I wish I felt more joyful about the outcome of our election last week. It was remarkable, certainly, but not sweepingly remarkable.
You know the scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which the Foggy Bottom Boys have been exposed by a racist Southern pol, who tries to rile the crowd by appealing to their racism, but instead finds himself run out of town on a rail because they’re good and done with that old shit?
That’s what I was hoping for, that OC and the nation would take a good look at our recent history and join in agreeing that it’s not a matter of left or right now, but rather that it’s up or down, and we’re not going to follow our ochre ogre of a president down his rabbit hole of lies and abuse.
Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot, so it’s not as simple as that. The most we could hope for is to put some brakes on the guy. What we got is one less brake than a bicycle: the House of Representatives, but not the Senate.
There is plenty the House can do, and I’m going to love seeing Adam Schiff with a gavel in his hand. But it’s the Republican Senate that gets to approve Trump’s ideologue judges and venal, unqualified appointments. If the House ever finds cause and courage to impeach Trump, it is the Senate that decides the outcome.
Let’s celebrate some of the fine things about last Tuesday: California is more united than ever, sending more Democrats to Congress and the statehouse, with Orange County doing its part. The vote count was still under way at this writing, but it looks as if we’re sending at least four Democrats to the House and maybe only two Republicans, and Dana Rohrabacher isn’t one of them. The race in the 45th District remains too close to call, but at last tally Democrat Katie Porter has nudged ahead of Mimi Walters.
Here and across the country voters turned out in record numbers for a midterm election, including record numbers of young voters (though still not nearly enough, since it’s their future we’re despoiling today). And we need even more record numbers to offset the voter suppression and gerrymandering in many states. Consider North Carolina, where 1,747,742 Democrat votes earned three House seats, while 1,638,684 Republican votes got 10 seats.
Three more states voted to legalize weed. Florida voted to restore felons’ voting rights. More women and folks of color were elected. Arizona just elected its first Democratic senator in 30 years, and it’s a bisexual woman! It’s a shame Beto O’Rourke didn’t win in Texas, and an even bigger shame that Georgia’s Stacey Abrams has to fight for a fair vote count. And Republican voters have been making it clearer what their party has become, electing some out-and-out racists, plus two guys under criminal indictment and a dead pimp. It’s a big tent!
The day after the election, Trump showed anew why we need a robust check on his actions. He fired Jeff Sessions, who has done a stellar job of serving the Trump agenda except for one thing: recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
Lest there was any doubt Trump fired Sessions for that one reason, look to the guy he named to replace him as interim Attorney General: Matthew Whitaker, whose sole distinguishing quality (aside from looking as if he’d play Lex Luthor in a Belorussian Superman knockoff) is that he openly hates the Mueller investigation he’s now supposed to oversee. And of all the people in the U.S. Trump could have picked as our chief law-enforcement officer, he might have chosen one who wasn’t affiliated with a Florida patent-promotion company that was recently fined for scamming its customers—particularly veterans—out of $26 million.
Meanwhile, my state is on fire, and all Trump can think to do is lob unfounded insults and threats at us. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted, as he does whenever people are burning to death here. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
A U.S. president has greater access to scientific research and expert advice than any other person on Earth, yet Trump is always that drunk at the end of the bar, parroting something he heard on some internet backwater.
There are PLENTY of reasons for these fires. How about climate change and drought? How about bark beetles or faulty electrical lines? And how exactly is California’s forest management an issue when the vast majority of our forested land is under federal control—you know, that part of the government Trump runs? The only action he has taken there in his nearly two years in office is to cut funds for forest management.
And it might be noted that the Woolsey fire—the horrific one nearest us—is not in a goddamn forest. It’s scrub brush and the charred homes, dreams and lives of the people Trump is supposed to represent. It’s a similar story with the Camp fire up north.
And bitching about “the billions of dollars given each year”? Fuck you, Don. California gives more to the federal government than any other state, and it gets a whole lot less back because it’s essentially subsidizing the goober states that hate it.
I would very much like to have a president who concerns himself with facts—particularly in light of a situation in which there is so much loss and suffering—instead of one who is cyber-spitting his hate and lies at people who are struggling to fight an apocalyptic disaster with every ounce of life they have.
As generally pleased as I am with the bluing of Orange County, I do feel we’re letting the nation down a bit. With Rohrabacher’s exit, this is the first time in more than six decades that we haven’t sent an exemplary nutcase to Congress.
From 1953 to 1970, we had James B. Utt, who railed that rock & roll was a communist plot and in 1963 claimed “a large contingent of barefooted Africans” was training in Georgia to forcibly put the U.S. under the United Nations’ heel.
Then we had Congressman John Schmitz, perhaps the only guy tossed out of the John Birch Society for being too extreme. When Richard Nixon made his historic visit to China, Schmitz groused the president should have stayed there. His solution to segregation was “have one school that the blacks could go to, one school that all the whites could go to, and those who want to mix go to a third school.”
We hit our apex with former talk-radio host Bob Dornan, who during one election run declared, “Every lesbian spear-chucker in this country is hoping I get defeated”; another time, he claimed, “Jane Alexander defends the slopping around of AIDS-infecting blood!” He once punched a fellow congressman on the House floor, where he also publicly outed a fellow Republican as gay. That was an obsession of his. Even if there were a dick in Dornan’s mouth, it couldn’t be thinking as many gay thoughts as his brain did.
Rohrabacher was the last of the great OC wild men (you can read plenty about him elsewhere in this issue), and there’s no one on the local scene to follow him. Without those, and without folks mooning the Amtrak in San Juan Capistrano, what’s left to represent OC to the world?