Dude, where's my Orange County?

I've basically lived in every corner or Southern California not within the 789 square miles that constitute Orange County. (Though for a time in college I had developed enough of a social web around Newport Beach that my roommates joked that I had attended Newport Harbor High School with them.) But even I find this New York Times headline to be a bit off:

"Orange County Is No Longer Nixon Country"

Technically, I don't think any part of this country, whether royal blue or blood red, has been Nixon country in, well, a long time -- long before The OC's iconic orange groves went the way of the buffalo.

Indeed, that headline hints at a major deficiency in this story. The article was written by the new head of the NYT's SoCal operation. And no offense to Adam Nagourney -- the NYT's former chief political correspondent is an ace reporter -- but this is a classic I-just-got-here-from-NY-and-now-I'm-LA-bureau-chief piece. (Nagourney's first dispatch from Los Angeles was about -- wait for it -- traffic.)

An excerpt from this one:

But this iconic county of 3.1 million people passed something of a milestone in June. The percentage of registered Republican voters dropped to 43 percent, the lowest level in 70 years.

It was the latest sign of the demographic, ethnic and political changes that are transforming the county and challenging long-held views of a region whose colorful -- its detractors might suggest zany -- reputation extends well beyond the borders of this state.

At the end of 2009, nearly 45 percent of the county's residents spoke a language other than English at home, according to county officials. Whites now make up only 45 percent of the population; this county is teeming with Hispanics, as well as Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese families. Its percentage of foreign-born residents jumped to 30 percent in 2008 from 6 percent in 1970, and visits to some of its corners can feel like a trip to a foreign land.

The story goes on and on -- really, the repetitiveness was a bit surprising -- with mostly good examples of the demographic shifts that have changed Orange County.

Ethnic diversity. Cultural diversity. Political diversity.

Religious diversity?

Uh ... that's actually missing. Only the Crystal Cathedral gets a mention, in the same breath as other "world-famous attractions" like Disneyland.

What an omission. Christianity, no doubt, has a lot more flavors since the influx of Vietnamese immigrants in the 1970s and the continually growing Latino population. And OC has a healthy Jewish community that may or may not have been there a generation ago. (I really don't know.) But related to the Jewish community has been the blooming Muslim community of Orange County. The two groups have clashed repeatedly over the past decade at Orange County's premiere university: University of California, Irvine.

Maybe most glaring of all: Not a single reference to "Gleaming the Cube."

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