Newport Beach is deemed Orange County’s “biggest GOP stronghold” – so says the Orange County Register.
No surprise there – the city is a wealthy enclave, largely populated by successful businesspeople likely to froth at the idea of a tax increase. Newport Beach has a nearly 3-1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats.
Sometimes, though, I like to challenge such conventional wisdom by asking, Why would someone like that identify – and vote – with the hoi polloi, aka the Democrats?
Meet Steve Myers.
Myers fits the profile of your typical red-meat-eating Newport Beach capitalist. He lives in a bayview home in Irvine Terrace with his wife of six years, Vivian, a successful management consultant.
Newport Beach, however, is a long way, if not in mileage, from East Los Angeles, where Myers was born to a single, teen mother. Until he was 5, they lived with her immigrant father in a one-room apartment. After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, he earned a B.S. in mathematics from Stanford University. He married, raised four children, and built a successful business in the aerospace and defense industry. He earned his way into the top 1 percent of wealth. He voted twice for Ronald Reagan and in 1998 for George H.W. Bush.
In short, Myers was a reliably Republican voter – until he wasn’t.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Myers was deeply affected by Bill Clinton’s progressive political philosophy and his views on the relationship between people and government.
“I’ve spent most of my adult life working with the government,” he says. “Republicans want to make them the enemy, and they’re not. They are us! Most of the people I’ve worked with in the Department of Defense and many other government agencies are dedicated, hardworking public servants. I think Bill Clinton did a terrific job. It was a great period for America.”
Myers has voted Democratic ever since. But it was the 2008 presidential campaign that caused him to become personally engaged and officially change parties.
“The George W. Bush presidency was a disastrous ‘trifecta,’” he argues. “Tax cuts that weren’t needed, two wars that shouldn’t have happened, and an utter failure to oversee and regulate the financial services industry….When Sarah Palin arrived on the scene, I could no longer support a political party that viewed her as potential presidential material. But it was really more than that. I couldn’t support a party that wanted to double down on the same policies that got us into this mess. We needed change.”
Myers adds, “The policies that I’ve always advocated for this country, the values I’ve always believed in, are much better aligned with the Democratic Party.
“I’ve always been a social progressive and fiscal conservative. When people question me on an issue, I don’t have to twist myself up into a pretzel to give an answer or go to a website to find out what the correct response is. Invariably the president’s policies and my values are aligned. …
“Gender, racial and religious equality are our national policy. It isn’t freedom if any individual or group can decide what freedom means for others. It’s the Constitution that decides what freedom is, not fringe groups. I think most people share the same values. There is no chance of a change in these national policies.
“The argument is really about how best to move the country forward. It’s all about taxes and spending policy. The president is all about the middle class. That’s where the entrepreneurs, the real job creators, come from. That’s what drives consumer spending. If we take care of them first, then the nation can eventually recover.”
Myers has great passion for public service and frequently travels to Washington DC to serve on both the U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on Cyber Resources. He’s also on the National Finance Committee for the president’s reelection campaign and a major fundraiser for the president in Orange County.
He was successful in persuading the Democratic National Committee to stop treating the county as a flyover zone. Consequently, over the last year, President Obama, DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and others have appeared in the OC.
Myers has much to say about our political gridlock.
“We’re going to be in precarious economic straits for the next several years. We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and there are no quick fixes for getting us out of it. Our nation has too much debt. We desperately need a bipartisan approach to planning for the next decade that resolves the issues around less spending and more taxes. It’s about math, not political philosophy.
“The Norquist [anti-tax] pledge is particularly inappropriate. For some members of Congress to sign a pledge advocated by a lobbyist I think violates their constitutional oath. Their duty to the country and their constituents is being trumped by their commitment to a lobbyist. That’s wrong on so many levels. Worse, he’s holding them hostage over it.”
Myers concludes, “As long as people keep voting for candidates who are committed to obstructing progress – or allow the ultra-wealthy, like the Koch brothers, to manipulate the political system to preserve their own interests – we’ll stay in this mess. We can only resolve our nation’s issues when our political leaders can compromise. Compromise, after all, is what allowed our nation to prosper in the first place.”
Steve Myers may be in the political minority in Newport Beach but he’s willing to look beyond his own well-padded wallet to advocate and vote for what he believes is best for the country.
I commend that.