Casting himself as a populist who will “rein in greed,” Jerry Brown held the first official event of his campaign for governor Monday, promising to fight tax cuts for the wealthy, the repeal of climate change legislation and the scapegoating of public employees.
The attorney general, who has enjoyed the political luxury of laying low amid an uncontested Democratic primary and a concurrent brutal brawl for the Republican nomination, surfaced at a rally at UC Santa Barbara, three weeks and one day before the June 8 election. There, he assailed his GOP rivals as tribunes of the rich whose enormously expensive TV campaigns feed the “continuing corruption of the political process.”
“We have the ideas but we have to push back,” Brown told a crowd of about 200 students, faculty and staff who gathered on a gloomy day on a sloping lawn near the lagoon on the beachfront campus.
The other side, kind of the apostles of darkness and ignorance, are well heeled. They have great political consultants. And they intend to bombard the airwaves. It’s almost like a hostile takeover of the public airwaves and of democracy itself. We gotta’ fight back and you’ve gotta fight back and I need your help.
After months of avoiding campaign events, other than low-key fundraisers, Brown emerged on the trail with a raft of full-throated populist rhetoric and a notable shortage of specific proposals that went much beyond opposition to conservative policies embraced by Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner as the two battle for the right to oppose him in the general election.
‘Krusty the General portrayed both eMeg and the Commish as beneficiaries of the unregulated financial markets of recent years, casting their millions in campaign spending as symptomatic, not only of inequities in the economy, but also of the coarsening of political discourse in the nation.
There’s no content there. It’s like, I don’t know who they’re appealing to, I don’t think they read much about the history of this country. Thomas Jefferson and the founders said we need an educated citizenry… it means when you’re having a campaign at least you could speak to the intellect and not to whoever they’re speaking too — they’re so banal.
If you want to know how to write and think, just look at those ads and it’s the exact opposite. I think, I don’t think they’re even healthy for the mind. I think they’re contaminating the children who may see these things.
Brown walked to the microphone with two pages of notes but wrapped them tightly in his hand in lieu of consulting them. His stump skills seemed rusty from disuse, as he winged his way through a 20-minute speech that careened from point to point on a course more disjointed than linear; several times, his sentences drifted off, before he ended them with an awkward “…anyway.”
At several points. he told his audience he wouldn’t name his foes, referring to them just as “two Republicans.” A moment later, he added:
“There’s two people. I’ll mention them – Whitman,” he said, before appearing briefly to forget the name of California’s state insurance commissioner, “and…Poiz…ner.”
Brown said that the type of campaigns being run by the two Republicans is partly to blame for the anger among voters and the low regard in which they hold government and elected officials.
That’s dangerous in a democracy, if the mechanism of our collective decision making is so discredited, what does that say about the viability of the whole set of our institutions? It is dangerous and you have a stake in this, your future is at stake here. It’s at stake in the continuing corruption of the political process, the degeneration of political discourse into the manipulation of these 30 second ads fed by massive sums made on Wall Street.
Brown repeatedly returned to the need for government regulation, saying the financial meltdown and the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico both represent a set of Republican policies that is reflected in Whitman and Poizner’s desire to roll back AB 32 environmental regulations and to cut taxes for the richest Californians, policies he said he would resist.
They want to reduce taxes on the wealthiest people in the state and how’s that going to help you?
They say, ‘we only need police out on the streets,’ well, we need police in the corporate suites just as much because, boy, they can rip you off. Walk down the wrong street, yeah, somebody can hit you over the head and take your money, take your life, well, on Wall Street they really ripped us off…it’s the greatest bank robbery in the history of the United States, maybe the world, $11 trillion – there’s 11 trillion fewer dollars, about an 18% reduction in our wealth, that’s a big pay cut for America…
That was promoted by some of the same characters who are promoting these Republicans…We tried no regulation on Wall Street and that caused the biggest crash in the history, not just in this country, but the whole world…You need to rein in greed, you need to rein in risk…and that’s what this campaign is about.
Brown invited questions at the end of his talk, but danced around when asked for specifics about how he would change the tax structure and deal with the budget deficit, except to say he would encourage more “collaboration” between Democrats and Republicans.
He also equivocated when asked whether or not he supported furloughs for state employees to save money in the budget, except to say that he believes the Republicans are unfairly casting blame on public workers:
They always want a scapegoat. What’s our problem? They say, ‘well, it’s the public employees, it’s the teachers, it’s the police, it’s the fire.’ No it isn’t – it’s the Wall Street people who destroyed 11 trillion dollars worth of our wealth. And I don’t know if we should have the same people who profited from that then take the reins of power, and not only have the money but the political power at the same time.
I think we ought to keep them separate and the best way to keep them separate is to separate the two Republicans from any chance of getting to be governor of California.
There were no injuries.