or: Democrats are doing flips with their official candidate…let the Jerry-nastics begin
I thought it would have been a massive gala event. I was under the impression that this inevitable day would have come with pomp, circumstance, and more than a few balloons. In my mind I saw a podium, campaign signs, and a stage filled with people facing a crowd of hundreds cheering and going on under a downpour of confetti to the tune of some Bruce Springsteen guitar riff. What I got was a three minute and seventeen second video on his website. No applause, no music, and certainly no pomp. Just a simple web video with Jerry Brown in what appeared to be a personal study circa 1975 declaring his official candidacy for Governor in 2010…(insert chosen party favor sound effect here)
For agonizing months upon months we all waited for Jerry to declare. While mud was being slung among the candidates in both parties, Jerry stood silent. While poor voting records, bi-partisan donations, and adultery scandals came to light, Jerry stood silent. In the time both Campbell and Newsom declared and withdrew, Jerry stood silent. And even as Meg Whitman’s poll numbers climbed out of the cellar with millions spent to make any opponent nervous, Jerry stood silent. Like a political Yoda he simply did nothing until it was time for action, and on Tuesday, that time came.
In his anticlimactic declaration video Brown showed an energy and excitement about the issues that face this state. His age has concerned me, as I think it will the voters and become subject of editorials, but I saw a virility and an immediacy in him that was absent of the similarly aged McCain during his campaign. He outlined a few platforms and hit a few major points as would be expected. What I loved in the video, and the Larry King interview the same day, were the thinly veiled digs at his republican opponents. Speaking of buying a candidacy at 150 million for Whitman’s campaign and a “mere ambition” to be governor in Poizner, he showed a readiness to get in there and throw a tight 1-2 punch.
He also spoke of this not being a campaign derived from a “scripted plan cooked up by consultants”, another dig at Whitman, but this kind of rang hollow for me. In the video and the Larry King Live interview I counted “partisanship”, poisonous or otherwise, spoken five times; tied with “focused” for most mentions. He said “knowledge/know-how” four times, and spoke a clear campaign linchpin “insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s mind” once on each stage. I don’t care how gold you want to stay Ponyboy, but these are scripted talking points that he was clearly instructed to mention. He is a career politician, and this cannot be discounted in that he knows what needs to be done to win a campaign and the kind of language that needs to be used to convince fence straddling voters and stir up the natives.
I shuddered at the chilling phrase “politics as usual”, I knew I had heard it before, and with a little research I found archive video of Sarah Palin saying it in her introduction speech in 2008. Now, on it’s own the phrase is innocuous, but depending on the source it’s like a pop can in a paint shaker, could blow up in your face. Jerry Brown was Governor for eight years starting in 1975, he was mayor of Oakland, ran for President, and of course is the state attorney general, don’t talk to me about ending politics as usual. Brown, I hate to say it, but you are the “usual” in that statement. At 71 years old you represent the establishment, the man that the freak power movement railed against. Sure, in 1975 he was the youngest Governor in California, chidingly given the moniker of “Governor Moonbeam”, but if elected this year he would be 72 at the time of taking oath, setting a new record for the oldest Governor in California history. When he mentioned grassroots all I could think of was the fact that a majority if his former voting base is literally in the roots of grass; activating those roots is not going to take political bullshit, but fertilizer. You’ve got root beer on you, Jerry.
Coming out of Brown in one single day, on two stages were the golden oldies of political jargon. Words like “smoke and mirrors” are the classic politico babble that are designed to illicit specific reactions and responses. He can’t help himself from doing it, it’s his life’s work, but I don’t think he should try and sell himself as the sweeping winds of change or the glaring alternative to how things have gone. I do like that he highlighted the fact we tried the untested, inexperienced outsider for almost two terms, which almost made us miss Gray Davis, and makes a point that we don’t need it again (another republican candidate dig), but to think I am obtuse enough to not notice that you are almost three times my age is a little insulting. He will be hanging his hat on experience as a key factor to being elected, obviously, so don’t try and sell yourself as anything but a ‘return’ to a career politician who has been there and done that.
In his video he talks about bi-partisan politics, and getting everyone to the table for something like the budget. In the interview with Larry King on Tuesday he explained that it was his intention to not just have two representatives from each party at a table to make a budget, he wanted every single person in the legislature in the room together to make this budget, day after day, and month after month, until they got it right. I am not much of a societal expert, but I would think that going from five guys in a room to 121 would only complicate the issue further. Imagine trying to placate 120 representatives to balance a state budget hundreds of millions of dollars in the red already in this entrenched, ‘not on my watch’ political atmosphere. I wonder if there is a Holiday Inn conference room we can rent out for the duration, or at least Thunderdome.
Brown went on, wanting to get environmentalists and oil companies together, unions and businesses, democrats and republicans, saying we needed to act as Californians first. While he is at it he might get the KKK and the black panthers at a table together. He’ll get Bobby Rae to put down the lynching rope and douse the flames on his cross long enough to get the two factions to act as “Californians” first. I think this is little more than pie in the sky thinking that is another one of those campaign ploys that will be unrealized. With each of these groups mentioned there are vital, fundamental issues at the core of their ideals that cannot be bridged or pacified. No matter the apparent ease a decision might be able to be made with, if you get these entrenched groups to come together, there will be blood and venom before conciliation or understanding.
I got a bit of a chuckle out of a statement by King that both Poizner and Whitman camps issued statements in reaction to Brown declaring on Tuesday, “this is about the future, not the past.” Indeed. This statement makes me laugh since Whitman runs adds about her past accomplishments as an Ebay executive, and Poizner wants his record in the White House and his position as Insurance Commissioner highlighted. I guess the past they don’t want spoken of is Brown’s arm length service to the state of California. I am sure Whitman would like to avoid her voting record, campaign spending projections, and the fact she just converted to ‘Reaganism’ a few years ago. Poizner would love nothing more than to forget blaming a 2000 recount contribution on his wife, as well as his embellishing of his role in the Bush White House, but he’ll talk about inventing GPS in your cell phone. It is this kind of paradoxical statement that threaten cognitive aneurism if your politico intake is not carefully monitored by a physician.
What Brown does need to focus on is the present, though, since he might have a tough road to hoe, eventually. With a week to go before the campaign declaration deadline, he is running uncontested in the democratic primary. This may sour some voters, given the fact that they don’t get a democratic choice and that Brown probably will do little before June to make himself a public candidate on a trail of any kind. Brown will continue to play savvy and work on the campaign coffer so as to conserve his limited funding shells for the offensive over the summer. Brown has been so good so far, waiting out scandals and ugly politics as well as seeing the departure of two out of four of his opponents, including his only democratic rival, Newsom. (I mean, that guy fell from grace like Wyle E. Coyote through a cartoon trap door) Whether or not he will continue his sideline campaign or get in to the big game contests with opponents will depend on whether his opponents come after him at all; knowing these two so far, chances are good they will attack him on something, bringing the might of nearly 50 years of political acumen to bare on their respective camps.
I had always questioned his willingness to wait, not knowing whether it was senility or savvy that kept him out of the race until March, and the deadline. I think it might have gone on too long though. Even though there is such a long way to go, and still a shell has yet to be fired from his trenches, Brown might want to worry a bit. In a very recent Rasmussen Poll Whitman is apparently locked in a dead heat for voters right now with Brown at 43%; other polls have him ahead by as little as 5%. Compare this too late last year, before he declared and when Newsom was still in, and Brown enjoyed 40-something numbers as more people didn’t know who Whitman was than would vote for her. With the ebay CEO tag and almost pornographic spending on the airwaves she has closed the gap to make her a figure now challenging the game plan of Governor Moonbeam.
Should he be concerned though? I think what is going to happen is a firestorm of controversy and finger pointing in the Republican camp over the next few months, grabbing all the headlines, leaving Brown with no controversy of his own, it’s tough to pick a fight with yourself and get the headlines for juicy claims against an opponent. I fear that his unopposed campaign will have to do little, leaving all the salacious campaigning to those that need to separate themselves early to get the nomination. Brown will not get many primary votes, no one is showing up to vote for a candidate that can’t lose, as a result he will not get that real momentum boost a campaign gets after a win in the primaries. With no ‘win’ he won’t have that fiery speech he would otherwise make about the victory, a big step, and next stop Sacramento, etc. Without the conflict and the initial victory, he will lumber through June instead of gaining steam and punching through to July as a nominated candidate.
This might be a blessing in disguise though as fundraising could make for a tough hill to climb. With only 13 million raised thus far he is going to have to work the appearances and sponsors. Since projections show 150 million being spent by Whitman and some 50 million by Poizner, it might be good he won’t have to expend finite funds on the primaries in June. This will allow him to conserve his rush for the home stretch a few months later when the ear of the public is more tuned in to the candidates and the airwaves as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerry got himself some heavy hitter help in his campaign on the funds front now that he is officially in the ring, so don’t discount his meager means at the moment.
One thing that did make me wonder was a comment King made about whether Brown wants Obama’s support in his campaign. Brown stumbled a bit and didn’t say no, but wanted to run an ‘independent’ campaign activating the grassroots to garner support. He did correct that he would love Obama’s support, he wants everyone’s support, when King asked whether Brown was distancing himself from the President. This arm length distance might not be a bad idea. Look, Obama doesn’t exactly have the Midas touch right now. Forget the economy, health care, etc., I am talking about little personal projects and vouches. Obama has come back empty handed from pleading with Patterson in New York, got a republican elected in Massachusetts for the first time in like 60 years, and could not get the 2016 Olympics in Chicago, losing to Rio, the most dangerous city in South America; Obama is delivering the antithesis of the ‘Colbert Bump’ so far in office, so you can’t blame Brown for sidestepping the presidential endorsement like a steaming pile on the sidewalk.
So now that he is in, what can will Brown do for you? My mind wanders to some spoof on the UPS Whiteboard commercials. I can see that long haired d-bag in dress casual with his marker speaking like a snake oil salesman on Prozac selling me on the services Jerry can offer. The word “TAXES” with a circle and line through it. I can see the name “Whitman”, shaking his head at it, erasing the “W” to reveal “hitman”. Watch him drawing a see-saw with a fat kid on one end and a tiny kid on the other, but somehow he draws it balanced, “just like the California budget, some say it’s impossible, but not with Brown, 2010.” I know, a visual pun, or play on commercialism, but it fits.
With his hat officially in the ring time will tell what his course of action will be. I have tried to pin him down and have been way off every time out, so I will react to him, not try to divine his future. I suggest a slow and methodical plan up to the primaries gaining campaign money and then making the big push in the home stretch. I would push for debates immediately after the primaries, a series of three over six weeks at least, some time in September/October, maybe earlier. I am so new to this, whatever he does is going to surprise me, but I think we can get a good grasp on his main ideas and know that this feisty sea-dog of the political scene is going to make his best push to end his career on top in California. One thing is for sure, he doesn’t need this gig for glory or to further his career, shit, if he served two terms he would be 80 when he left office, and if experience and wisdom are what we are looking for, by that age he’ll be able to deliver it, from an environmentally friendly pair of “Depends”. Ahh, ending on a poop joke, indeed.