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.
This happened …
And now this is happening …