I live in California’s 48th Congressional district, a traditional Republican stronghold that, two years ago, turned blue when a businessman/political novice named Harley Rouda shocked Dana Rohrabacher, the longtime incumbent.
In his time in office, Rouda has been—in my opinion—terrific. Is he a Jim Jordan type, barking for attention from the nearest TV camera? No. Is he the Katie Porter type, itching for fights with corporate scumbags? Not really. Is he Matt Gaetz, ambitious to the point of ugly obnoxiousness? Certainly not.
In sports terms (since I’m a sports writer by trade), Rouda is, oh, Frank Gore. Solid. Steady. Beneath the radar, but productive as fuck. You’re eating your burger, sipping your Pepsi—then you look up and the guy has 150 yards and two touchdowns.
In his two years, Rouda has been the primary sponsor of two bills that passed—the ONDCP Technical Corrections Act of 2019 and the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (To be clear, two passed bills in two years is a huge accomplishment for any member of Congress). He sits on multiple committees, and is a chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Subcommittee on Environment. In short, the guy rolls his sleeves up and works. He’s not insanely liberal. He’s certainly not overly conservative. Rouda is a moderate Democrat who gets stuff done.
Oh—one more point: Harley Rouda is good people. Hell, the Roudas are good people. Over the years I’ve developed a nice friendship with Harley’s wife Kaira, a fellow writer who appeared on my podcast way back when. And they’re truly decent, and kind, and empathetic, and righteous. They’re honest and upfront and real. Harley and Kaira actually remind me a lot of Noam and Catie Bramson, the mayor and first lady (if that’s the right terminology for such a thing) of New Rochelle, N.Y., my old hometown. Folks you’d want as your neighbors. Folks who give a shit.
Which leads me to Harley’s opponent—Michelle Steel.
Now, I want to start by saying something important, especially in these hyper-partisan times: I have no personal beef with Michelle Steel. I mean it. I have no reason to think she isn’t an attentive mother, a loving spouse, someone who believes in what she’s doing as chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. I disagree with approximately 99 percent of her positions, but that doesn’t make someone a sinister person.
That said …
As I have written about, oh, 10,000 times, not all that long ago Michelle Steel stood before a Tea Party group and bragged—literally bragged—about pulling her daughter from college because she expressed empathy for the idea of gay marriage. Here’s the clip. It’s one of the purely meanest things I’ve ever heard a public figure boast—my kid decided a man should be able to marry another man, so I yanked her from school. And I just … I dunno. Maybe character isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. As is kindness. And compassion.
So … can one have character, and be kind, and compassionate—and be so disgusted by gays that you’d take such an action?
Later, in that same speech (which the Steel campaign quickly yanked off of YouTube), Michelle Steel said, in her opinion, there were only two political parties: Republicans and communists. Meaning, if you identify as Democrat, you’re actually a communist. Again, here’s the link. Which leads to the question: How would Michelle Steel, congresswoman, work with Democratic peers if she considers them all to be communists?
Along those lines, Michelle Steel is, well, sketchy. She refused to debate Rouda—which is amateur hour nonsense. She once left an OC Board of Supervisors meeting (with constituents waiting to address her) so she could greet Donald Trump at John Wayne Airport. She was a COVID skeptic for the longest time, and has uttered some absolutely inane statements about the outbreak (two words: species discrimination). Her chief medical adviser is Dr. Jeff Barke, whose insanity is worth Googling. Her husband is Shawn Steel, a truly grotesque, serpentine, Mitch McConnell-esque man who dwells in the devil’s basement of the GOP political machine and has been linked to efforts to influence the Trump administration on behalf of China.
Again, I have no personal beef with Michelle Steel. But throughout this campaign she has repeatedly lied, exaggerated, attacked, avoided. She has referred to Rouda as a “con man” in myriad Tweets and press releases, while refusing to acknowledge that—especially in relation to OC’s COVID response—she’s the one running the con.
Lastly, she refuses to criticize Donald Trump—for anything. She speaks up about being a safeguard of anti-Asian stereotyping, but utters nary a peep when the president calls COVID “Kung-Flu.” She talks a good game about women and progress, but the “grab ’em by the pussies” line failed to stop Steel from leading the Pledge at a Trump rally.
This is not a hard one.
Michelle Steel is not worthy of serving in congress.
Harley Rouda is the real deal.