Gov. Brown cautions Democrats on 2016 presidential race


Jerry Brown 1Although Hillary Clinton has benefited from a post-convention bounce, Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent counsel to complacent party members resonated sharply for Democrats, many aligned with Bernie Sanders, concerned that Donald Trump will win the presidency come November.

Calling the horserace “very uncertain and very threatening” to Clinton’s fortunes, Brown recently suggested the campaign and the party go on “full alert,” as The Hill reported. Recalling the bygone rivalry between Brown and the Clintons, the governor made the remarks upon arrival in Philadelphia, site of this year’s Democratic National Convention. “Most famously, in a 1992 Democratic primary debate, Brown, who had served his first two terms as governor, accused Bill Clinton of funneling money for state business to Hillary’s law firm,” as Roll Call recalled. “Jerry Brown caused a ruckus at the 1992 Democratic convention in New York, when he tried to parlay his 600 delegates into a prime-time speaking slot without promising to endorse Bill Clinton.”

A Clinton crisis

The smugness and sense of entitlement Brown has cautioned against on the established Left has sent some left-leaning political analysts into similar alarm. “[T]he insistence in Philadelphia that Democrats represent harmony and inclusion often brought to mind less the Beatles on a BBC ‘Our World’ satellite broadcast in 1967 and more the Ministry of Love on a bender in 1984,” wrote T.A. Frank at Vanity Fair. “At a time when many splits among Americans resemble war more than disagreement, and the Left has been as happy as the Right to stoke rage and hound people out of jobs or public life, neither side gets to call itself the party of love. At least not without being insufferable.” With historic unfavorables for a Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton has had a unique challenge striking a balance between her party’s touchy-feely aspirations and its often strident tone.

As a result, Clinton has struggled to put Trump away, even when she has managed to put polling daylight between him and herself. In a recent CNN/ORC poll, “voters by an 11-point margin think Trump would better handle the economy as president,” The Hill noted. “By a similar margin, voters think Trump would respond better to terrorism than Clinton.”

Insurgent solidarity

Gov. Brown has tried to help Clinton strike the elusive balance she seeks, portraying her as a seasoned party favorite Bernie Sanders supporters can rally behind in good conscience. But his praise for this year’s insurgent candidate has been forceful. “Sanders made it real clear that things aren’t right,” said Brown at a Washington Post-hosted convention-time event, according to the Sacramento Bee. “The legacy of Sanders is a wake-up call.” In his open letter endorsing Hillary Clinton late in the primary season game, Brown heaped praise on Sanders while conceding that he’d simply been beaten fair and square by Clinton. “I have closely watched the primaries and am deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done,” Brown wrote. He has driven home the message that the top 1 percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth, leaving the majority of people far behind. In 1992, I attempted a similar campaign.” Yet “Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown — by millions of votes — that they want her as their nominee.”

Meanwhile, although considerably more conciliatory in Philadelphia toward Hillary Clinton than Brown had been to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Sanders reaffirmed a message that in key respects sounded more like Brown’s did. “Like Sanders, Brown, who accepted no contribution greater than $100 in 1992 — but who has now amassed millions of dollars from large donors — said ‘we’re at the beginning of a long journey,'” the Bee noted. In Brown’s 1992 address, he sounded populist themes now associated most closely with Sanders: “We have to break the growing and dangerous tie-in of economic and political power. We have to save our souls as Democrats, return to our roots, listen to our ancestors and once again fight on the side of the people who pay the bills and fight the wars but never come to our reception.” 

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