$10,000 is a Powerful Symbol

Anthony Pignataro:

Symbols are everything, Governor Jerry Brown used to tell his cabinet, according to former Employment Development Director J.D. Lorenz’ magnificent 1975 memoir The Man on the White Horse. “Blacks are the wrong symbols for the 1970’s,” Brown would say in one typical example. More philosopher than policymaker, Brown would reduce everything — farmworker rights, unemployment figures, bureaucrats, crime stats — to mere symbols. Guess it’s far easier to make policy if the farmworkers threatening to march on the Capitol are just symbols instead of actual human beings.

I was thinking about that when I read in this morning’s Capitol Morning Report that Brown will be holdign a $10,000-a-plate dinner tonight at “the old, official ‘Governor’s Mansion.'” When he was governor, Brown saw the Governor’s Mansion as a symbol of luxury and decadence, so he made a symbolic show of his modesty by moving into an apartment down the street — 1400 N Street, Apt. #9, which is where tonight’s fundraising dinner will be.

Now before you start saying that the symbol represented by the $10,000-a-head price clashes with the modest apartment symbol, keep in mind that confounding people with conflicting symbols was also a hallmark of the first Brown Administration. Brown vehemently opposed Prop 13, for instance, though after he saw how popular it was, he put his name on it in an attempt to gain at least partial credit for its passage.

The key was that, where Brown was concerned, nothing was real. Except for the $10,000 entrance fee tonight — I’m guessing that’s pretty real.

Posted Sept. 14, 2010

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