His name is Jerry Brown and he’s running for President. The two-time Governor of California visited us in mid-August brimming with energy and a message.
As if breaking free from the invisible chains of past wealthy campaign contributors who make candidates prance and preen in fashionable Beverly Hills salons, he wants his soon to be announced drive for the White House to be different. He will take no contribution from anyone that is more than $100.
“Nobody is talking about corruption” he charged, referring to candidates or potential candidates from both parties. Corruption in business, in government and in the way political campaigns are fueled he explained.
“The top one percent fund the campaigns so that the candidates can buy the thirty second advertisements to get elected in order to serve the top one percent’s interest”, he noted.
Coming off a two year stint as chief fundraiser for the California Democratic Party, Brown knows what he is talking about. His distaste for the process is both visceral and intellectual. He wants no part of this auction block where the wealthy buy and rent politicians and the politicians shape their mind and tongues in accord with the plutocracy that is feeding them.
“There is a politician in California,” he said, who won’t even show up at a fund-raiser unless a minimum of $50,000 is guaranteed. What kind of incomes are likely to be there,” he asked rhetorically.
“One thinks and talks differently when one is speaking to wealthy contributors in a plush surrounding, compared to speaking with an elderly group or workers,” he declared.
Until a few weeks ago, Brown was talking about running for the Senate from California. But he learned that running for that office means spending all the time literally raising money from fat cats to make the ten or fifteen million dollar campaign kitty. Then the money goes for television spots which are then reported on by TV news and the newspapers.
“Imagine”, he said, “the TV ad is the news of the campaign.” Image begets reality. He believes that a Presidential run can rise above this media trivia and drive home to the American people the issues of economic policy and political democracy that count.
It is easy for political pundits to under-estimate Brown. He did lose a Senate seat contest in 1982 to now California Governor, Pete Wilson. And since then, instead of taking a cushy business position, he has been traveling (spending weeks with Mother Theresa’s clinic), reading, observing and watching the grotesque workings of big money greasing politics.
He appears quite well read and hungry to read more, to absorb what the civic groups around the nation are doing.
In his view, both the Washington Republicans and Democrats have ridden this country downward which means, to him, that someone not beholden to any of these interests must make a run. Since no one but Paul Tsongas is presently running on the Democratic ticket, Brown sees an open field. He is right about that.