I Know What Lieu Did Last #ResistanceSummer

By Emma Jane Black | Our Voice Contributor

Earlier this year, Democratic leadership kicked off their #ResistanceSummer movement, which is largely based on propagating fear about Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election. The July 7th kickoff event, held at United University Church on the USC campus, faced a spectacular protest by supporters of the SB 562 Medicare for All Bill that is currently locked away in the California Assembly Rules Committee by Speaker Anthony Rendon.

This last Tuesday, I had a first-hand opportunity to hear the #ResistanceSummer campaign message from Ted Lieu at a town hall event organized by Indivisible 48 in Aliso Viejo, Orange County, CA. The LA Times made no bones about it. This event was intended for activists. It was not truly for constituents who were hoping to hear from the field of Democratic candidates to help make informed decisions in the 2018 primaries.

Figure 1: Wall flyer

At 1pm that day, attendees received the rules of the event, intended to prevent any protests or dissenting voices.

Figure 2: Screen Capture of Email Sent to Town Hall 48 Ticket Holders

Upon arrival, I was greeted by eight Democratic candidates for District 48 competing for face time with local constituents. Each candidate had a small space at tables lined in front of the Aliso Niguel High School auditorium. There was a large sign that said “No Tickets Available. Sold Out.”

Figure 3: Outdoor Candidate Tables 1

Figure 4: Outdoor Candidate Tables 2

This was the only exposure candidates received at the town hall event, so if you are a CA District 48 voter I recommend reading up on each person.

Candidates:[8]

Democratic

Hans Keirstead[9]
Michael Kotick[10]
Laura Oatman[11]
Boyd Roberts[12]
Harley Rouda[12]
Omar Siddiqui[13]
Tony Zarkades[14]

Republican

Dana Rohrabacher — Incumbent
Stelian Onufrei[15]

Third Party/Other

Brandon Reiser[16]

Once inside, the crowd was shuffled down a specific path that passed more tables with flyers, pamphlets, and volunteers / staffers from organizations such as Indivisible, Planned Parenthood, and more.

Figure 5: Security Directing Pedestrian Traffic

The theme of the night was not only fear-mongering about Russia, but also the fact that District 48 Congressional Representative Dana Rohrabacher had not hosted an in-person town hall within his district. Indivisible 48 has been staging protests in front of his office to insist he hold an in-person town hall meeting rather than the telephone conference call meetings that nobody seems to know how to get invited to, myself included. But as you can imagine, Mr. Rohrabacher had no interest in attending a town hall organized by a hostile group that spends more time accusing him of treason for meeting with Russian lobbyists than it spends logically arguing his bad policy positions on ACA repeal, immigration, bank deregulation, and more.

This could’ve been a great forum to discuss the actual failings of President Trump and local Republicans such as the underreported money laundering of Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino Resort during 2015 that even his opponent, Hillary Clinton, failed to use to her advantage during the general election. Or to discuss Attorney General Jeff Sessions and neighboring District 49 Rep. Darrell Issa’s attendance at a Hate Group event at the Ritz Carlton in our District 48. Or to address the violent MAGA March that happened in Huntington Beach. Or maybe even the impulsive and dangerous behavior of an off duty police officer who fired his weapon into a group of middle schoolers in Anaheim, CA, and which is right next door to where police beat a homeless man to death.

Figure 6: Banner of Messages for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

We were encouraged to sign a poster that would be sent to Mr. Rohrabacher, complete individual postcards, and take pictures in front of a sign with Dana Rohrabacher masks. Somehow I don’t think the activists included any messages about how the Opioid epidemic is affecting District 48 or what the crackdown on immigration is doing to our communities. As well, Orange County has a long-standing history of racism that our elected leaders have done nothing to address.

District 48 runs from Seal Beach to the North down to Laguna Niguel to the South. It encompasses some of the most expensive beach front property in the country. Voters are predominately affluent, educated, and either upper middle class or obnoxiously wealthy. There are pockets of lower income communities scattered throughout the district due to city planners, but overwhelming the residents in this district are well-to-do. Republicans love to hold fundraisers in our district and court our money. To change the hearts and minds of this district requires a strong fiscal platform that shows exactly why and how policy positions will benefit their interests. For example, to sell Single Payer or Clean Energy in District 48, they need to see compelling savings, benefits, and value. These are not unemployed coal miners who were duped into voting for Trump. Some of his largest and most passionate donors live in this district.

Figure 7: Memory Photo Booth

The entire floor section of the auditorium was reserved for organizers, whilst constituents were seated on the far sides of the back bleachers. The middle of the bleachers was reserved for the press, though no local TV stations were present and I’ve only found two articles about the event online. Despite the “Sold Out” sign in the front of the building, the entire top section of the bleachers remained empty, save for a few stragglers looking for extra space. It was pretty hot inside, as though the air conditioning had only been turned on maybe an hour before the event began.

Everyone in my section was friendly, chatty, and neighborly. I was seated next to an older gentleman who asked the head organizer to please open the doors for air. She informed him that there was a security risk, so he asked why she couldn’t just place a couple of guards down there who could close the doors if anyone approached. She declined. He leaned over to me and asked if I would hold his seat because he was going to go down and open the door. I said, “Ok rebel, just don’t get kicked out.” The fellow was successful, and I don’t know how he pulled it off, but he also realigned the fan to draw in air from the outside.

Figure 8: Trump Supporter Attempting to Live Stream the Event

I had the misfortune, or maybe fortune depending on your perspective, of also being seated near a Trump supporting constituent from Mr. Lieu’s actual district, coastal Los Angeles County, as seen in the photo above. Though he was obnoxiously loud and irritating to the audience members in front of him, after I moved a couple of rows higher, I could barely hear him. But I was able to watch, observe, and enjoy the trolling. He spent much of the evening heckling and yelling “lying Ted.” Security was on this fellow like white on rice throughout the evening.

Rather than let the District 48 candidates speak at this event, there was a panel of experts who advertised their respective organizations and assisted Mr. Lieu with the question and answer portion of the evening.

The presentation started with introductions of these individuals before showing a high school production quality video skit of Indivisible 48 activists trying to locate Dana Rohrabacher in various locations throughout the district. Next, we played a trivia game of “Who Said It: Rep Dana Rohrabacher or Vladimir Putin.” The event was live streamed on Periscope, though the quality of the recording is fuzzy.

Once Mr. Lieu approached the podium, he received a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the activists in the room. He proceeded to give us what seemed very much like his own stump speech. Part one: his background, family life as a child of immigrants, experience. Part two: Russia, Russia, Russia. Part three: Have you seen the other guys? The speech was very heavy on Russiaphobia as well as voting Blue no matter what, once again proving that centrist Democrats underestimate the intelligence of voters.

Figure 9: Rep. Ted Lieu

He conflated several allegations together as one and told the audience to Google the “Intelligence Report” to understand how serious the accusations really are. As an aware citizen, I have been reading all of these reports throughout the last year and also suggest that everyone else read the reports directly. You can make a drinking game out of how many times qualifying words are used such as “we have high confidence.” Since Mr. Lieu didn’t see the need to share the actual names of the reports, here’s your summer reading list:

  1. Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee (the report all allegations are based on that was written by a private IT security firm contracted by the DNC. The FBI has never directly analyzed the DNC servers.)
  2. Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security
  3. JOINT ANALYSIS REPORT — GRIZZLY STEPPE — Russian Malicious Cyber Activity
  4. Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution
  5. Fusion GPS Christopher Steele Dossier of opposition research that has been pretty much fully debunked
  6. The Intercept’s Leaked NSA Memo

Despite having all Democratic candidates who are running for Congress in attendance, Rep. Ted Lieu and Indivisible 48 felt the best use of our time and attention was to only hear from him and his experts. Mr. Lieu has become a leading voice promoting the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He has gained internet fame by trolling President Trump on Twitter and spends an exorbitant amount of time tweeting about Trump and Russia.

This was a huge “missed opportunity.” It is more than just global or national issues that persuade District 48 voters to go to the polls, it is the local issues such as the controversial proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant that would have an adverse effect on the ecosystem, the nuclear waste sitting on the beach in our neighboring District 49 that if it experienced a meltdown would float up our coastline, the proposed toll road expansion that would split San Clemente in two, further destroy Trestles, and reduce property values, the extensive homeless population forced to live along the Santa Ana River, the flight patterns of John Wayne Airport that create noise and air pollution, and the rising ocean impact to our coastal communities to name a few. When we send a Representative to Congress, we expect that person to represent the interests of District 48.

We can’t expect a politician from Los Angeles to understand the concerns of coastal Orange County. However, we can expect him to speak to Statewide issues that impact us all such as Gov. Jerry Brown’s the proposed bullet train boondoggle and the environmentally controversial twin tunnels project, or the new gas tax or last year’s tobacco tax that has been diverted away from healthcare.

Figure 10: The Crowd Watches Rep. Ted Lieu Speak

Packing the room full of leftist activists will not change the Demographics of this district. We are a purple district and have voted Red for many decades. Rep. Rohrabacher has held his Congressional seat since the 80s. Our airport was named after John Wayne. Most constituents are either Republican, Independent, or related to those who are. Most of our work colleagues, friends, family, and neighbors also fit this category. Hillary Clinton barely squeaked out a win in Orange County and that’s simply because President Trump is a blustering fool, not because people predominately believe he colluded with Russia. And so, to use the Russia election interference narrative as the primary reason to unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in his own district is not only foolhardy, it’s downright irresponsible.

Since the VIP section was filled with volunteers, organizers, and activists; constituents had a rough time getting to the floor to ask questions during the Q&A portion of the evening. Orange vested security monitored the aisles entering the section and a table blocked the center where the lines formed. The older gentlemen who was seated near me during the speech, the rebel, snuck down and slipped through security to ask the first question. He asked why the DNC had not turned over its servers to the FBI for inspection. Mr. Lieu bragged of his computer science expertise and gave us a run-on answer of how the FBI only needed the data, not the servers themselves. If there are any computer scientists reading this article, I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section, especially in light of the fact that 90% of the DNC’s servers and services were migrated to the Cloud, according to the LinkedIn profile of the contract employee hired as IT Director for the DNC.

Figure 11: Yared Tamene Wolde-Yohannes, Vice President at The MIS Department, Inc. LinkedIn Profile

Notably, Crowdstrike (headquartered in our district in Laguna Niguel), the IT security firm that wrote the initial allegations of Russian hacking, also uses the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud to host its security platform. If everything is in the Cloud, save maybe some file and print servers, what sort of security software did Crowdstrike install on the DNC mail server? Does the DNC even have a mail server or is it in the Cloud?

But I digress.

There were a lot of thoughtful questions asked that were fielded by either Mr. Lieu or his panel of experts including, but not limited to, our growing tensions with North Korea, overwhelming support for single payer healthcare (that the Democratic Party has resisted implementing into the party platform), election integrity, and more. Cheers in support of Planned Parenthood rang through the auditorium from a group of people who are clearly unaware the organization has actively lobbied against the SB 562 Medicare for All bill. When asked about election integrity, Mr. Lieu immediately perceived the question to be regarding Russian election interference regardless of the fact our general election was not only deemed free and fair, but produced even more votes for Trump once an audit was conducted. There was no mention of the lack of polling places in Arizona or that mostly Republicans and Independents experienced registration problems and No Party Preference Californians were told to use provisional ballots when they could have selected a specific party ballot. And silence on the hotly contested California DNC Chair race and several calls for an independent audit of the votes.

There was also no mention of the superdelegates who declared for Hillary Clinton months before the first primary vote was cast or the DNC’s efforts to undermine the Sanders campaign. Also, no mention of the brewing scandal of fired Congressional staffer Irwan Aman who allegedly stole computer equipment from several Democrats, leaked sensitive documents to Pakistan, and remained employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz until the day he was arrested by the Capital Police on charges of bank fraud. Aman had Ms. Wasserman-Schultz passwords, a DropBox account, and full network access at the time the DNC was allegedly hacked. Mr. Aman’s brother was also employed by Rep. Ted Lieu. But I would no more expect Mr. Lieu to address this scandal than I would expect Mr. Rohrabacher to attend a town hall organized by Indivisible 48.

During the Q&A, I found the elderly rebel again who had relocated to the top of the bleachers above the press. I asked him how he got into the line, for which he said he slipped down into the section during the end of Mr. Lieu’s speech. We talked about various issues. He was pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood but very concerned with environmental issues and, quite frankly, speaking about subjects that were a bit over my head. Though I firmly disagree with his position on PP and abortion, I respected his wisdom and his personal conviction. This is what our community is. Thoughtful, intelligent people from all walks of life who believe passionately in their respective positions. And so, when the Democratic party leadership encourages us to demonize those who disagree with us, encourages us to ostracize our family, friends, and neighbors who voted their conscious, I know wholeheartedly that it is a losing strategy.

Figure 12: Facebook Event Page
https://www.facebook.com/events/428970674149302/

After speaking with the rebel again, I was inspired to get into the Q&A line myself. I slipped through the VIP section while security was preventing the MAGA guy from entering. He spent at least 10 minutes arguing with security about his suppressed free speech. And rightly so. While they spent all their time on him, several other people got in line as well. Though the event was advertised as being from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm, once Mr. MAGA was successful in entering one of the Q&A lines, at 8:27 pm, an organizer announced that we must all leave by 8:30 pm.

Perhaps I was less aware in the past and didn’t notice various political events in my community. I miss those days of passive apathy where my only real civic duty was to show up and vote. Long gone are those days. After the head spinning 2016 election, I realized that I must pay attention, I must be present, and I must share my own experience and knowledge.

Many other people appear to have had the same epiphany. Even now, there is still a wave of outrage across our country, but it comes in several forms. For example:

  1. Anger at the election of Donald Trump / loss of Hillary Clinton

2. Anger at the Democratic party for undermining the Sanders campaign

3. Anger from Trump voters who are constantly insulted on a personal level for their choice at the polls

There are so many outlets for our anger that one could reasonably occupy every weekend with a march, protest, or similar event. If you can’t make it in person, just about everything is on live stream going viral on social media. The trick, however, is to find a way to channel our anger into positive change.

This concept has escaped Democratic Party leadership, as well as a multitude of organizations hoping to make a difference in the 2018 elections. If, and more likely when, the Russia election interference narrative falls apart, Democrats will have nothing to fall back on. There is no substantive party platform. No message. Only innuendo, gossip, and assumptions. This is a losing strategy that will hurt everyone. In the meantime, Republicans are positioned to rewrite the Constitution and take away our ability to elect Senators. If this happens, we the people will blame both parties; all politicians involved. Never has there been a more dangerous time in our history as a country. Not only are we rebooting the Cold War with Russia on shaky intelligence, we are in a Cold Civil War politically and socially. We have to be smarter than this. We must rid the Democrats of out-of-touch politicians who are taking dark money and corporate donations. We must reform the party and take back Congress. No amount of Mean Girls tactics should prevent us from doing this. There will be a purity test and I sincerely hope they pass.

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