Jerry Brown’s recent reliance on religious rhetoric in trying to win Republican support for his tax plan may reflect a belief that his only hope for political salvation lies in the power of prayer.
Or maybe it just means he’s suffering delusions of grandeur.
Some media heretics claim that Brown’s drawing of a comparison between the few Republicans willing to negotiate with him and the Jewish elder Nicodemus means the governor is casting himself in the role of Jesus.
But the Calbuzz College of Cardinals and Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, which has analyzed Brown’s canonical pronouncements more fully than any other news organization, just issued a new encyclical, decreeing that the Jesuit-trained governor’s spouting of sacerdotal language suggests instead that he considers himself the Pope, a point he seemed to make in a recent appearance before legislators:
While expressing disappointment at Republicans who have signed anti-tax pledges, he quipped that as a young seminary student he made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that were later withdrawn.
“It took the Pope to do that, but I want you to know we can set up a process where we can dispense people from pledges,” he said to laughter.
“Any Republican that wants a dispensation, they should come down to my office.”
With compromise-minded GOP senators declaring this week that they are at “impasse” with Brown, we recommend he look closely at the political records of five of the 266 popes in Roman Catholic Church history for some key dos and don’ts about what he should do next:
St. Peter (32-67 AD) - The first pope, and the rock upon which his church was built, Peter found perhaps his greatest success during the years he traveled on populist missionary tours throughout the Mideast and Asia Minor – Antioch, Caesarea, Galatia, Joppe, Lydda, Pontus, et al. – before ending up in Rome.
It’s a good model for Brown, particularly if Republicans remain stubborn, and he should hit the road – Anaheim, Chowchilla, Grass Valley, Jackson, Larkspur, Pomona, etc. – on behalf of his budget plan, before heading back to Sacramento.
A word of caution: Historians tell us Peter met his earthly fate by being crucified upside down by whack job Emperor Nero; Brown is well advised to avoid being in the same room as Grover Norquist.
Pope Leo I (440-461) - Leo the Great is known for sustaining and expanding the unity of his church at a time when that wasn’t an easy thing to do; among other accomplishments, he persuaded Attila the Hun to leave Italy, and convinced the Vandals to take it easy on the citizens of Rome.
Like Leo, Brown is faced with restoring stable governance to a state in chaos. His equivalent challenge: chilling out the marauding anti-government Visigoths of the GOP.
Pope-elect Stephen (March 23-26, 752) - A Roman priest, Stephen was elected to succeed Pope Zachary but died just three days later, before he was ordained, of what historians say was apoplexy.
It’s understandable that Brown might go all apoplectic over the budget battle, so he needs to just…breathe…and take an ecumenical dose of Zen meditation the better to stay on the political pathway to a second term. Plus some friendly Ignatian advice: “Age quod agis” – “Do what you are doing.”
Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) – Not-so-Innocent was the first pope to levy an income tax, requiring all clergy to fork over one-fortieth of their pay to help support the Crusades. At first, he promised to return one-fourth of the dough if they paid up willingly and honestly; when some complained that the money was being misused, he cracked down and threatened to excommunicate anyone who tried to short the tax man.
The clear lesson for Brown: he needs to make his case for tax extensions both convincing and clear, and if he manages to get his measure on the ballot, he damn well better explain to voters exactly where their money is going.
Pope Pius IX (1846-78) – The cardinals who voted him in were divided into two factions – conservatives who wished to continue absolutism in church governance, and liberals, who backed moderate reforms; when the deal went down, he won by three (decline-to-state) votes.
Pius started his record-long reign as a strong liberal, but became ever more conservative in later years, as he demonstrated shrewd and savvy political skill on behalf of his church while navigating decades of European revolutionary upheaval and ushering in the dogma of “papal infallibility.”
Like Pius, Brown now trends more conservative than in his liberal salad days. Also like him, the governor needs to win support from independents in order to succeed. In the end, however, it would be a helluva’ lot easier for Brown if he just declared himself infallible and passed whatever budget he damn well pleases.
On a more secular note: With the Gang of Five GOP senators who’ve been meeting with Brown having declared an impasse, while unions representing teachers, firefighters, cops and others urge the Legislature to protect pensions, it’s a 50-50 proposition at best that Brown’s hopes for a June vote on $12 billion in tax and fee extensions will come to pass.
Given that the governor has repeatedly stated he will not go for a majority-vote move to get a measure on the ballot (because it’s likely not legal, not to mention politically suicidal) there are basically three theories about what will happen next in Sacramento :
1. Intransigent Republicans will continue to refuse to offer reasonable options for negotiation on a budget agreement because by saying “no” they get what they want: $26 billion in spending cuts.
This is the “Don’t Throw Me in the Briar Patch” approach that Brown unintentionally invited by saying a) he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people and b) if he can’t get a vote, the only alternative is an all-cuts budget.
2. Many Republicans (the Gang of Five and others) know that $26 billion in spending cuts would devastate local schools, higher education, public safety, state parks and social services (for which they may be blamed), so they’ll hold out until the last minute, expecting Brown to negotiate with himself by offering ever deeper cuts, pension reforms and spending limitations which they just might go along with after the California Republican Party state convention March 18-20.
3. Declaring talks at an impasse – and Brown’s suggestion that things look bad – are just negotiating tactics and in the next few weeks both sides will bend enough to reach an agreement that the Democrats and their labor, environmental and social allies can accept in place of $12 billion more in cutbacks and that a handful of Republicans — bolstered by chambers of commerce and other business groups — can accept as conservative accomplishments to ward off the right-wing, anti-tax political jihad.
What will happen? Who will prevail? Will Sutter Brown roll over and present his belly to be stroked? Will Pope Jerry?
Calbuzz sez: a combo of 2) and 3).