Congressman Darell Issa, representing California’s 49th District, has announced his retirement. He posted the news on his Congressional site. I am sure it was the privilege of a lifetime. Yet, the national press is reading this as another sign of a Democratic wave. One is coming, but Issa’s retirement has little to do with that, at least in my estimation.
Why am I saying this? In 2016 Issa faced a very close election. Colonel Doug Applegate gave him more than a run for his money. He almost unseated him. I remember standing at the San Diego Registrar of voters watching the returns come back. What saved his bacon was the Orange County side of the line, which has remained somewhat more rural and Republican.
Since the election of Donald Trump, Issa has been under extreme pressure. Demonstrations are a weekly occurrence outside his Vista, CA office. His constituents held a town hall meeting on the issue of healthcare, led by Reverend Beth Johnson. That was in February of last year. The congressman avoided the whole mess. There were thousands that came. In the middle of it, the organizers had those with seats leave the hall, to let those outside in. It was the kind of political theater you rarely see. It was something to behold, and there was a promise from Orange County residents to come out and vote him out.
Those in attendance told stories about their healthcare, and how the Affordable Care Act was a life saver. They also adressed the failed high risk pools California used. They followed the #resist handbook, and had agree or disagree signs.
His retirement has a lot less to do with the coming Democratic wave and a lot more with local politics.
When Issa’s voters elected him, his district was more rural and conservative. Over the course of the last 20 years this district has become urbanized. Vista is no longer a rural community in North County San Diego. Oceanside remains a military town, but is far less conservative. The orange wall is also falling on the other side of the county line. His is the kind of suburban district that is in the midst of a revolt against Trumpism. It is also a far more liberal district than it once was.
This points to a changing demographics, and the concerns of suburban crowds. Issa knows that Applegate could unseat him. There is a resistance to Trumpism in districts like his. But there is a resistance to the radical politics that Issa represents. He has been there for decades. This is not new. So to read this narrowly as part of a coming wave is a mistake. Tip O’Neil once quipped that all politics is local. This is about local politics.