From Moonbeam to Mainstream

This piece from the Hill is a good summary of Jerry Brown’s career.  Unbelievably, there are ignoramuses right here in Humboldt County who still think it’s smart to call him “Moonbeam”.

From Moonbeam to mainstream: Jerry Brown in winter


SACRAMENTO — At a morning meeting early in 1975, about three months after Jerry Brown became the youngest governor in California’s history, Brown’s chief of staff, Gray Davis, told the governor he had asked the capital’s general services staff to mend a hole in the carpet.

Brown stopped the meeting. “Do you know how much that hole has saved taxpayers,” he asked. When a legislator came to Brown’s office with his hand out, looking for money for a new project, Brown could point to the hole in the carpet as evidence that the state needed to save money.

Forty years later, when Brown offers his State of the State address Thursday for the final time during his second tenure as governor, he will be speaking to a dramatically different state than the one he first took over.

Brown’s first budget proposed $9.1 billion in discretionary spending. His proposal this year, unveiled earlier this month, would spend $131.7 billion. California’s population has doubled. Its gross domestic product has increased more than tenfold.

The political universe has changed, too, and in Brown’s direction. What were once outlandish ideas that led a Chicago columnist to dub him “Governor Moonbeam” — on alternative energy, banning the death penalty and even space exploration — are now firmly within the political mainstream.

When you talk about solar energy, wind, geothermal, those were radical thoughts in the ’70s,” said Steve Glazer, a California state senator and Brown’s on-again, off-again political adviser who managed his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. “He got the Moonbeam label for things that you’d think were just normal today.”

“In a lot of ways, the state and the country have moved to the left,” said John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College and a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “So what seemed like a very liberal position back then is mainstream today.”

But Jerry — there is only one Jerry in California political circles — has changed little. He is still a penny-pinching fiscal hawk, ever concerned about the state’s financial health, at times to the chagrin of his overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. His budget proposal won stronger praise from Republican legislative leaders, who praised his proposal to fill the state’s rainy day coffers to the brim, than from Democrats, who anticipate negotiations and fights over spending on new social programs.

He is still cerebral and intellectual, the man who quotes the 16th century Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius and the 16th century French author Michel de Montaigne not because he found a clever line in Bartlett’s but because he has read their work.

He is still acerbic and at times aloof. Even those who count him as a friend say he rarely asks after their families or offers political help. Asked recently whether he was enjoying a United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, he deadpanned: “No, I hate everything.”

And he still keeps the counsel of a coterie of close aides and friends. He listens most to his two closest advisers, his wife Anne Gust Brown and his executive secretary — or chief of staff — Nancy McFadden. Few political advisers remain.

“He’s the same person, just older and wiser,” said Davis, who served five years as governor two decades after Brown left office. Brown will turn 80 in April.

The son of Gov. Pat Brown, whose legacy endures in the infrastructure boom of the post-war years, Jerry Brown can frustrate some of his liberal allies who care more about social services than the high-speed rail system Brown has advanced or the massive water tunnels he would like to build.

“He will talk about planes, trains, automobiles and tunnels all day long,” said Holly Mitchell, the chair of the state Senate Budget Committee. “But not people.”

Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman, disputed the notion that infrastructure comes first in the governor’s mind.
“Our future depends on investing in both people and infrastructure and that’s exactly what we’ve done — working closely with the state’s legislative leaders, including the Senate Budget Chair. There is no state doing more on both fronts,” Westrup said.

If many of Brown’s positions haven’t changed over time, his ambitions have. He was once a young man in a hurry; he launched his first of three unsuccessful bids for the White House just over a year after becoming governor. He ran a second time in 1980, against an incumbent Democratic president and a man named Kennedy, a campaign he has told friends was the biggest mistake of his political career.

Brown’s last run for president, in 1992, effectively ended when Bill Clintonbeat him in crucial primaries in New York and Wisconsin. One source close to Brown said he had mulled a fourth run, in 2016, but that he concluded he could not beat Hillary Clinton in a primary.

He began a long political comeback that began as mayor of Oakland, where he felt the burden of statewide regulations on local government. The experience has led to his efforts to devolve at least some control from Sacramento back to localities.

“Oakland really ground Jerry Brown to be the governor he is now,” said Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general. “He got schooled. Oakland is a tough town. It’s a great town.”

Today, Brown’s ambition seems to lie in sounding the alarm.

He is worried about the existential threat of climate change. As the Trump administration rolls back Obama-era environmental rules, Brown has become the most outspoken advocate of swift action to curb emissions, striking deals with Chinese President Xi Jingping and European leaders. He will host world leaders in San Francisco for a Climate Action Summit in September, just months before he leaves office.

He is worried about the dangers of nuclear weapons in an uncertain world. Last year, Brown wrote 3,700 words — not including eleven footnotes — reviewing former Defense Secretary William Perry’s biography of the nuclear age.

And after eight years of economic recovery, during which California went from $20 billion budget deficits to a projected $7 billion surplus, Brown is worried about a recession he sees just around the corner — one reason he wants to squirrel away half of that surplus into the rainy day fund.

“We have a whole political system that judges our executives by the state of the economy, over which they have virtually no impact,” Brown said when he rolled out his budget. “The next governor is going to be on the cliff. … What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline and recession. So good luck, baby.”

Most politicians would take credit for jobs created during a recovery, or the extra money pouring into their coffers. Brown, sources close to him say, is acutely aware that he has inherited an extremely lucky circumstance that allows him to pass a healthy economy to his successor, luck he does not believe will hold.

“Other politicians may have dark foreboding images of the future, but they keep it to themselves. He doesn’t have to do that,” Pitney said. “He’s the freest man in politics.”

Brown reviles talk of his political legacy. His interest in history makes him reflective, friends say, but not necessarily introspective. But the budget turnaround, which even Brown admits is not entirely of his own doing, will be what he is remembered for after he leaves office.

“His legacy, more than any of these other things that people talk about, will be that he brought fiscal stability to the state in a way unimaginable at the time he was elected,” Glazer said.

Brown declined interview requests for this story. But those close to him over the years say they have tried, without much success, to get him to talk less in doom-and-gloom terms and more about what he can do for his state. Those advisers say his outlook is borne of his own history, and the history he began learning as a classics major at Berkeley.

During his first tenure in office, voters passed Proposition 13, vastly reducing property taxes and sending the state into fiscal oblivion. That forced Brown to cut social programs deeply while raising other taxes.

“He suffered because there was not a rainy day fund. He had to raise taxes. He had to make enormous cuts. So it’s out of practical and personal experiences that make him very careful on spending,” Glazer said. “Combine that with his longer-term view of the world and events and it creates a little bit of pessimism about the ability of the human race to act responsibly.”

The young man in a hurry has also evolved into a politician who sees little value in having his name in the paper. During his first stint in office, he was known to share a glass of wine with reporters at David’s Brass Rail, a bar that once sat across the street from the Capitol. Now, he rarely interacts with the media, and sources say he had to be pushed early in his third term to hold brown-bag lunch sessions with reporters.

If Brown has missed an opportunity, it is to shape those who come after him in his own mold. In a state as big as California, progress takes decades.

“Real change takes more than one governor,” Davis said. “I believe in the theory of relay races. One governor can plant a flag. The next governor has to make sure it’s implemented.”

The race to replace Brown includes many ambitious younger Democrats, eager at a platform that could be a launching pad to the presidency. Neither of the two leading contenders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), have pledged the same sort of fiscal restraint that is the cornerstone of Brown’s legacy.

“He hasn’t taken his style of governing, his philosophy, and tried to imbue it in the leaders that will follow him,” Glazer said. “If you’re trying to create a legacy, that’s the opportunity that you really do have, is trying to build a philosophy of governing that will carry on long beyond the deterioration of the asphalt or the rails of the high speed trains. He’s never tried to do that, and I think it’s the biggest missed opportunity.”

23 thoughts on “From Moonbeam to Mainstream

  1. Moonbeams Legacy, a series of many parts:

    Julie, ever notice how dumb and uneducated a lot of the workforce is……. A simple phone call to make an appointment for whatever typically typically reveals audio Communications set firmly and squarely validate California is employing more and more dummies….. Call it the retail effect, call it the generational dumbing-down effect, call it the lazy effect…… Call it whatever you want…… But the results are clear that people in society as a whole are not smarter and are not more intelligent…….

    Pot – so government creates a system so that more people can be employed , but the people being employed (if you ever care to take time out of your day to get to know some of these employees) are dumb, slow, speak like thugs and illiterates, can’t hold intelligent conversations, etc…..

    Moonbeam is a liar, a joke, a con man douche……did more single handidly to screw up California than any other one politician……liberals loved it because it was them, not repubes, callng the shots……..

      • Well, that is ok, maybe because HOJ is honest, he notices the generational drift and deficiencies more since its a reality where history can be compared in terms of past versus present……and since work ethic is diminished today versus last generation, it is more than plausible that old folks focus on retirement issues while younger folks focus on present reality and how it plays into the future ahead for the young to grow old while simultaneously wanting things without working for those things……gimme gimme gimme services related California, where success is measured by economic, financial, asset, payroll thefts …..

        As far as The Liar Moonbeam…….its like Trump…..he has his cult of personality followers who are just like many Trumpers…… willing to crapola on others to get a leg up…..

  2. ‘The Hill’…….

    Is as reputable as Hitler for one sided politics…….

    “Girl You know It’s True”, Milli Vanilli……

      • No seriously, when it comes to PR on who participates, its all one sided…… not to mention their reports are garbage, filled with opinions and less facts……and, lots of liberals who namecall rather than debate, critique the issues…..

  3. Totally disagree….. Whatever Brown gained in your mindset as exemplified by the long synopsis, was done mostly through theft….. stealing from people…… Giving handouts to Big corporations and calling it a carbon sequestration program……

    Moonbeam just thought he could Bamboozle millions of Californians…… Because the environment he took over institutionally allowed open doors for bamboozling…..

    HOJ could never trust Moonbeam……too many examples of corruption and dictatorship and bending of the rules and shell games with tax dollars, illegals & immigration, prison system and jails, DHHS scams, etc………..

    Only ignoramuses could ever tout Brown as a worthy, honorable and sincere politician……

    His legacy, more than any of these other things that people talk about, will be that he brought fiscal stability to the state in a way unimaginable at the time he was elected,” Glazer said.

    Response: Brown don’t like talking about screwing people over that’s why he stays hush-hush because if he talks about it he opens up the box of all the examples just in that one issue of how he screwed people over in order for government to look better on paper budget-wise……. Even though John Chiang, the State Comptroller, was fudging numbers and got caught at one point lying with data, and yet he wants to run for governor…..

    It takes one to know one at the state level…….

    Julie, wadr, how can you support a liar, a thief……a douche who uses his pen to warp and divide society……a douche who was never a grass roots type, but a shill for corporate industry……..hiding pollution for profits in a program about sequestering carbon to offset tax liabilities……..ya moonbeam shed some lunar light on his legacy lies…….

      • In the fold of it all, we are all naive, ignorant together…..we are one human race…….because when we disagree, we confirm we have different views, and since ignorance would be everyone thinking the same thing without experiencing the same exact thing, ignorance leads to the theory that ignorance is bliss…….

  4. Jerry Brown, in his first term, created one of the most innovative department in State government, the Office of Appropriate Technology. I am surprised that he did not bring it back when he became governor again in 2010.

    Also, I remember listening to his radio program “We the People” on KPFA in the early 90s. Perhaps he will return to radio when his term is over.

      • It is interesting about his desire to live on his family’s Colusa Ranch which is miles from any town of any size. Also, his decision to move back into the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H from the loft he was renting above PF Chiang’s. Back to the future indeed.

        • Yes, Colusa really sucks but I guess if you have land in the family it looks better. I think after spending the $$ to fix up the Governor’s mansion he more or less had to move there. When I was still at Davis we drove by the THEN Governors mansion which was in East Sac. It was a very ordinary house except for the gun turrets. That was in ’68 or so, Reagan time.

          • Architectural critics likened that house in Carmichael to a 60s style Safeway. I wonder if Jerry Brown noticed the nail polish on the claw foot bathtub done by his sister Kathleen. (The guides pointed this out when it was a museum open to the public.)

          • I never toured it nor the CURRENT mansion, which I’m sure was/is much more interesting. The day I was going to the GovMan after the renovation, it turned out to be FREE day for all Sac museums and the line stretched around the block.

      • I was always impressed with how he looked at issues with an open mind and with input from people who are not policy wonks. I remember he would convene his “kitchen cabinet” during his first term in 1975 which was made up by thinkers like Gregory Bateson (the O.A.T. building in Sacramento was named the Bateson building) and Gary Snyder.

        Interesting side note, the very first edition of Mother Jones Magazine (Feb 1975) featured Brown on the cover.

    • Innovative by namesake only…….tech is for private industry…..gubbamint is to be small and limited…….guess Moonbeam lit up a joint one too many times in office, realised he was not being innovative……

  5. Jerry Moonbeam Brown is the worst Governor the State of California has ever had. He does nothing more than raise taxes, vehicle license fees, etc. He is a money sucking machine that rides around on the tax payer’s backs. He has done very little to help fix our highways in the North, and let the Oroville dam fall into disrepair. He has wasted billions of dollars on the Bullet Train to nowhere, and now wants to build water tunnels. Wants it to be illegal to catch rain water, and now water conservation where all homes will need water saving devices installed. He is anti-gun and loves all the immigrants. Starting April 1st they will be allowed to get a drivers license which will make them legal to vote (DEMOCRATIC). I could go on and on, but frankly he is not worth more of my time. The man is a walnut with an empty shell! Why do you think big businesses are leaving California? You people that think he is great better WAKE UP!!!

    • Small business owners – Very stupid folks in the fold of it all thinking they can compete in this 21st Century Economy and have a worthy lifestyle……..

      Small Business ownership is basically busted without tax credits, write offs, etc….. to offset what little profits are left, if at all when tax season rolls around…….

      Small Business – last frontiere and only the sole proprietor who works alone will survive…….not economcally feasible to continue to submit to payroll taxations, subsidizing Social Security out of your own pockets (unlike LOAN BASED JOBS), workers comp insurance rates, bonds, etc……aint worth it……use your brain…..become an investor…….take money back from big business…….live off of big business……..profit off the slaves of big business…….stay home, use technology…….

      …….ole Moonbeam was not very innovative denying reality of the workforce and jobs…….

      …….but, Supe Sundberg will continue to offer his best Moonbeam impressions and impersonation, off screen of course, can’t mix and match political cultures transparently…

      Moonbeam Sundberg openly lies about his job promise performances…….he says that he created the pot policy agenda to create jobs (lie – just a shift for registration, data keeping, taxes)……so, then Supe Moonbeam Deluxe, when asked where are all these jobs he promised many moonshined moments ago as a result of being a drunkard and driving drunk on county roads, says lots of jobs exist….

      ……..If you are drug free and can pass a drug test……


      Two job markets:


      No Drugs/No Dope

      Can’t wait to see the funny data.

      • HOJ is the first person I have ever heard of who accuses Jerry Brown of being drunkard. I assume he’s going to provide us with some links.

        • Drunkard like drinking heavily and driving while campaigning for votes…..nope…..more like smoked a joint too many for a bad person, gave him all sorts of bad pwrson ideas.

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