The congressman for California's 48th district wants you to think he's a supercool surf dude who feels your pain. He's actually a Russia-loving, Trump-worshiping coward who avoids his constituents as if they carried a deadly virus. Heck, try giving him a call. You'll never hear back (Unless you're pledging a big donation).
So I’ve now been told that Dana Rohrabacher wants a recount. This is hardly a surprise, but—for the congressman—it’s a horrendous idea.
So here’s my free advice …
Congressman, don’t do this. You lost. It happens. People lose. For 30 years, you’ve served in the congress. Political leanings be damned, that’s an amazing run, and you should be proud. You have a legacy in conservative circles, and it’s one of survival, of longevity, of working for your president’s agenda. Seriously, you will be thought of well in Orange County GOP circles, whereas most former politicians are rarely thought of at all.
That said … ever see Willie Mays play for the Mets, stumbling around the outfield well past his prime?
Ever see Marlon Brando in his final roles, fat and indifferent?
Ever see a Roy Jones in his last few fights? A once-great champion getting humiliated?
Well, don’t do that.
In your final days as a congressman, be graceful, be grateful, be humble. Invite Harley Rouda to lunch, talk issues, hope he hears your concerns. Thank your constituents for their votes. Praise your community. Hug your wife and kids. Become an elder statesman for Orange County. Stump for future Republican candidates. Speak at library openings. Surf. Smoke pot. Do what you’ve long wanted to do.
But don’t wrap your career stumbling around the outfield, chasing fly balls you can no longer catch.
Well, Harley Rouda declared victory today—arguably the biggest triumph of the national election season. So, first, congratulations to our congressman-elect and his family. And second, I present to you the you’ve-all-been-waiting-for Winners and Losers of the 48th …
• Winner: Harley Rouda—When I met Harley, oh, 1 1/2 years ago, we were sitting in the Harbor House talking election. I knew little, he seemed to know relatively little. In the months since, he put together one of the best regional campaigns I’ve ever seen. Just brilliantly run, and now he’s our next congressman. Amazing.
• Loser: Hans Keirstead—The presumptive Democratic front-runner ran a dreadful campaign, lacking charisma, empathy, cohesion. When he lost, he pledged to help Harley dash across the finish line. Then (poof!) he vanished. As did his reputation and future in local politics.
• Winner: Dana Rohrabacher—I know … I know. What? Well, here’s the bottom line: Rohrabacher served as our congressman for 30 years. Thirty. That’s an insanely long time. With this loss, there’s no more fundraising. No more angry calls. No more back-and-forth flights to D.C. No more political bullshit. Or, put differently: If someone told me I could have a job for 30 years, I’d be pretty psyched. Terrible congressman, but you can’t say this didn’t go well for the man.
• Loser: Scott Baugh—The man who was supposed to replace Dana is now, officially, cold product. There was a time when everyone knew this district would go Republican, and Baugh’s rise felt inevitable. That day has passed.
• Winner: Aaron McCall—The man in charge of the local Indivisible did an insanely good job keeping things organized, keeping people engaged, retaining enthusiasm when nobody felt particularly enthused. He and Laura Oatman were absolute all-stars.
• Loser: Donald Trump—Endorsed Rohrabacher with a Tweet, then watched as his boy got pummeled. Yet another White House defender cast adrift.
• Winner: The Environment—As yet another fire rages across Southern California, it’ll be nice to have a congressman who doesn’t think climate change is the byproduct of farting polar bears.
• Loser: Omar Siddiqui—Democratic candidate clearly has huge political ambitions—and a resume to sorta match. But after deciding to not run in his home district (he has an office in the 48th, but doesn’t live here), he kept exaggerating stories. Then, when Harley became the nominee, he, too, went silent.
• Winner: Kaira Rouda—Harley’s wife is an established author. And now she can stop having to attend speech after speech after speech, dinner after dinner after dinner.
• Loser: Whatever PAC paid for the anti-Harley ads—They didn’t work.
There’s something crazy—like, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy—that I’d like to note right here, right now.
Four years ago, this was the tally of the 48th congressional election:
Look at the results. Now look at them again. Dana Rohrabacher, eternal incumbent, defeated the Democrat, Suzanne Joyce Savary, by forty nine thousand, three hundred and sixty nine votes. And yes, I spelled that out and italicized on purpose, just to dramatize the insane gap between conservative and liberal.
I mean, that’s not a wide margin, in the way, oh, the Red Sox finished 61 games in front of the Baltimore Orioles. No. It’s me and John Cena stepping into a wrestling ring, circa 2000. It’s a rap battle between Eminem and my dead grandmother. It’s a weight lifting challenge between Lasha Talakhadze and the Keebler Elf. It’s Albert Einstein and Donald Trump in a battle of intellect.
It’s as huge a blowout as you’ll see in politics.
So how are we here, on the verge of what has to be considered one of the most improbable congressional triumphs of the past two decades?
Well, a few things …
• An incumbent who’s insane: Dana Rohrabacher has always been a bit off. But he’s also always been able to hide that behind the ol’ grandpa surf persona. These past few years, however, something changed. He became less Grandpa Surfdude, more Grandpa Thegovernmentiswatchingmeandtheywanttostealmycorn. The conspiracy theories. The Russia. The climate change denials. I’ve said this many times, but Orange County Republicans are (generally) sane humans who just want to hold onto their money. That doesn’t mean they want to deny LGBTQ rights, or watch the earth go to shit.
• The right Democratic candidate: I’ve gotten a fair number of things wrong over the past 1 1/2 years of Crazy Dana, but I take some pride in pointing out Harley Rouda’s strengths from the beginning. Not to be an asshole, but I still don’t believe Hans Keirstead wins this thing. Harley was an ideal package for this race, at this time: Moderate Democrat, business background, handsome, smart, quick on his feet. He stayed the course, never took the bait from others. Just a really steady guy.
• Changing demographics: Orange County 2018 isn’t Orange County 1988. Not even close. It’s more diverse, it’s younger, it’s a lot of people who grew up understanding gay rights, civil rights; a lot of people working in tech. Just … different. This isn’t Dana Rohrabacher’s crowd any longer. Hell, even if he somehow comes back to win—this isn’t an aberration. It’s the new reality.
• An incredible get-out-the-vote mechanism: I can’t overstate this one. Aaron McCall from Indivisible has been outstanding. Laura Oatman has been outstanding. All the volunteers, the door knockers, the hand shakers, the callers. If an alien landed in Orange County, and someone asked it, “Who do you think is the congressman—Dana or Harley?”—well, he’d probably be confused by the entire premise and zap you with a molecular phase gun. But, were he English speaking and understanding of American culture, he’d go with Harley. Sans much thought. The man and his message were everywhere.
• Dana didn’t know how to handle a challenge: On Feb. 11, 1990, Mike Tyson faced Buster Douglas in Tokyo. At the time, Tyson was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. He sported a record of 37-0, had never been knocked down or even slightly challenged. Douglas, on the other hand, was something of a journeyman. He brought a 29-4-1 mark to the table, and Vegas listed him a 42-1 underdog.
But Tyson had grown complacent. Lazy. A bit indifferent. He started to think he could just show up and win, sans effort.
So this race is far from over, and while Harley Rouda is up nearly 5,000 votes on Dana Rohrabacher, we’ll likely have to wait and wait and wait and wait for the final results. Don’t be surprised if the official total isn’t announced before Dec. 1.
Here, however, is one thing I can promise: Rohrabacher won’t merely concede and walk away.
It’s not what he does. What he has ever done. He views the 48th as his congressional seat. He’s owned it for three decades, and he sure as hell isn’t just going to hand it over to some happy-happy-happy Trump-bashing liberal Democrat from Ohio. So, even after the official tally is in, prepare for feistiness and stubbornness and dickishness.
Expect Dana Rohrabacher to refuse to cry uncle. It’s who he is.
That said—here’s the good news. Even people who voted for Rohrabacher grasp he’s slightly-to-significantly-to-irrefutably insane. They back him because he’s a Republican, and he’s conservative, and he’s pro-life and anti-science and a libertarian who once wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan. But, ultimately, very few who live within our boundaries believe Dana Rohrabacher to be of sound mind. I know these people. They’re not bad folks. They acknowledge the truth.
So, when we know (with certainty) that Harley is the victor, expect Dana’s backers to fade away, much as Roy Moore’s backers faded away.
And, as a paranoid human who hates counting his chickens, I just wanna scream, “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!”
So here’s the deal. As we speak, it is far more likely that Harley Rouda wins than loses. He’s up roughly 3,000 votes on Dana Rohrabacher, which is a relatively chunky total. Right now, Dana is pretty sure he’s not winning and Harley is pretty sure he’s not losing.
That said, there are tons of votes to still count. In Orange County, we’re talking more than 400,000 remaining ballots to read. In the 48th District, that could be, oh, 30,000 ballots. Maybe less. Maybe more. But a lot. And we might not know for certain until late November/early December.
So two things:
Let’s calmly wait this thing out.
Let’s stop with the Dana Rohrabacher shit talk. I’ve seen a lot of it, and I absolutely hate it. A. Because he still might prevail; and B. It’s just not classy. I’m a sports journalist by trade, and the athletes I love most are the ones who don’t feel compelled to sling yang following a triumph. Let the action speak for you. Also (and this might sound a bit odd, considering the nature of this website), I think—should Harley hold on—we (as a collective) have to be classy and decent when it comes to Dana Rohrabacher. Yes, he’s been a dreadful congressman. No, I’m not a fan. But he has held this job for 30 years, and that warrants some level of respect.
Just back from Newport Beach and the Harley Rouda election night party at the Marriott. As I write this, here’s where we stand …
Now, it’s certainly possible Dana Rohrabacher finds the necessary votes to win. Two thousand seven hundred and seventy four isn’t a huge margin. Mail-in ballots can be counted until Friday—and the vast majority of early voters tend to be older and white. However, I’d much rather be in Harley’s shoes than Dana’s.
The party was fun. CNN was shown on enormous screens, and a night that began with fear and disappointment turned festive—as one Democratic congressional win after another was brought to our attention. There was cheering. There was yelping. There was a bit of singing. It oozed positivity, and when Harley finally came out to speak at, oh, 11:30 pm-ish, the joint went bananas.
For those who don’t live here in Southern California, the idea of a Democrat even challenging for this spot was laughable, oh, a year ago. Rohrabacher is a 30-year incumbent, and he knows how to run a campaign.
When I started this website nearly two years ago, it wasn’t to support Harley Rouda or Laura Oatman or David Copperfield. It wasn’t to protect the environment or cut taxes. It wasn’t for any specific agenda, save one …
To end the laughably bad reign of Dana Rohrabacher.
Well, here we are.
I don’t know how this will go. At some moments I think Dana will win. At some moments I think Harley will win. Attack ads exist for a reason, and Dana has been running them nonstop. But energy and enthusiasm are infectious—and Harley is energetic and enthusiastic. I … just … don’t … know.
But here’s what I can tell you: Win or lose, the Republicans are losing their grip on Orange County. This has been their turf for decades upon decades, and that’s no longer the case. Even if Dana holds on, it will be by a sliver. Ask anyone who has lived here for a spell: That was once unthinkable. But this territory has changed in myriad ways. It’s younger. It’s more progressive. It’s more environmentally concerned. The old white conservatives are dying out. Forward-thinkers are moving in.
Dana Rohrabacher is running a competitive campaign for a sole reason: He has incumbency on his side. Otherwise, there’s no way a dinosaur like that challenges for the congressional spot any longer. It’s an outdated look from an outdated party. You can’t deny climate change and survive here. You can’t bash gays and survive here. You can’t routinely praise Donald Trump and survive here. No more. No longer.
If you’ve been reading Crazy Dana, thank you. I’m honored.
Tonight, the most awesome thing in the world happened.
This Tweet …
Let’s count the ways I friggin’ love this.
• 1. It shows how terrified the GOP is of this race. Which has never happened before. Remember, Dana Rohrabacher has sleep walked through these things for years and years and years. No more.
• 2. It’s the same sentiment our lame president spews about anyone. There’s zero conviction behind the words. Zero meaning. He doesn’t know Harley Rouda. Hell, there’s a solid 34.69 percent chance he’s never heard of Harley Rouda. I’m a big Harley admirer, but “super liberal” is not the adjective I’d turn to. If anything, he’s a touch too conservative for my uber liberal tastes.
• 3. For Christ’s sake, why is “Crime” capitalized? Why are “Military” and “Vets” capitalized? Do those stubby little sandwich roll fingers struggle with this part of the cell phone?
• 4. Even Republicans who like Dana wouldn’t say he’s been a “great” congressman. Talk to them. Up close, in quiet. They’ll tell you he’s somewhat insane, uniquely erratic, oftentimes in space floating with purple clouds that make no sense. Yes, they’ll vote for him because of the (R) alongside his name. But “great” congressman? Nobody says that.
Because this site aspires to be blunt and honest (as opposed to mere cheerleader), here’s some sorta bad news: According to a poll conducted by something called Thomas Partners Strategies, Dana Rohrabacher holds a nine-point lead over Harley Rouda heading into Tuesday’s election. Here’s the info, from (eh) Breitbart.
Now, is this legitimate? I’m not sure. John Thomas, the head of the firm, is an arch-conservative Republican hired not to be honest and straight-forward, but to make sure members of the GOP triumph. As is the case with Rasmussen Reports, Thomas exists not to give us the legit, unfiltered, straight-up reality. No, he’s here to kill the hopes and dreams of Democrats.
So, take it for what it is.
That said—there’s a message here, and it’s this: Do not rest. Or, to be blunt, do not fucking rest. Today is Sunday. The election is Tuesday. Winning in the 48th, against an entrenched Republican, is not easy. Hell, just two years ago the Democratic candidate, Suzanne Savary, lost to Rohrabacher by nearly 17 percent. Here, take a look …
Now, with all due respect to Suzanne, Harley is a far better candidate, and a far better financed candidate. But if we don’t vote in huge numbers, and we don’t get every Democrat and independent and come-to-his/her-senses Republican to vote for Harley, all of this vanishes into the mist.
So don’t kick back.
PS: Interestingly, the Siena College, NYT poll has Harley up. So … who the hell knows?
Though it may well come as a surprise, I’ve never written a letter like this before. Yes, I’m politically active and politically opinionated, but I’m not one to directly urge people how to vote on Election Day. It’s a private decision process—one I very much respect (whether we share beliefs or not).
That said, today I am making an exception. And I ask you to please give me a minute.
Over the past year I have paid extremely close attention to our congressional race here in the 48th, which pits a 30-year incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, against Harley Rouda, a political newcomer and lifelong businessman. I’ve attended debates, I’ve read and read and read, I’ve chronicled the race.
And I am urging you … no, begging you—to vote for Harley Rouda.
To be clear, this isn’t your standard Democrat vs. Republican issue, or liberal vs. conservative issue. This isn’t about experience vs. inexperience, or Build a Wall vs. Don’t Build a Wall. I know many (most?) here are far more conservative than I’ll ever be. And I swear, this is not about that.
Nope—this is 100 percent about righteousness.
Over the past year, I have watched Rohrabacher associate with Nazi sympathizers and alt-right adherents with jarring comfort and regularity. I was at a rally in Huntington Beach where he appeared (unapologetically) alongside marchers walking with Nazi flags. I was shocked (truly shocked) when I read about Rohrabacher bringing infamous conspiracy theorist Charles C. Johnson (He argues that the Auschwitz gas chambers were not real, and the number of Jews killed by Nazi Germany was 250,000, not 6 million) as his guest to a meeting with Senator Rand Paul. I can go on and on about Rohrabacher’s lunatic ties to the alt-right—and, as the great grandson of a woman who was gassed in Auschwitz, I feel compelled to.
I knew little-to-nothing about Dana Rohrabacher when we moved here four years ago. But I’ve never seen someone this vile and unworthy hold a political position for so long. I can only explain it away via the power of incumbency and, sadly, general voter indifference.
Well, I am asking you a favor. Please do not vote for Dana Rohrabacher on Tuesday. I don’t care what else you do with your ballot. It’s none of my business. But this man has represented us long enough.
He’s more than an embarrassment.
He’s a disgrace.
Thanks for your time. I appreciate it, and I won’t bother you again on this issue.
PS: It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve thought long and hard about my grandparents (My Grandma Marta could never speak of leaving Germany and her mother’s death without crying) during this process, and what they would want me to do. Hence, the letter.