S1: If you want to know about Orange County, California, there is basically one guy that you call Gustavo Arellano.
S2: I’m like the three eyed raven of Orange County. I could tell you everything that’s ever happened in Orange County. Everything that’s happening right now and everything that’s going to come to Orange County.
S1: Gustavo writes for the L.A. Times. He used to edit The O.C. Weekly. He was born and raised here. So when I started to see these videos of protesters in The O.C., people demanding access to beaches that the governor has shut down to stop the spread of Kovik, 19. Gustavo. He was the guy I wanted to talk to.
S2: There’s a lot of frustration here in Huntington Beach. People feel the governor is overreaching.
S1: Well, these protests seemed fundamentally different than the ones I’d seen elsewhere. People were fighting for their right to surf. I’m going to come here anyway.
S2: What are they going to do until they stop me physically? Yeah. I will go. I on Twitter, I was having a conversation with the followers who was arguing that the L.A. Times, a paper that I worked for, that we shouldn’t have been covering these protests, that we’re just amplifying their message. And my response to them is, if you’re not paying attention to what’s happening, especially here in Orange County, you know, you’re going to regret it. Let’s put it that way.
S1: Gustavo knows it’s tempting to write off people who write their protest slogans on surfboards, but he also understands the way some of these folks are feeling cooped up, trapped, worried about their financial future.
S2: Yeah, look, no one is happy about these stay at home audiences. I’m not happy about them. My wife, she runs a restaurant. Her business, of course, has been eviscerated. At least it’s still open. But I have to work shifts now. I literally wash dishes and I’m the cashier because on top of my reporting duties for the L.A. Times, because she can’t afford to pay her staff right now. So no one is happy with these things.
S1: And Gustavo says when these fights about opening up the country reach Orange County, they’re different, not because of what they look like, not because they’re about beaches, but because they have this momentum.
S2: Orange County, I’ve always argued as a bellwether for what’s going on in the United States, period. I mean, we gave the nation Reagan. We gave the nation Nixon, of course, who was born in Yorba Linda, north east Orange County. I would argue we also helped pave the way for Trump, especially when it came to the issue of illegal immigration. So if you see this anger in Orange County, it’s going to come to your place as well.
S3: Today on the show by what’s happening in Orange County shows that the fight over the politics of opening up America, it’s more complicated than you think. I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next? Stick with us.
S1: The reason Gustavo sees Orange County as this bellwether for the rest of the country is that it contains conflicting political forces all bound up tightly together. For years, Orange County was known as a Republican stronghold. In some ways, it maintains a strong Republican flavor. But during the 2010 midterms, the county flipped blue, making national headlines. So here, Democrats are ascendant, but they’re still finding their way. And then when the coronavirus hit these liberal and conservative politicians, they all had to work together. Okay. I want to go back to April just to sort of explain how fraught the decision to close the beaches in Orange County was. Because I went back and I watched this meeting of the Board of Supervisors in Orange County. Yeah. And one of these guys, she says to the group, listen, a heat wave is coming. We know that the beaches are going to be slammed and we know that the beaches all around us are going to be shut down. So people are going to come from other places here. That’s a bad idea. We just we need to shut them down. What do you think happened?
S2: They weren’t shut down, of course. Yeah. You’re you’re referring to you’re referring to Lisa Bartlett. Lisa Bartlett is one of IV. She’s Borse South Orange County. So she represents some of these cities like Laguna Beach. Dana, Dana Point, she’s a Republican, in fact, that four fifths of the border there’s five supervisors in Orange County. One of them’s a Democrat, a basically a moderate that others are maybe not Trumpy and Republicans will. One or two of them are. But Lisa Bartlett’s more moderate people, even Democrats in Orange County, they respect her, especially for her issues on trying to deal with the homelessness, which is another huge topic in Orange County. So she got it. But although the way she put it also, you could tell a little bit of the provincialism in Orange County because the beaches in L.A. County and San Diego County were going to be closed. So what she’s saying is we’re going to have the rest of the world coming into Orange County. We’ve got to keep those people out. We got to just leave it for locals. And, of course, she was overruled. Russ’s Board of Supervisors, like now let us have the whole world come if they want.
S1: Well, it’s funny because, like, her motion didn’t even get a second. Like no one no one would consider it. All the other supervisors just were like, yeah. Now, we’re not going to do that.
S2: No. I mean, because they’ve been chafing. This is the thing with Orange County, although now nationally people say, oh, yeah, it’s blue. Orange County’s blue. No, no, no. So 75 percent of elected positions in Orange County are still Republicans.
S1: It’s interesting listening to you, because I’m thinking of like a tree where what you’re saying is like the Republican Party in Orange County has these deep roots. And in the midterm elections, the Democrats were may be able to, like, chop some of the branches off of the tree, but there’s still roots there. It can still grow back.
S2: Oh, that that you know, you use botany. I use animals. I use that the Republican Party is just like an angry dog, rabid dog that’s ready to bite back and like a snarling ready to go after these democratic pups.
S1: It’s you’re saying it’s like a delicate and people made something out of Orange County flipping blue. But this is actually a pretty delicate flip.
S2: Yes. Because you don’t have the Democrats don’t have those roots. Like historically, the only city that Orange that the Democratic Party in Orange County ever dominated was a city of Santtana, which is one, you know, one of the most Latino cities in the United States. But other than that, like that, the school boards, the waterboards, the city councils, they’re all still mostly majority, like super majority Republican across Orange County.
S1: OK, back to the beaches. So Orange County decided they weren’t going to close their beaches. But then the governor stepped in. Why did he feel the need to do that?
S2: This is actually the second time he’s done this. And it’s all Orange County’s Fonso twice. Everyone got serious in California, March 16th. That’s when Newsom said, OK, here’s what we’re gonna do, our city, whatnot. So what do people do that weekend? They all flock to the beach. I remember turning on locally here, the NBC affiliate. Huntington Beach, packed with people. Absolutely packed with people. This is in March. Yeah. This March. Yeah. It was like the weekend on March 21st. Newsom saw that. Gar said he saw that Newsom’s like, nope, we’re going to start shutting down the parking lots for state beaches. And that’s exactly what happened to like sort of tell people to stay away. Then, though, California went through about a month of gloomy weather, so was raining like was uncivil, unseasonably large rain amount for this time of year in California. So people mostly stayed home.
S1: There was no problem. The problem, Gustavo says, started two weekends ago. That’s when the weather began to clear up. And once again, people started going back to the beach. Maybe you saw some of the images on Twitter.
S2: Newsom sees these photos again. Of course, he gets angry, is like, no, I am going to shut down the beaches. At first, he he wanted to shut down all the beaches in California. But then he decided to just shut down Orange County. And that’s where the real anger came out even less. So you think it was kind of petty of him? Oh, petty punitive. At the end, it was punitive. Some like he got so angry because, remember, this was a second time this happened in Orange County. The first time was in mid-March, in the March 16th weekend or rather March 21st weekend, where he saw these people in Orange County flocking to the beach. Now, you have a second time. It’s how you say it in Spanish, say Reagan yandell in English, you would say school. That’s what it is. Newsom came off as a school that no one wants to be seen as a scold. You want to be seen as authoritative, coming off as a scold. It’s just like, dude, what’s your issue, man? Like in Stardust? As artists start to slip in to coast whole Orange County lingo. But literally, that’s what I when that happened, I’m like, oh man, you do not know what you just did.
S1: Newsom does Newsom have beef with the O.C.? Like, is it personal beef?
S2: Yes. Oh my God. It is civil war between Sacramento and Orange County. So when Newsome decided to shut down the beaches, the city of Huntington Beach and the city of Dana Point sued the state of California. Ever since then, now the city of Newport Beach is trying to sue the state and federal court. But this was at state court when it came to Noosa. So there is amnesty. There is just absolute loathing for new some from the more conservative elements of Califf, of Orange County. In fact, that’s what they’re calling him now in the Republican Party here in Orange County, King Gavin King Newsom.
S1: I heard another name for him, which is someone like rented a small plane and flew out over the beach and they were calling him Gruesome Newsa.
S2: OK, that’s funny. That is funny. But yeah, I mean, they’re overreacting. Is it tyranny? No. Is it punitive? Absolutely. There has to be that middle ground. I mean, really, Lisa Bartlet seems to be that middle ground of saying, hey, what you’re doing to us is wrong. But there has to be another way. Let let’s have a conversation about it. But of course, then that’s why you started seeing like you saw what was the estimate in the Huntington Beach protests like 2000, 3000 people. And again, not all of them were locals, but the locals, of course, supported it. But then that becomes that flashpoint for the people who are tired of these stay at home ordinance or edicts by Newsome and other people across Southern California. Of course, they’re going to flock there.
S1: I mean, I was reading some protesters who talked to the media and said that these gatherings at the beaches, they reminded them of the early days of the Tea Party movement. Does that make a kind of sense to you?
S2: It’s the only thing I would say is that there doesn’t seem to be, at least yet. There doesn’t seem to be like a movement going forward from this. Like you. Like there was barely any protest. There hasn’t been many protest this week. Like if it really was a movement, people would be protesting more and more and more. The anger is definitely there, though, and this is where it’s in this where it really gets interesting in Orange County because the Republican Party in Orange County this year, they’re going to have to play catch up like they DFL. Like I said, they’re like a wounded dog in a corner or a wolf in a corner and they’re ready to lash out. But they really had no, they’re there just yet. The Democrats say they are now outnumbering Republicans, at least in the official voter registration drives. They had a trump, of course, who knows what’s going to happen nationally, but locally, you know, Trump was not very popular. Again, he lost in 2016. But with this issue, Governor Newsome shutting down the Orange County beaches and only the Orange County beaches. Now the Republican Party is. Vitalize in a way I have not seen it in, like, jeez, in years, not like not even 2016 or 2018. And so they’re going to try to ride this issue all the way to Election Day.
S1: A governor like Newsome is doing this balancing act. He can see that if he doesn’t start opening the state back up again, especially those beaches, his political opponents will have a pretty potent weapon to use against him. But if he does open the beaches and people get sick, he could get the blame for that, too, which may be why. Earlier this week, Governor Newsome announced baby steps towards opening those beaches back up again.
S2: He is feeling the pressure. It is because you see this like the cases aren’t going down. The Trump administration just said, hey, remember when we said 46000 people were going to die? Well, now we think it’s partly going to be hundred thousand. So this coronavirus is not going anywhere. But you also cannot keep people at home without. You just can’t keep them at home pierde. You. I mean, you could give them a universal basic income. But people want to go out. He will want to go back to how it was, even though it’s not going to so new. Some, I think, is just saying, okay, that that’s why he’s doing his daggered rollout where this first phase. Now it’s going to be the second phase. Now, like you have bookstores and clothing boutiques and most businesses basically you can open, but you can only have curbside service, which is kind of weird. I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but people are not going to take it even in Orange County. So in San Clemente this past weekend, you had a restaurant that just opened. They said, OK, yeah, we’re going to do social distancing. Yeah. No, we’re not going to. And so local news, they’ve been like showing patios packed, insides packed. The county health officials, they’ve gone down there to check and see and tell them like, hey, you’re not supposed to do this, but they’re not really trying to enforce anything. All knew some Beav and more punitive because of that. We’ll see. But again, no one envies Newsome right now, let’s put it that way.
S1: Yeah, I mean, listening to you talk, it feels like it’s a dam. It just is about to break. You know, I mean, there’ve been reports of counties like Murdoch County, which is a rural county that’s basically just said we’re not going to be doing this anymore. We’re not going to be doing this stay at home order anymore. And I read one piece of analysis that said, listen, the bigger threat isn’t these protesters. It’s politicians basically pushing back on Newsome and saying we’re not going to implement what you’re telling us to do at they.
S2: That’s a long game, of course, with politicians. Yeah. Modoc County all the way all the way up in Northern California. Very rural. Hasn’t had a single case. And the Newseum is hearing this, though, because if he really was a king, he would say no. Everyone goes on my schedule. So he’s as what he’s saying and what people are mocking him for is like, I’m listening to the data. I’m seeing the data. So he’s acknowledging, OK, rural counties you could be on or other places that have a certain pollet of our plan to get out of this. You have more leeway than, say, Los Angeles or San Francisco or Santa Clara County where San Jose is. Go for it. But you’re also damned if you do and your damned if you don’t. If you see more fatalities come out of this and you see that huge like a second wave happen. Will people blame Newsome and tell them, hey, you opened up too early or will they go after Trump? It remains to be seen. It’s going to be interesting.
S1: Gustavo Arellano, thank you so much for joining me. Gracias for having me. Gustavo Arellano writes for The L.A. Times. He also wrote the book on Orange County. It’s called Orange County. And that’s the show before you sign off. I’ve got a little request for you. We’re working on a show about the post covered economy and we need your stories. I want to know if you have applied for the paycheck protection program and what your experience with it was like. I want to know if you or someone you love has been laid off. I want to know if you’re currently trying to decide how you return to your job and whether you feel like you have to keep staying home. So tell me how you’re making financial decisions in this time of uncertainty. Give me a call. Share your story. You can reach us at two zero two eight eight eight two five eight eight. What next is produced by Mary Wilson, Jason de Leon and Daniel Hewitt. And I’m Mary Harris. I’ll catch you back here tomorrow.