He lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976 and sixteen years later to Bill Clinton in 1992. Now, twenty-four years later, in 2016, he may run again. Jerry Brown may seem like ancient history, but he is only nine years Hillary’s senior and may well challenge her for the Democratic Party nomination.
Coasting to an easy re-election victory in the nation’s largest state, he likely is avoiding talk of running so as not to interfere with his first task — that of piling up a huge margin in California. But once his victory is cast in stone, one wonders if he will emerge again on the national stage.
Brown’s campaign of 1992 appears perfectly suited to contest the nomination against Hillary Clinton. His emphasis back then was on the “incumbent party”, a bi-partisan amalgamation of crony capitalists, fund raisers, PACs, and rich donors — precisely the people now closest to the Clintons. All that he said in 1992 turned out to be true and then some. His message resonated back then. He entered the race late and won a stunning upset victory in Connecticut. He lost the New York primary only after indicating that he would consider Jessie Jackson as a running mate. But his emphasis on fighting big money worked very, very well back then. Imagine how it would do now!
With his reputation for integrity and asceticism, Governor Brown’s warnings about big money combining with big government will strike voters as a direct contrast to the Clinton’s $150 million income since leaving the White House.
Specifically, Brown could inveigh against Goldman Sachs and the Wall Street money that finances the Clintons. He could use the income inequality issue against her and run rings around her aspirations to understand the problems of the average American.
As Governor, Brown has proven himself, again, to be a good administrator and a better politician. He balanced his budget by audaciously and successfully persuading California voters to approve an income and sales tax increase in a referendum. He’s blazed a new path by emphasizing empowerment of local government.
On environmental issues, his record will appeal deeply to liberals and California’s efforts to combat climate change are legendary. Undaunted by Congress’ failure to approve cap and trade, he took advantage of heading the eighth largest economy in the world and instituted it on a state-wide basis, partnering with the European Union to implement it.
As Hillary has had such a rocky launch on her disastrous book tour, Democrats may begin to cast about for alternatives in 2016. Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice, but her reluctance could prove real. Brown, never reluctant to run, might jump into the race and shape it around his issues and his campaigning style.
With 535 delegates (out of a national total of 5,083), California weighs heavily in the selection process. Its late primary (June 6, 2016) makes it the final arbiter of the winner in any closely contested race. With most Democratic primaries choosing delegates by proportional representation, Brown’s California base could be the coup de grace in awarding the nomination.
The biggest negative Brown would have to face is the age issue. But when a 78 year-old man runs against a 69 year-old woman, how can age be the determining factor?
The more relevant concern is the national momentum for a woman president. Brown would have to fly in the face of that wind. But if Warren were to run, the feminist vote might be divided, giving Brown a better chance.
Will Brown run?
Why not? It’s obviously now or never for him. He has successfully surmounted the physical challenges of a difficult governorship and two recent statewide campaigns. Does the fire horse ever not answer the bell?
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