The above is a link to OC Register columnist Frank Mickadeit’s latest effort. I’m not sure what to make of it. He writes:
In years past, the Republican Party in Orange County held Election Night in one of Newport's or Irvine's grand hotel ballrooms. Candidates would rent adjacent suites, and politicos and the press would wander around all night, sharing results and gossip.OK, so doing away with grand ballrooms in favor of small and non-grand spaces—that’s a return to the Tom Fuentes playbook?
Not Tuesday. The county's dominant political party had its event in a 60-foot-by-45-foot room above a bar in Costa Mesa, an old venue with open-beam ceilings and a worn hardwood floor that looked like it hadn't been refinished in 50 years….
. . .
The party's party was held in this room by design. It represented a semi-public launch of sorts of an attempt to re-energize the grassroots element that was critical during the rise of the party under late Chairman Tom Fuentes.
Tom sure liked MCing those big gatherings in big spaces. But he was also big on “grassroots.” I guess there’s something grassrootsy about leaving the grand ballroom behind in favor of spreading everybody out among lots of ugly little spaces.
Mickadeit goes on:
"(The idea of) having Election Night here was spawned at Tom Fuentes' funeral," said Rhonda Rohrabacher, the wife of the congressman and the main engine of the effort. "The idea is to build the party back up the way Tom Fuentes did, from the ground up…."Mickadeit goes on to link this “grassroots re-energization” initiative with Fuentes’ infamous war with rich Republicans in the County—who, starting in the 1990s, famously objected to Tom’s seriously right-wing and intolerant ways (you know, bad for business!):
Fuentes, of course, was sometimes criticized for not giving enough deference to the well-monied country-club Republicans and focusing instead on the grassroots. He'd have rather seen 100 passionate Republicans moved to contribute $5 each than one high-roller write a $500 check just to get Fuentes out of his hair. Under Baugh, the party mended fences with some of those Fuentes had kept at a distance. But conversely, attention to the grassroots did not reach the potential Fuentes had envisioned.I don’t know what that last line means. “Conversely”?
Tom Fuentes was a complex man. Despite his manifest love of High Class Living (think “Balboa Bay Club,” scotch, and cigars; think also of his views about people’s lawns, cars, and driveways) and his endless schmoozing and socializing with the rich and infamous (think Crean, Phillips, Ahmanson, et al.)—and his willingness in his business affairs to contribute mightily to that ugly machine called “the rich get richer” (think of all that “consulting”—i.e., lobbying public entities—he did for Rich Guys from Bein to Lange)—he really did seem bothered by the phenomenon of a few rich guys controlling his beloved Republican Party to pursue their selfish interests. I do believe that, to Tom, that pleaser of Fat Cats, running the party by pleasing the Fat Cats meant betraying conservative values. He was an oddly inconsistent but principled man.
His was a great but misshapen staunchulosity.
Strange, isn’t it?
Mickadeit explains Rhonda Rohrabacher’s gambit:
Now comes a concerted effort to take the party out to the county's cities through a series of satellite offices. Earlier this year, Rhonda Rohrabacher worked with Baugh and others to open this campaign office above Skosh Monahan's, the Costa Mesa pub owned by local Councilman Gary Monahan.According to Mickadeit, Rhonda used her husband’s campaign cash to lease the upstairs of Monahan’s and turn it into a campaign “headquarters.” That space was used to help, not only Rohrabacher, but also the likes of Allan Mansoor.
Evidently, Mrs. Rohrabacher Republicanized the space with hunting trophies (slain animals) and alcohol. She threw in some tables and maps, too.
Then she and her pals opened offices of this kind in Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. They hope to open others.
The point, apparently, is to blanket “every part of the county…. By tapping into the campaigns of members of Congress, the effort doesn't drain the central party's treasury….”
OK. So this is a money-saver for the Party. But it’s more than that:
"People connect with their city, so you do it city by city," [Rhonda Rohrabacher] said. "My goal is to have every precinct covered. It has to be driven around voters, not around the money."It’s Tom’s “grassroots” (not Rich Guys!) vision, I guess. But without the big ballrooms.
* * *Two points. First, there’s something goofy about this account. Rohrabacher (or Mickadeit?) seems to suggest that this big “ground up” or “grassroots” initiative popped up during Tom’s funeral, which occurred, like, a week ago. But, obviously, setting up those little, grassrootsy places in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach took months, not weeks.
Whatever. Maybe I just get confused too easily. Could be.
Here’s the other thing. The Rich Guys started trying to unseat Fuentes as chair of the County Party in the 90s, owing, in part, to Fuentes’ hatred of moderate Republicans (you know, the guys who are supposed to fit into the GOP's “big tent”). By 2003 or so, the grumbling about Fuentes was pretty widespread, and it wasn’t just coming from the Fat Cats. Among the local pols who complained about Fuentes was—you guessed it, Dana Rohrabacher. In a 2003 Times article (see), he is quoted as saying, “After 20 years of being the diplomat, [Tom]'s lost his patience and he's alienated people who expected to be treated with due respect…."
I think that’s a reference to Rich Guys, not regular guys. Not sure.
—I know. That’s Dana, not Rhonda. Whatever. (Surely Dana and Rhonda get together occasionally to get their stories straight.)
In that article, Dana R. went on to say: "I'm not calling for Tom to step down [as chairman], but even George Washington understood the need for term limits. Maybe there are some new challenges that Tom needs to be looking at."
Term limits? That’s rich, coming from Dana Rohrabacher, who, early on, supported term limits and then proceeded to run for numerous consecutive terms as a congressman. He's still at it.
If I'm right about Fuentes, who concentrated on the grassroots instead of the "well-monied country-club Republicans"—because attention to the latter means betrayal of Republican values—then, of course, Rohrabacher and crew don't want a return to Fuentesism at all. Rather, they want to continue attention to rich Republicans while at the same time, in some sense, attending to the grassroots.
Why can't these people call a spade a spade?
(New title: "Grand Old Party ditches Grand Old Fuentes in Fuentes' Name.")