Brown started his speech by telling the crowd that he didn’t know what he was going to talk about, so when he arrived (late) for the speech, he asked San Francisco Democratic Party chair Aaron Peskin what he should say, and Peskin told him to talk about how there were more salmon in the streams and better overall environmental health back when Brown was governor in the ‘70s.
But rather than taking that advice and giving a forceful call to strength environmental regulation or conjure up California’s better days, Brown meandered around and mused on that and other topics, feeding fears that the 71-year-old candidate might come off as a nostalgic, slightly senile former-Governor Moonbeam rather than an effective agent of needed change.
“During that period when I was governor, I’m not going to call it the golden age because some people think I’m in the golden age, so I don’t want to get people confused. That’s why I don’t want to talk about way back then, because there are a number of people I can see weren’t even born then, so it gets a little embarrassing and I like to pretend it was just yesterday. But in that period, California created almost twice as many jobs as the nation did. We created jobs at about 24 percent over eight years and the nation grew jobs at 13 percent, so almost twice as much. And then Deukmejian did pretty good, he had about the same, maybe half a percent more,” Brown rambled, ticking off statistics, hedging his point by noting how little governors can really do to create jobs, before working up to a decent line that was flatly delivered: “It was a time when the environment got its biggest boost, as far as public policy.”
Nobody applauded, so he continued. “I was thinking tonight, I was trying to figure out that if I did announce, what the hell would I say? And so I decided to go back and read my first announcement, January 24, 1974. I was 35 then, it was another time, I’m now a little older than that. But I talked about clean air, I talked about the energy crisis and getting new sources of energy. I talked about statewide land use planning” – that last item drawing some applause – “and I talked about jobs. And I was thinking, wow, we still got a jobs problem, we got an energy problem, we have a land use problem that feeds into the energy problem, and while the air is cleaner in many respects, it’s not clean enough, or it isn’t healthy enough.”
My message of hope reaches to the core of the California dream: a vibrant economy for cities and communities all across the state. Every city has been hurting under California’s budget crisis, and that is why I will provide relief for the financially-strapped homeowner, jobs for the unemployed skilled worker, and aid for public education.
My comprehensive economic plan provides answers that directly translates into a reasonably immediate budget surplus, aid for schools and community emergency services like firefighters and police, monies to fix crumbling infrastructure and transportation, careful planning to promote sensible economic development while conserving water needs, as well as reduction of pollution, the homeless, and gang related crime that is even pushing out into smaller communities. These measures will help to make the downward trend more shallow, to keep the economy from “crashing” (See Economics 101). So, I am ’Rushing’ to the aid of Californians with my plan for the Economy, Environment, and Education. I have affectionately called this plan the “Big-E.”
Seven months ago, California had four Democrats running for Governor. Now, we only have one – who has yet to formally declare. John Garamendi’s ego dropped out to run for Congress in the wrong district (which he won anyway), Antonio Villaraigosa stepped out to focus on his day job as Mayor of Los Angeles, and Gavin Newsom appears to have withdrawn from both the Governor’s race and his day job. Unless someone jumps in (or back into) the race, June 2010 will be the coronation of Jerry Brown – a 72-year-old ex-Governor who quit the Democratic Party 11 years ago, and whose record after quietly re-joining has been a nightmare for progressives. Faced with only Republican opponents next year, Brown is moving further to the right – and will be pressured to do so down the road. Even though the Golden State, where the G.O.P. is in deep trouble, deserves a lot better than that.
As Beyond Chron has written on a number of occasions this year, California has led the progressive charge on the national level – but our state is in dire need of that kind of energy to fix Sacramento. And yet, progressives have failed to recruit a candidate of their own to be California’s next Barack Obama – leaving Jerry Brown as the only viable Democratic candidate to lead the largest state in the union.
Now, with no other Democratic alternative for Governor, progressives are left with two choices: (a) recruit a candidate to face nearly insurmountable odds to defeat Brown, or (b) organize on issues to the point that Jerry somehow feels compelled to respond. The former isn’t likely to happen, because the only Democrats with the stature to run a viable campaign are in Congress – and who would want to risk a safe seat when your party is in power in Washington? The latter is practically our only choice, and it remains to be seen how much Brown will bend in to public pressure. If 2010 is a wake-up call to California progressives that we need to focus more on state issues, it may be a good thing long-term.