Confessions of a Millennial Hipster Republican
Confessions of a Millennial Hipster Republican
A Look Back on my First Five Years in Orange County Politics
By: Brian Harrington
I moved to California in 2010 to attend Azusa Pacific University after growing up in Colorado and Washington State. My parents have been married 33 years, are still together, and I have three younger siblings. I was the student body president of my high school and topped out at controller in my college student government program so that I could graduate a semester early. The only student government race I ever lost was in fifth grade to a kid named Ben and I'll never forget it.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I leave my job at a bank to work for Robert Ming for Orange County supervisor. I commuted down the 57 in my college kid beater car from Glendora to Laguna Niguel every day for months. Ming was the conservative choice and also a graduate of APU. It was my first time attending OCGOP central committee meetings and going to fancy events at big nice homes like I had never been in before.
On a Saturday morning late in the race, I'm precinct walking and end up talking to a middle-aged guy washing his Mercedes in his driveway in Mission Viejo. I give him the pitch and he looks at me and tells me I don't look like a Republican. He was right; I started growing my beard the day I left the bank. And even now I rotate between the same two pairs of jeans and don't wear socks with my Sperry’s.
I got a picture with the California Republican nominee for governor Neel Kashkari at Flag Day Dinner that year, the annual OCGOP summer time bash. At the time I remember thinking, "Man, this guy Tim Donnelly is playing into all the Republican stereotypes, why can't we just unite behind this sensible guy and win"!
I look back on that and laugh now. That's how it happens. It's moments like that where kids who get into politics for the principles start to slip into the never-ending battle for cocktail party reputation points. I didn't know it at the time because I was new and liked the small feelings of importance. It felt like the same high you get from winning student government races.
2016 comes and the first quarter of the year I spend working on my first pro-development ballot initiative in Dana Point. Right around the early days of Summer I get a call from the California director for the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. They need a Southern California Field Director and the qualifications requirements are: you're not an idiot, you have a car, you can start immediately, and you won't say no because we already asked everyone else.
So I took the job.
See back then, it wasn't cool to be on the Trump campaign yet. Everyone had already signed on to the bigger and supposedly more serious candidates. And anyone who was still working on the legislative side didn't want to take that big of a risk jumping to an outsider campaign like that.
Throughout 2016 I learned exactly what appealed to all the Tim Donnelly folks. I learned that the reason why the Democrat party's criticism of the Republican Party that they only care about rich people hurt so badly. Because it's partially true. I learned the reasons why I always had this weird feeling that guys like Mitt Romney and John McCain aren’t really that interesting and don't have the guts to fight about what I care about.
I'm proud to say I have a framed check written to me from that world changing campaign. I'm proud to say that my first trip to Washington D.C. ever was for the inauguration of 45. I'm proud to say I got my first column ever written about me in The Blaze that year for my trip sleeping on a friend's couch and watching from the cheap seats with all the deplorables.
It's 2018 and things are chugging along under the new boss in Washington and everyone is still trying to see where solid ground is it feels like. Royce and Issa retire, which is completely weird to me. Is it not fun to be a congressman anymore? Is the work too hard now that GOP voters see what real progress looks like under Trump?
I had a blast with team Rohrabacher as they battled through a tough primary coming out the other end successful.
My takeaway from that result on June 5th is the same as when I started. It was a poorly timed and naked power grab attempt by Baugh. To the voters I think he's just a generic suit seeking power.
The more we have guys like Rohrabacher instead of guys like Baugh, the better off the Republican party in Orange County and ultimately in California and the country will be.
The future I think really is in individually branded candidates who know how to market themselves apart from the party structure.
Rohrabacher votes for freedom. It's a really simple message. Trump pushes America First. That's a really simple message.
Anyone who is trying to make it more complicated than that is going to get tuned out as being boring.
I've asked a lot of consultants for advice on what my next career steps should be. I haven't really liked any of the answers so far. Most tell me I'll eventually have to pick between movies or politics.
Maybe it's youthful arrogance, but I don't buy that.
Here are the big questions I still have:
Can you make a living always working for the biggest middle finger you can find to D.C. and Sacramento? Can you make a living always working for the outsider?
Hopefully I'll know in my next five years in Orange County politics.
Brian Harrington is an actor, film producer, and political consultant. He's either on set in LA, at a meeting in OC, at home in Oceanside with his wife and cat, or on the Metrolink somewhere in between.