
Cohen: It was [former President George W. Bush], not the Democrats, who put comprehensive immigration reform back on the national agenda, via his 2004 State of the Union speech.
Fact: Not true. Democrats have been trying to get the DREAM Act passed since 2002.
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Cohen: "It's a difficult challenge to the degree that demographics is destiny and to the extent that segments of society increasingly look to government for free stuff," said former Orange County State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, now a senior visiting scholar at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, giving voice to the prevailing party position on the issue.
Fact: And here's the biggest problem with Cohen's story. For a story on SanTana and its political and demographic transformation, how many santaneros does she interview? NONE. Not a single one. Instead, she interviews a bunch of non-OC folks and Chuck pinche Devore, who's no longer in OC and is as much an expert on Mexican-American voting patterns as he is on writing best-sellers.
This point is lazy journalism at its best, and latent bigotry at its worst. Really, Reut: you couldn't find ONE Mexican, whether liberal or conservative, to talk to for your piece? That alone condemns your story to irrelevancy--and then, you actually read it. Parachute journalism at its worst--and that Cohen lived in Orange County just shows how clueless the county is about itself.