Dana Rohrabacher v. Harley Rouda: Ali-Holmes, 1980

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Rohrabacher (left) and Rouda (right). Ali v. Holmes II.

In case you missed this, Dana Rohrabacher and Harley Rouda appeared yesterday at the Meet the Candidates event in Fountain Valley.

Let me repeat that: Dana Rohrabacher and Harley Rouda appeared yesterday at the Meet the Candidates event in Fountain Valley.

I said that twice because I am truly shocked that Rohrabacher, our stumbling and bumbling congressman, actually appeared at an event where he would be challenged. To this point, it’s pretty much been him showing up only in friendly environs, where softballs are tossed his way and he can spew his weird, off-putting brand of pro-Russia xenophobia.

I digress.

Having just watched a video of the event, I am reminded very much of Oct. 2, 1980, when Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes fought in Las Vegas for the WBC heavyweight title.

At the time, Ali was 38 and … well, not looking good. The effects of Parkinson’s were starting to kick in. He lacked speed, fluidity. His quick fists were no longer quick. His ability to dodge a punch was gone. Holmes, meanwhile, was 31 and in his prime. He was powerful, fast, artful.

The result: One of the great—and saddest—ass-kickings in modern sport. Ali was thoroughly dominated, a white towel of surrender thrown into the ring.

In boxing terms, Dana Rohrabacher was Muhammad Ali, circa 1980, yesterday. He sorta shuffled back and forth. He needed a pad in front of him to remember words. His answers were meandering, indirect, flat. When he remembered what he wanted to say, the words felt angry and small. He doesn’t like immigrants. He doesn’t think people should live in gated communities. Russia isn’t so bad. Harley, meanwhile, came out firing. He was smooth and graceful and prepared.

It actually made me wonder why we, the Democratic Party in Orange County, have waited so long to have a legitimately powerful candidate in this race. I know that sounds like a slight to past entrants, and, well, I suppose it is. I don’t know if Harley wins or loses this race, but he’s got everything we need to win. Grace. Smarts. Quick on his feet. Moderate background that appeals to both sides.

I suppose, were I an arch-conservative Republican, desperately grasping to a nation that feels as if it’s slipping away, I’d vote Rohrabacher.

But, otherwise, he feels like a cigarette, smoked and stubbed out.

He feels like the past.

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