Why should we be going after Gary Miller? Why should we bother with Dana Rohrabacher? Why should we be investing in building Democratic infrastructure in such "hopelessly red places" like South Orange County? Why should we be growing the progressive grassroots in such "strongly Republican towns" as Yorba Linda and Huntington Beach? Why should we even be talking about organizing in such "red counties" as Orange County?
Perhaps we should be organizing in these "red counties" because they are not actually as "hopelessly Republican" as we think they are. Perhaps we should take a second look at these red areas because they are fast turning purple, and have the potential to turn blue. Perhaps we should look at these areas because their populations are growing as the populations of such "safe blue areas" as San Francisco and Los Angeles are stagnating. Perhaps we should do something in these "red areas" because these regions are the key to keeping California blue.
So what can we do?
How about conversing with voters about environmental protection instead of talking down to them about it? Perhaps instead of simply lecturing voters in these regions on why we must protect our environment, talk with them about how environmental protection enhances our quality of life. Talk about preserving all those lovely ocean views, and about how a balanced climate is ultimately good for business. Believe me, people will listen. Huntington Beach has signed onto the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. Brea has embraced the principles of "smart growth". And of course, Laguna Beach has always been a leader on environmental preservation. People here do value their quality of life. They appreciate clean beaches, clean water, pretty parks, and plenty of open space... And so do Democrats. We can make a connection here.
How about talking with voters about government's duty to protect the public good, and NOT to meddle in people's private lives? Many so-called "conservatives" in places like Orange County are really libertarian-minded people who just don't want government making decisions regarding their personal lives. Look at all the places in Orange County where Prop 85 lost. Many people here really are pro-choice, and they don't appreciate government involving itself in women's private medical decisions. People here really don't mind the gay and lesbian couples living in the neighborhood. However, they DO MIND government snooping in people's sex lives. People here appreciate safe neighborhoods, but they don't appreciate government searching their homes and businesses without any court warrant. People here want government to focus on such basic matters as keeping the neighborhoods safe, paving the roads, and beautifying the parks. They don't want government to intrude upon private personal matters. People in these "red counties" value freedom and civil liberties, and so do Democrats. We can make a connection here.
How about talking to voters about how tough it is for small businesses to make it these days? There are many small business owners in "red counties" like Orange County, and there are many things on their minds. These folks are concerned about providing health care for their workers, and they are concerned about their own health care. These folks are concerned about big-box stores like Wal-Mart moving into the community, and they don't know if they can compete with these big box stores and all their government subsidies. They are wondering how to stay competitive in such a tough business environment. These small business owners are concerned, and so are Democrats.
So why can't we connect better? Well, we haven't really tried before. Our state and national parties have never really bothered before to take another look at the "red counties", and see the purple inside. All too often, many Democratic leaders would rather just ignore places like Orange County while they continue to chase after a narrower and narrower set of "swing voters" in "swing regions". Well, how about expnading our base for once? How about investing in new areas, like Orange County, the Inland Empire, and San Diego County, where there are new opportunities for Democrats. Times are changing, and so are these communities. Let's start working here, and perhaps we change these corners of the map from red to blue. : )