Election 2010: Why this Republican will vote for Jerry Brown

Saturday, October 09, 2010

It has been some thirty years since I last voted for a Democrat. I’d just about concluded I might never do it again. After all these years, my memory is a little foggy, but I’m inclined to think I voted to elect a young Jerry Brown for governor of California in 1974 (over Houston Flournoy), and maybe again in 1978 (over Evelle Younger). I know I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, and liked him even as I grew more disgusted with his party. I know my last vote for a Democrat was in 1980, when I supported Rose Ann Vuich, my local state senator. She had given me almost two hours for an in-depth newspaper interview on California issues, and I came away so impressed that I could not vote against her, even if she was a Democrat.

But I have now gone 30 years without being seriously tempted to do it again. I told myself to watch for and support Pro-Life Democrats, but I saw a pattern develop. The Democratic Party took Pro-Life individuals like Ted Kennedy, Jessie Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore, and subverted them to the Pro-Abortion mold. I watched them marginalize Pro-Life voices like Pennsylvania’s Robert Casey, Sr., and Bob Casey, Jr. The party is inextricably captive to Big Abortion
America's most unregulated industry—necrotrophic and eugenicidal, extending its corruption into our national fabric in countless hidden ways. Yet it has only to clap a “Choice” riff with its forceps and scissors and the Democratic Party leaps to form a conga line.

Even so, this year I found myself inching closer to voting Democratic again. Inching until I could no longer ignore where I stood.

I will not vote for Barbara Boxer. Every once in a while during Dianne Feinstein’s 18 years in the Senate, I’ve opened the newspaper to read some statement she has made, and had to admit, “Yeah, much as I dislike like her, she is probably right on that one.” But during the same years, I have never had to make a similar comment about Boxer. She is the politician I would most like to send into retirement this year. I may still harbor some reservations about Carly Fiorina, but if I had a thousand votes, she would get them all.

I am thinking instead about Jerry Brown. I am free to do that because no matter who we vote for, the next governor of California will be Pro-Abortion. (Note: I realize the self-referential term for this is “Pro-Choice,” but I find that disingenuous.)
The Pro-Life contenders all fell away during the primary. I have looked at all the third party candidates. None has a chance to win, and none deserves one. I am left to choose between Brown and Meg Whitman.

I go way back with Brown. I attended L.A. Pierce College while he cut his political teeth serving on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. Later, while attending UCLA, I discovered him standing at a little podium on the Free Speech Lawn. I joined six or eight other students to listen until my next class. He was thoughtful and engaging.

Brown served four years as secretary of state and eight as governor. He earned the moniker “Governor Moonbeam” for a certain zen goofiness, but the nuttiness in Brown’s administration was hope in the jojoba bean, or roller-skating with Ronstadt under the rotunda (full disclosure: one of my all-time favorite albums is Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre). We chuckled over his personal frugality. Brown paid more to mothball the extravagant Reagan-built governor’s mansion than he spent to rent an apartment and sleep on a tatami mat. But his penny-pinching carried over to government finance. When California passed Prop 13, Brown carefully cut the state budget to what we could live on. He earned the endorsement of Howard Jarvis. (Yeah, wrap your head around that one.)

An ex-governor at age 45, Brown became something of a Harold Stassen, running three times for president and once for senator. But in an age when ex-presidential candidates golf, peddle their memoirs, or do talk-shows for FOX (okay, bad image, for Brown it would be NPR), Brown ran for mayor of Oakland. This is akin to ex-president Jimmy Carter nailing shingles for Habitat for Humanity, or ex-president Theodore Roosevelt serving in Liberia with the Peace Corps (I may have that one wrong, but I know he was doing something in Africa). Mayors of Palm Springs do photo ops with starlets. Mayors of Oakland do middle-of-the-night triage. And by all accounts, he did it well.

Then Brown moved on to become California’s attorney general. During these three years, what I notice is Brown’s commitment to carrying out the law as it is written, even when it may disagree with his personal inclination. I happen to agree with Brown on Capital Punishment: the death penalty is wrong, but needs to be enforced until the voters prohibit it.

Meanwhile, Meg Whitman was acquiring her personal billion-some dollars and finding it too inconvenient to get over to her precinct voting booth to perform the most basic duty of citizenship. (She was, however, free with her checkbook: apparently paupers vote while billionaires buy. She is on record donating and even campaigning for, um . . . Barbara Boxer.)

When Whitman decided to enter politics herself, she quickly hired as adviser the best ex-governor money could buy, Pete Wilson. By coincidence, it is Pete Wilson I hold personally responsible for the current sad condition of the Republican Party in California. AWOL where Republican instincts are best (Life), Wilson had to demagogue where they are worst (immigration xenophobia, deregulation of historically dangerous businesses and industries, and guns). In the process he permanently alienated the ever-growing Hispanic community, ripe with its Family Values voters. For short-term political gain, Wilson was willing to sacrifice the future of both my state and my party. Yet now, every pirouette in Whitman’s dance bears Wilson’s choreography.

However, the greatest difference between Whitman and Brown may come in the fine print of their position statements. For starters, Whitman doesn’t have much. Her pronouncements skim along the surface with well-vetted platitudes. In contrast, Brown’s come loaded with the kinds of minutia gleaned over a lifetime of trying to solve the Gordian knots of public policy.

Take one area that matters to me: Education. As a teacher married to a teacher, I’d come to the conclusion that testing corporations do not so much serve the teachers, students, or parents of our state as hold them for ransom. California pays these corporations enormous sums of money and then submits itself to the corporations’ convenience. Rather than have the summer to digest test information and make reasoned decisions about how to improve a program, the corporations deliver scores for April tests in mid August, after most schools have spent June and July designing course offerings and student schedules. It is an annual ritual in my home for my math-department-chairperson wife to start the first day of school exhausted from a series of all-nighters reworking the program after the last-minute delivery of four-month-old data. With that in mind, let me quote just one short section of Brown’s education proposal, as a representative sample that demonstrates the quality of the whole:

Our current State testing program costs over $100 million, is more than 10 years old, and is not as helpful as it could be to parents and educators. It is time to make some basic changes to improve our testing system.

Typically, tests are given in the spring over a 3-day period and results come back in August. Final school accountability scores aren’t ready for almost a year.

  • These tests should be reduced in scope and testing time, and results need to be provided to educators and parents far more quickly.
  • These year-end tests should be supplemented by very short assessments during the school year. The assessment goal should be to help the teachers, students and their families know where they stand and what specific improvements are needed.
  • Tests should not measure factoids as much as understanding.
  • Finally, state tests should be linked to college preparation and career readiness, but current tests were not designed to do this.
(Full text here)
(Um, Meg, this is it?)

Do I resent the way Meg Whitman has used her money to buy my party’s nomination, water down or erode its core values, and stifle intelligent political discussion?

Yes.

Is that the main reason I will be voting for Jerry Brown?

No.

Much as I disagree with Jerry Brown over the issue that has most animated my political decisions over the last 30 years, when the abortion issue is neutralized, Jerry Brown really is a fine candidate for governor.

1 comments:

Brian,

I too voted for Jerry Brown and Jimmy Carter in my first chances to vote. I am undecided about most of the votes in this election and tired like most with how our government and legislature are not listening to the public.

Your thoughts on Jerry Brown have given me pause and I am now obligated to delve deeper into his campaign. Thanks.

Steve

Steve said...
October 11, 2010 at 11:08 PM  

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