Earlier tonight I attended a meeting of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club. It was my first time at their gathering, and the scene was fantastic. Mostly filled seats, free snacks and an uplifting optimism in the
error era of Donald Trump.
What had most of the attendees jazzed was a scheduled appearance from Hans Keitstead, considered by many to be the person who will offer the greatest challenge to Dana Rohrabacher in next year’s District 48 congressional race. Keitstead is a smart, successful, handsome scientist who is known to many as one of the world’s leading innovators in stem cell research. His bio is impressive; his individual wealth important. Even though there are nearly a dozen men and women running to snag Rohrabacher’s seat, the Democratic National Committee had already deemed Keitstead its brightest hope. That’s why they are putting a good chunk of money behind his candidacy—and none behind any of his opponents.
Keitstead had to cancel a live showing tonight because he’s in Washington, D.C. So he Skyped in, apologized and spoke to the assembled folk for, oh, 20 minutes.
And he was bright.
And he was devoted.
And he was overflowing with conviction.
And he was …
… so boring and uninspired.
I know. I know. This sounds awful, and we need to support our own. But Hans Keitstead was making a first impression to most of us in the room, and it was dry as toast; dull as cardboard; flat as Velveeta. After introducing himself, he spoke at length about the value of health insurance, and told the inspiring story of someone who can now walk after being certain he never would. The tale was plenty fantastic, but (again, being honest) I kept thinking, “What the hell does this have to do with winning my vote?” I can’t speak for everyone, but a whole bunch of folks looked to be paying more attention to their phones than Keitstead. No good.
This is a big problem, because to overcome Rohrabacher (a man as cagey as he is nutso) one must come armed with more than an inspiring story and a smooth stump speech. Nope—he must arrive with a sword. A big sword. He must be willing to chop Rohrabacher to bits; to show (repeatedly) that our congressman is equal parts crazy and unaccomplished; batshit loco and callously indifferent. It sucks, but we won’t win this thing solely on the basis of better ideas. No, no, no. We need better ideas mixed with nonstop reminders that Rohrabacher belongs inside a straight jacket.
Hans Keitsetad struck me as polite and kind. Those are virtues I want in a friend, in a relative, in a representative. But, in a candidate in 2018, I need more.
Right now, I’m not convinced he has it.