Jerry Brown’s Double Bind in Running for Governor


We’ve been through this movie before: candidate with superior experience runs for high office arguing that he or she has what it takes to manage the government from day one.

This was Hillary Clinton’s strategic mistake. While Barack Obama was campaigning as the candidate of change, Clinton kept saying she had the experience. But Clinton’s message made the very case that Obama wanted voters to take away: She represented the past, the status quo, while he represented the future.

This is Jerry Brown’s challenge, too. He was always ahead of the curve. They called him “Gov. Moonbeam” because he proposed that California should have its own communications satellite — not so far out in hindsight, was it?

But he was ahead of the curve when huge numbers of today’s voters weren’t yet born. The more he emphasizes his experience, the more he looks and sounds like a flash from the past.

Or as Garry South, Gavin Newsom’s consultant, puts it indelicately: “The more he babbles on about how cutting edge he was in the ’70s, the more he makes himself a relic.”

We’re not sure anyone can make Brown look old school. He’s the most adaptive, chamelon-like changeling California has ever witnessed. Paddle on the left, paddle on the right. Oppose Prop. 13, support it with all your heart. Oppose Prop. 8, vow to enforce it, argue against it in the Supreme Court.

But he’s in a political double bind and arguing about all the wonderful things he did three decades ago won’t make him the next big thing.

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar Buddyg says:

    But now’s the chance to finally unravel Prop 13. CA’s budget has never been messier and more in need of a fundamental fix. Talk about political poetic justice!

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    What Jerry Brown was promoting in the 70s is more critical than ever — solar power, renewable energy (remember California as cutting edge on solar tax credits!). Public Education – kids actually learned, and teachers had freedom to teach to something other than a test score. Jerry told folks directly what they needed to hear, not what the latest poll said.

    California can be cutting edge. Again. Run Jerry Run… Please

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