Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Brown’

Latino Voters Key Part of Western Democratic Firewall

Monday, November 8th, 2010

On election night last week, NBC’s Brian Williams interviewed Jose Diaz Ballart, the Telemundo anchor, who said that if Harry Reid was elected, he better learn to say “muchas gracias,” because Latino’s turned out to vote for him at levels that matched or exceeded those of the 2008 presidential election.

This pattern was repeated in a number of other high profile races in the West. While the dynamics in each case vary, Latino’s played key roles in Democratic victories in Colorado, Nevada and California, and in the process highlighted what should be a concerning trend for Republicans.

In Nevada, Sharron Angle went out of her way to make not so subtle racial appeals in her closing arguments. This, combined with a strong get out the vote effort by Harry Reid’s campaign helped propel Reid to an upset. In Colorado, Latinos combined with women to help Michael Bennet buck the trend and win a close race against Tea Party candidate Ken Buck. Meanwhile in California,  the allegations made by Meg Whitman’s maid and the way in which she handled them combined with another strong get out the vote effort focusing on Latinos helped not only Jerry Brown, but also Barbara Boxer. Over 1 in 5 voters in California were Latino in this election cycle and they broke overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Gil Cedillo points out that George Bush and Karl Rove saw the importance of Latino voters in building a successful Republican party in the long term, but that many Republican politicians have been focused on short-term political gain that can come from scapegoating Latinos, especially in the Republican primaries. While this may be a successful strategy in some parts of the country, it will become less and less so as time goes on.

Republicans may want to consider the fate of the Republican party in California, who never recovered from Pete Wilson’s attempt to deny illegal immigrant children access to school in 1994. Pete Wilson won that election, but he was the last non-action hero Republican to win a major statewide office in the state.

We can only hope that the Republicans are dumb enough to follow his lead nationwide.

The Philosopher King Returns

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I love this speech.

Jerry’s no Obama with a teleprompter, but through all of that “bumbling” shines some honesty and humility.

We elect politicians to balance budgets and run government, but it doesn’t hurt to have someone who understands that the bitter partisanship and gamesmanship that is endemic to our political system is just a symptom of a spiritual crisis that  plaques the country.

How’s that for touchy-feely?

Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Jerry Brown Swims Against the Republican Tide

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A number of new polls out in the past week and a half show that California voters may be bucking the national trend by voting Democratic at the top of the ticket.

A raft of new polling has been released in the past two weeks, and almost all polling has shown significant bounces for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. Brown is up by margins ranging from 7-10 and Boxer leads Fiorina by margins from 3-7. Brown is at or over 50% in most polls, while Boxer is close to that mark.

Obviously there are different dynamics at play in the two races, but one theme is constant: Republicans in California almost always have to tack too far to the right in order to win in an increasingly smaller and more conservative Republican party and then can’t win in general elections. This dynamic is exacerbated by racial divisions between a Republican party electorate which insists on a hard line when it comes to illegal immigration and a general election electorate in which Latinos play the role of an increasingly important swing demographic.

Looking specifically at Governors race, Whitman’s campaign has had a rough few weeks. When it’s all over, I think we’ll look back and see the breaking of the scandal with eMeg’s maid as a turning point.  The contrast between her defending the “tough as nails” positions on illegal immigration she had to take in order to win the nomination and the fact that she employed an illegal immigrant was striking. The fact that she had to defend that contradiction in a debate the next week was icing on the cake and her ham handed attempts to do so were like a cherry on top.    

The nature of California campaigns is that they are lean heavily on the strength of ad campaigns, so it’s not surprising the the final story lines of the campaign can be tracked by trends in political ads. Whitman blanketed the airwaves for almost a year straight, spending almost $150 million of her own money on the race. One Brown supporter joked that Whitman was on his TV every time he turned it on and that one time his TV actually turned itself on and Whitman was on it. After a year straight of constant Whitman commercials, people tended to just tune out every time her face came on the screen. 

Whitman’s diminishing returns from the saturation campaign were exacerbated by the fact that Jerry Brown was an unlikely person to tag with the “just another career Democratic politician in hock to the unions” label. California’s are familiar with Brown and he is known as an eccentric and an iconoclast, not just another career politician. Brown wasn’t able to match Whitman on the air until Labor Day and the fact that they were neck and neck at that point didn’t bode well for eMeg.

Brown’s ads down the stretch have also been particularly effective at using Whitman’s words against her. One shows Whitman offering the exact same rationale for her campaign that unpopular Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave for his. The most recent ad has been called Brown’s coup de gras by Chris Matthews, following Meg Whitman’s oft repeated statement that when she and her husband moved to California thirty years ago, anything was possible, with a reminder that the Governor at that time was…none other than Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, Whitman belatedly realized that her image was increasingly frosty and decided that the last two weeks of the campaign would be a good time to introduce herself to the California electorate. Except that the California electorate already knew her. She’s the lady who’se been on their TV every hour of every day for the past year…and the lady who campaigned as tough on immigration…but harbored an illegal immigrant in her own house.   

This weekend, Whitman may have suffered the ultimate indignity of the campaign when the woman running to become the first woman Governor of California was booed at the Women’s Forum after she refused Matt Lauer’s suggestion to halt all negative ads for the last week of the campaign. As Calbuzz pointed out, with a 10 point lead and one week to go, Jerry Brown was able to take the high road, volunteering to take his negative ads off the TV if Whitman would do the same.

I don’t want to jinx anything, cause anything could happen, but as another great Californian used to say, the eggs are coolin, the jello’s jigglin and the butter’s gettin hard.

It may be time to put this one in the refrigerator.

My Day in Jerry Brown’s Entourage

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This Splicetoday.com profile on Jerry Brown brought back memories of the day that I spent with the former Governor in the mid 90′s.

I met Governor Brown through his longtime friend and advisor Jacques Barzaghi, a friend of my uncle’s. It was the summer of 1995, I had just graduated from college and was visiting my aunt and uncle in New York. They were invited to Barzaghi’s wedding (I believe that this was number 5 out of 7) and they invited me to tag along to the party. At the time, there was talk that Brown was going to run for office again and I spoke to Jacques that night and told him that I would be interested in meeting Jerry Brown and seeing if I could help them in any way.

A few months later, I was back in the Bay Area and setup a time to meet with Barzaghi and Brown. Brown had purchased a large building in the Jack London Square neighborhood, a formerly vibrant area of town which had fallen on hard times. In the new building, they had built a communal living space and started a non-profit organization called We the People, whose mission is listed as bringing “together philosophers, artists and activists to discuss and plan ways to work change.”

I dressed nicely and had a copy of my resume in my hand when I walked in the door. Jacques introduced me to the Governor, who was busy with some other things at the time and Jacques and I stepped out onto the patio to talk. I told him that I was interested in politics, had some experience with it, and wanted to help them out if they were considering a run. Barzaghi was dismissive of the idea. You don’t make change by winning elections, he said. He was talking about the market that they had plans to build and said, in his thick French accent, that change is made by having a market “where people can go and not experience racism,” and that this social change of individuals would create real political change. By this time, Brown had joined us on the patio and he chimed in: “it’s a Buddhist idea.”

We talked for a little while longer and then they put me to work stuffing envelopes. They mentioned that Brown needed to go to Berkely to broadcast his We the People radio show on KPFA and I asked if I could come along. They indicated that that would be fine, but about an hour later I heard them getting ready to leave and reminded them that I had planned to go along with them.

“Oh sure,” said the Governor, “let’s go.”

I walked outside, expecting to be with an entourage but it was just Jerry and me. We headed to his car. I’m not good on cars, but this was an old American beater. Like a Lincoln Continental or a Pontiac.

Just as I was about to get into the passenger’s seat, Brown asked: “Do you drive?

“Yes,” I answered.

“Good. You drive, I’ll read,” said the Governor and threw me the keys to his car.

Brown was scheduled to interview bell hooks, an English professor and teacher at USC’s Ethnic Studies Department who has written over 30 books (mostly focused on race and gender), and he was clearly behind on his research. He buried his head in her most recent book and gave me directions from the passenger seat while he highlighted passages. I had no idea where I was going, and every once in a while the Governor would look up: “Turn Right… Get in the left lane… Get on the freeway to the left.” I was wired as I drove the 880 to the 80. This was not what I had expected to be doing when I woke up this morning, but it sure as hell was fun.

We were running late, so the Governor had me drop him off at the radio station and said to park the car in the supermarket parking lot. When I got there, the security guard at the market gave me a hard time about parking in the lot.

“Um, I’m with Jerry Brown” I told him, but he was not impressed.

“I don’t care who you’re with, you can’t park here” he said.

“I’ll be right back,” I yelled at him as I walked across the street to KPFA.

Jerry asked if I parked the car and I told him about the security guard.

“Did you tell him who you’re with?” he asked.

I headed back to the parking lot and found some street parking for the Governors car before I headed back to KPFA. In the station, the Governor was already on the air, so I was waiting in the foyer of the radio station and this excitable young guy started up a conversation with me. He was going on about Jerry Brown and asked if I knew about him.

“Sure,” I said. “I came here with him.”

“You’re in Jerry Brown’s Entourage?” he said incredulously.

Yeah, I laughed to myself. Today I am Jerry Brown’s entourage.

That was fifteen years ago. By the time Brown was running for Mayor of Oakland in 1998 I had a corporate job in the City and missed out on the campaign. After the election, he served as mayor for 8 years. In 2004, Jacques was fired by Jerry Brown after police responded to a call about a domestic dispute at his home in Oakland. This episode followed a suspension for sexual harassment in 2001 and seems to have been the last straw for Brown.  Brown went on to become California’s Attorney General,  a post he’s held for the past four years.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jerry Brown may be the the most complicated politician in the world. He combines a philosopher’s mind with a lifetime of experience getting things done in politics. Throgout his life he has defied easy characterization. While he has been attacked as a left wing liberal on social issues, he had a very fiscally conservative record as governor. He is famous for saying that California had entered an “era of limits” when he was governor and was called “more of a fiscal conservative than Ronald Reagan” by a prominent conservative commentator. In 1978 when he ran for re-election he even carried Republican Orange County. As mayor of Oakland, he presided over a very sucessful urban revitalization program that pitted him against many entrenched political interests and brought new investment into the city of Oakland. As California Attorney General he claims to have defended the death penalty “over 100 times” even though he is personally opposed to it.

It’s difficult to say exactly where Jerry Brown would take the state if he were elected for his third term as Governor. Part of the problem with a record as varied as Brown’s is that it makes him difficult to pin down, and campaigns full of political posturing don’t necessarily help to clarify these issues. But it’s clear that California’s political process is fatally flawed and desperately needs new ideas. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but Jerry Brown just might bring to the table the perfect mix of new ideas and the political experience to actually enact those ideas for California.

Splice Today: Jerry Brown, The Most Complicated Politician Alive

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Great piece from Splicetoday.com on Jerry Brown’s unlikely political career.

Labor’s Plan to Boost Latino Turnout in California

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Here’s my new friends at CalBuzz.com on labor unions campaign to boost Latino turnout in California. The campaign takes advantage of outrage over Arizona’s SB 1070 and the general scapegoating of immigrants by many in the Republican party. It very effectively combines images of Sarah Palin, Jan Brewer and Meg Whitman with the none-to-subtle religious iconography of prayer cards that include images of Jerry Brown meeting with Mother Theresa and speaking to Cesar Chavez.

The goal is to bring 200,000 new Latino voters to the polls this year, a 3-4% increase over 2006 levels. This is the Democratic answer to the flood of corporate money that has deluged the election process this year. It could be a difference maker for both Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer.

Brown-Whitman Debate Primer

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Here’s CalBuzz’s primer for tonight’s debate with Tom Brokaw as moderator. 

Look for eMeg to come out swinging. After spending close to $15o million of her own dollars to add this feather to her cap, this election seems to be slipping away like sand through her hands. She needs a game changer and Whoregate isn’t it.

In the meantime, look for Jerry to be on defense, not risking any aggressive attacks, but remaining ready to effectively counterpunch.

Aside from the theatrics and the politics, let’s also hope that Brokaw can force some substantive discussion that goes beyond the “you’re a career politician in the grip of the public employee unions” and “you’re a hypocritical shill for Republican millionaires and billionaires” themes we’ve seen in the debates to date. Increasingly California seems out of control and ungovernable. It would be nice to see some concrete plans to deal with this reality from either side.

eMeg vs. Gandalf

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Wanted to give a little plug to the Calbuzz.com website for their coverage of the California Governor’s race. As their About Page indicates, Calbuzz’s website  is run by two veteran California political reporters, Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts.

This little piece on the Whoregate kerfuffle is typical of their irreverent, but still substantial coverage. I prefer the more regal “Gandalf” for Governor Brown, but that Krusty the Clown image is pretty spot on as well.

eMeg Smackdown

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Read about this little exchange in the California Governors debate this weekend, but it’s hard to really get until you watch the clip.

It might have been a good strategy to attack the messenger here, but attacking Jerry Brown personally for the mistakes that she and her husband made with regards to her undocumented maid seems like a bridge to far. 

eMeg’s attacks flailed and Brown’s counterpunches were pretty damn devastating.

I’m not really too concerned with the specific allegations about Meg’s maid, but it sure seems like bad strategy not to have dealt with this in advance (when–as one analyst noted, it would have been a page 8 story instead of a page 1 story)…and the people who orchestrated this timed it beautifully, putting eMeg in front of a statewide broadcast on Spanish language TV when the allegations are fresh on everyone’s mind. Talk about Hardball.

Not sure if this was shown on English news stations, but you can be sure that a large number of Latinos were in front of the TV waiting to hear how eMeg defended herself on this one.

As Calbuzz.com opined:

The Univision alleged simulcast translation into English was so poorly engineered, there won’t likely be too many TV clips in English. But in Spanish, watch out. Latinos who had been flirting with Whitman are likely, Calbuzz thinks, to default to the guy who marched with Cesar Chavez and dated Linda Rondstadt.

We can hear the conversation around the kitchen table: “Maybe he’s un poco loco, but at least he doesn’t accuse the help of stealing the mail.”

For more on this exchange and the rest of Calbuzz’s coverage of the debate, check here.

Unclear of this is a game changer, but it’s not good news for eMeg to be trailing Jerry by a few points with a month to go after having spent close to $150 million of her own money trashing him for over a year.

Brown vs. Whitman Rd. 1

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The whole Meg and the Maid Scandal made last week’s debate old news, but here’s my comment on it.

About half way through the debate, my mom (a longtime Democrat) sent me a text message that read “It’s Meg by a mile. Jerry is kind of bumbling.” Two minutes later, my brother-in-law (a Republican) text messaged me: “Gotta say Brownie is taking the debate.”

I felt like it was an exercise in asymmetric warfare. Both seemed to do fine with their own strengths and struggle with the other’s. Whitman was organized and on offense against Brown, methodically scoring debate points, but about as dynamic as a white piece of paper. Brown was like a hyperactive kid, exhibiting lots of nervous energy and not always making the most coherent points, but certainly dispelling the idea that he was too old and didn’t have the energy for the job. Both stuck mostly to their talking points, with Whitman hitting Brown on his reliance on the unions to defend against eMeg’s over $120 million campaign and Brown countering that he was opposed to tax cuts for millionaires and billionares like eMeg.

The consensus seems to be that the two pretty much fought to a draw, but as my brother-in-law said, it “seem(ed) like she was talking from a flash card,” while Brown seemed much more likeable, even joking with the moderator about how he wouldn’t be running for president because of his age, quipping

Hell, if I was younger, you know I’d be running… I now have a wife. I come home at night. I don’t try to close down the bars in Sacramento like I used to do when I was governor of California.

In the end,  previous tendencies on the part of voters were probably confirmed by these debates. If you think that we need someone with a business background to run the state like a business, then eMeg is your woman. If you think that we need someone who has experience in politics, but also an independent streak and a keen intellect, then Jerry is your man. Aside from these personality issues that tend to dominate these debates, neither candidate is stepping up and offerring a coherent vision for how to fix a state that is broken on so many levels. As usual, we can only guess at what they would actually do once in office.